Mermaids & Mermurders: Should You Be Reading ‘The Bell in The Ocean?’
When you look at the sheer range and number of original stories being told in comics form today, it’s hard to imagine a better time to be a comics reader. Online and in print, from all around the world, artists and writers are telling stories with their own voices and styles, and there’s so much to choose from that it’s sometimes difficult to know what to read next. With Should I Be Reading… ?, ComicsAlliance hopes to offer you a guide to some of the best original ongoing comics being published today.
In Anna Sahrling-Hamm’s The Bell in The Ocean, the guardian of a young merfolk prince is shamed when harm comes to her charge. She vows revenge on those surface dwellers responsible and consorts with mystic powers to get it --- but it turns out that things above the waves aren’t as cut and dried as she’d expected.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
Rada is the stern guardian of the young, overly curious heir to ancient undersea royalty. While on a return trip from the depths of the ocean, tragedy strikes; the heir is fatally injured after getting too close to a human diving bell. Rada swears revenge, and makes a bargain with a sea witch to head to the surface and extract blood for blood from those responsible.
Meanwhile, on the surface, Prince Waldimar has returned from his oceanic trip to discover he’s being married off, and forced into a position of more responsibility than he’s ready for. He takes this the only way he knows how: by retreating further into immaturity and throwing a massive, alcohol-fueled party, for which a mysterious newcomer is brought in to help clean up…
WHO’S IT BY?
Anna Sahrling-Hamm is an artist who has been living in Portland, Oregon since 2006. Her other comics include two adaptations of the ghost stories of M.R. James.
WHAT MAKES IT SPECIAL?
The art takes a dramatic turn away from more colorful depictions of merfolk as popularized by movies like The Little Mermaid; everything under and above the sea is dark, rendered in scratched lines and muted shades of grey, illustrating that this is a revenge story where nothing is going to turn out well, as much as it is a fairy tale about the day a mermaid came to kill a prince.
The writing creates sympathetic characters spinning out of a horrible, senseless tragedy; a grieving queen laying a child to rest, a warrior determined to seek redress for a fallen charge, a prince staring down the alleyway of increased responsibility and adulthood and wanting nothing more than to run away from it.
The story itself is a combination of a revenge story and the kind of noir where you know that nothing’s going to get better, but that, combined with the aforementioned compelling characters, means you have to see it through to the end just as surely as Rada has to see her duty done.
WHO SHOULD READ IT?
Fans of mermaids and merfolk (hi everyone.) Fans of Fans of a dark tale where the darkness is earned, because who can’t feel a gnawing pain in their stomach at the thought of a child dying? Fans of artwork that drips atmosphere and communicates just how dark and strange and outright weird the vast expanses of the ocean can be.
WHERE CAN I READ IT?
It’s serialized three times a week online. The first comic page is here.