One of the many things I love about the world of comic books is its acceptance, both as a publishing industry and a reading audience, of bizarre ideas. This remark may sound strange in reference to an entertainment medium so completely dominated to a single genre, but even within the superhero genre comic book publishers have shown much more willingness to explore unusual themes and ideas, from Alan Moore’s thought-provoking reworking of Swamp Thing to Walter Simonson’s “Frog of Thunder” story in Thor, which saw Marvel’s God of Thunder transformed into a frog for three issues.
Which brings us to Gutsville, a story with a setting so bizarre you will only find it in a comic book.
The premise of Gutsville is that in 1850 the SS Daphne, a British ship bound for Australia, is swallowed whole by a giant sea monster. But instead of being digested, the crew and passengers survive and build a permanent settlement in the beast’s stomach, surviving by fishing for salvage every time the monster swallows. The story opens 157 years later, with the descendents of the Daphne‘s original survivors led by a religious sect who believe they must purify their spirits before they will be allowed to return to “the dryplaces of the Earth.” The main character is Albert Oliphant, who has just inherited his recently deceased father’s job of catching the giant mutant rats that prowl the fleshy passageways of Gutsville. The plot thickens when Albert finds that his father has drawn a detailed map of the maze of passageways, which may just show a way out of the beast.
This entirely original set-up is accompanied by some sharp writing and an intricate plot by British novelist Simon Spurrier, and gorgeous, atmospheric painted artwork by Frazer Irving. It is set to be a six issue limited series, but with a setting this rich and complex that hardly seems like enough issues to do the idea justice. It seems like there is a lot of Gutsville to explore, so here’s hoping Albert won’t find his way out too soon…