Oregon sucks. More specifically, small Oregon towns with insular, murderous secrets suck. But, we knew that. Warning: spoilers ahead.
Script: Eric Palicki
Art: Wendell Cavalcanti
Colors: Mark Dale
Letters: Shawn Lee
Publisher: Scout Comics
Palicki and Cavalcanti craft a very interesting monster tale in “Atlantis Wasn’t Built for Tourists,” and the plot twists and turns enough to keep us paying attention through four issues. The esoteric nature of the (various) creatures in this comic comes through over time, and Palicki keeps the drama of Lucas’ backstory focused on its creepy crawly origins. Palicki does good work to flesh out the characters in a couple short issues, there’s a good deal of tension sustained throughout. Characters can surprise you, and overall, the story succeeds.
Cavalcanti’s art is moody, with deep inky shadows and expressive faces. Some anatomy can be a bit odd at times, like when Lauren and Lucas are making a break for it in a later issue, but for the most part the art serves. Cavalcanti has a few excellent pops in the middle issues (anyone for some sunbathing?) and Lucas’ scaly skin is both visually interesting and a good contrast to the fangs and uniforms of his foes. A few heavily shadowed panels feel over the top, like when Paul and Lucas visit the bar early on. Still, Cavalcanti handles more than a few pages with a packed cast and is able to pick out the right moments to show during a fight for a visually cohesive and emotionally satisfying experience.
Dale goes for a generally muted palette that fits the story’s tone. A lot of “Atlantis Wasn’t Built for Tourists” takes place at night, and Dale switches up the greens and blues for poppy oranges and reds when they matter. The daytime scenes in the woods are the right vivid fall colors for the Oregon locale, and Dale adds plenty of tones and spray to the blood when it features. Of particular note is a flashback scene in issue #2 with some impressionistic bursts of color that set off some of Cavalcanti’s strongest work. It’s a single panel, but it does exactly what it’s meant to do, and it’s an intentionally top-heavy bit of drama for the rest of the page. Bonus: it’s funny.
Lee picks a straightforward font that can handle some dialogue, and even though there’s very little leading the balloons don’t feel crammed. Lee also goes with slightly squared corners, as smooth ovals or anything too overtly uniform wouldn’t fit the aesthetic or Cavalcanti’s preference for deep shadows and textures. Given the subject matter, there are a few snappy sound effects where Lee can show off a little style and add some comic flavor to an otherwise generally serious book.
Where “Atlantis Isn’t Built for Tourists” stumbles a bit is in how much information is packed in, and the drama level of certain scenes. A lot of our tale is delivered through dialogue, which makes sense given the sarcasm and secretive nature of the small-town cast, but sometimes we spend a moment too long reading. In these cases the next action beat feels almost intrusive, like when Lucas and Paul banter in the climactic fight. There are several spots that should play in rapid succession or feel almost simultaneous in that scene, and less dialogue would help nail that pacing. In issue #1, the scene with the dog isn’t necessary to telegraph what comes next, and clipping it entirely would help build more sustained tension to earn the payoff of the jail scene.
The Verdict: 7.5/10 – “Atlantis Wasn’t Built for Tourists” sets up an awesome premise and delivers a good mini with a developed horror sensibility.