Look at the cover to the first issue of Image Comics’ The Vault (Image Comics), with its skull face looming over an unwary skin diver, and the first thing long-term comics lovers will think of is the EC series, The Vault of Horror. But on the basis of the first issue of this Sam Sarkar and Garrie Gastonny (both responsible for Caliber) mini-series, The Vault has more in common with an s-f movie like James Cameron’s The Abyss than it does the fifties era walking corpse fest. It’s a deliberately paced tale about a group of undersea treasure hunters who pull up something from the ocean depths that they probably shouldn’t have.
As such, the opening issue of the three-part mini-series is devoted to establishing the characters of the crew and the technology that they use to get themselves in trouble. Looking to explore the Oak Island Treasure Pit located off the coast of Nova Scotia, our gang races an approaching hurricane to enter a previously unbroachable underwater vault, using a dog-like robot named Macula. Scripter Sarkar devotes a lot of the densely dialogued first issue to establishing the financial stakes each lightly distinguishable crew member feels over the ultra-pricey expedition, though one suspects that once things start popping in the second ish, money will take a back seat to simple questions of survival.
What our intrepid six-person crew uncovers proves to be a sarcophagus containing some distinctly unusual remains. This somehow connects to an opening two-page spread of angels battling demons, potentially turning what has started out as a straightforward sci-fi tale into something a trace more metaphysical. A sign of the times: where we once would’ve gotten our kicks from Things from Another World, these days we look to more medievally inspired terrors.
Artist Garrie Gastonny renders all this with clear-lined distinctness, the comic book equivalent of a big-budget summer blockbuster. How drive-in summery is The Vault? We even get a panel of shapely archeologist Gabrielle Parker in the shower. Never saw that in the old EC comics…