Are you looking forward to a new comic book but it’s impossible for you to wait for its release before you know what we thought about it? That’s why there’s DoomRocket’s Advanced Reviews—now we assess books you can’t even buy yet. This week: ‘Sea of Sorrows’ #1 (of 5), out November 18 from IDW Publishing.

'Sea of Sorrows' #1: The DoomRocket Review
Cover to ‘Sea of Sorrows’ #1. Art: Alex Cormack/IDW Publishing

by Brandy Dykhuizen. Rich Douek and Alex Cormack have teamed up again to fulfill your historical horror needs with Sea of Sorrows. This time, a salvage crew fresh out of the traumas of World War I winds their way through the frigid North Atlantic in search of hidden Nazi bullion. 

Sounds reasonable enough. But if these characters are willing to brave rough seas and frigid air to search for a submarine that allegedly lies on the ocean floor, one might safely assume each crew member is running from a pretty significant demon, right? The mission doesn’t so much scream “Adventure!” as it does “death march,” so why would anyone jump at this opportunity so soon after living through the war to end all wars? No amount of gold could be worth this journey, could it? 

Douek and Cormack might have walked us through the horrors of escaping war before, but Sea of Sorrows is a fresh, terrifying take. Road of Bones wove the supernatural within a literal escape, but Sea of Sorrows seems to present monsters as murky as the kraken’s hyperborean lair. The crew might be desperate to find this gold, but it’s still a voluntary mission. These folks were likely operating under a “nothing left to lose” philosophy a few ports back, and are now in a desperate scramble to buy back their souls.  

We know of the beast below straight out of the gate—she’s smack on the cover, mouth gaping in a twisted siren song. She appears to be rushing up to meet those who venture towards the bottom. Is she guarding the hidden treasure? Is she merely a hallucination born of frozen brains in glacial waters? Or is she the personification of post-war PTSD, the embodiment of what veterans of Hell might find when they plunge into their own icy depths?  

Above the surface, Douek has assembled a ragtag crew of smart-ass noir-types. They are a crew, yes, but not exactly what one might call a team. There is no greater, collaborative good driving their motivations, but they are each there for their own yet-undescribed purposes. Douek leans on banter and archetypes common to that era of film, from the disgruntled captain to the seasick drunk, to the man of God who tries to smooth out the crew’s arguments, but probably has a few nefarious secrets of his own up his sleeves. 

While Douek introduces us to the chaos of human interaction, Cormack illustrates the singular fears that isolation can tease out of our brains. Alliances are formed here and there, but can anyone really be trusted? It seems quite intentional that after the first issue, you’re really not sure who you should be rooting for. If Road of Bones taught us anything, it’s that we shouldn’t view human folly or fortune in black-and-white. There’s far more to us than we’re comfortable believing, especially when you put a gun or a folkloric metaphor to our heads. 

Am I excited to see where Douek takes this tale? Absolutely. He’s not one to play his cards all up front, so showing the creatures right away means there’s something heinous in store. I’m also itching to know what’s next from this duo—they’ve dipped into Russian and now possibly Germanic/Scandinavian folklore through the unexpected lens of 20th century conflict. Will there be a third part to this intriguing trilogy? They’ve covered land and sea; will the next cautionary tale take flight? We each have our own preferred escapes, and for those sailing upon the Sea of Sorrows, the relentlessly cold embrace of the ocean just might be the only thing that makes them feel alive again. I’ll be champing at the bit to see this journey through.

IDW Publishing / $3.99

Written by Rich Douek.

Art by Alex Cormack.

Letters by Justin Birch.

8 out of 10

‘Sea of Sorrows’ #1 (of 5) hits stores on November 18. You can pre-order it now. (Diamond Code: SEP200463)

Check out this variant cover to ‘Sea of Sorrows’ by artist Katie Sawatsky, courtesy of IDW Publishing!

'Sea of Sorrows' #1: The DoomRocket Review