SALTWATER: THE ANARCHY OF WATER by Rick Quinn and Dana Obera
SALTWATER: THE ANARCHY OF WATER melds together wonderful storytelling and beautiful art, exemplifying what the medium can do with a strong artistic vision.
87 %
A high seas adventure

Water embodies the true definition of the word “awesome.” It’s a beautiful natural phenomenon which at one time can be serene and the other, violent and dangerous. Like J. M. W. Turner’s painting THE SHIPWRECK, the ocean shows itself as a beautiful entity worthy of hanging in the most prestigious museums; yet the picture itself depicts the waves tearing apart a vessel and carrying the people into the depths below. Yet despite the ocean’s destructive nature, we always seem drawn to the near heavenly sight of the sun setting over the ocean’s waves. This mentality is present in the comic SALTWATER: THE ANARCHY OF WATER. Written by Rick Quinn with art by Dana Obera, SALTWATER: THE ANARCHY OF WATER brings to life a miraculous tale among the ocean waves.

A Tale of Two Cities

The story of SALTWATER: THE ANARCHY OF WATER is fairly straightforward. Sera is a young woman frustrated with her city’s rigid social hierarchy, in which people living in “the Golden City” take advantage of those living in “the Corroded City.” To survive, those in the Corroded City go so far as to mine a substance called “qualuum.” This mineral keeps the economy of the entire city-state in order. If anything happens to it, the society would deteriorate into chaos.

This comic currently exists as a one shot, which, frankly, I’m really disappointed about. I feel like there are so many potential stories in this universe. Why is this civilization out in the middle of the ocean? What does qualuum do? This world seems so interesting and unique. Quinn has created an undeniably wondrous world. Any reader who lays hands on this comic will naturally want to see it fleshed out more.

Image courtesy of Rick Quinn


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Is Sera a Good or Bad Guy?

I had particularly strong feelings regarding the end of this comic. I don’t want to give anything away, so let’s just say the point about anarchy in the title isn’t just for show. It seemed to me that this particular plot point may have harmed Sera’s quest for equality instead of actually fixing it. After all, while her actions are understandable, a lot of people in both the Golden and the Corroded city will die as a result. There’s no guarantee her actions will result in the freedom and equality she rightfully craves.


Image courtesy of Rick Quinn

Because of this moral ambiguity, I found Sera at times hard to sympathize with. It’s revealed fairly early on in the issue that Sera used to live as a member of the upper class in the Golden City. Her mother fought for the equality of those in the Corroded City and as a result, her family found themselves banished into the depths of the ocean. Although her anger is justified, her actions seem more harmful than beneficent like her mother’s.

This comic made me seriously question the actions of the protagonist, a testament to Quinn’s ability to get readers invested. Although the comic only lasts roughly thirty pages, I really felt myself caring for the struggles of those in the Corroded City. SALTWATER: THE ANARCHY OF WATER leaves readers thinking deeply about what occurred, whether Sera’s remembered as a hero or the one who caused the demise of a city. In the end, the readers must decide the fate of the city for themselves.

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Depicting An Undersea Dystopia

The use of water within the comic is both a literal setting and, in my opinion, a clever nod to the meaning of the work. Consider the nature of water — unpredictable and violent, yet calm and entirely in control. It follows no clear rules and does whatever it pleases, with no ruler. The presence of water is an undeniable tie into the meaning of the comic. SALTWATER: THE ANARCHY OF WATER leaves readers with something to think about long after they finish reading.

I loved Dana Obera’s art style. He used a pseudo-water color with thicker lines to differentiate between the characters and scenery. I loved how he leaned into the oceanic theme of the comic and made everything seem doused in water. Sometimes, it’s hard to clearly make out the locations Sera travels through. However, I didn’t see this as a major issue, mostly because when people travel under water, their vision distorts. Although I saw this shift in visuals as leaning into that trend, it could instead represent Sera’s mental state. It could be that her clear and direct anger towards those who wronged her in the Colden city prevent her from seeing the world clearly any longer. Regardless of his true intentions, Obera managed to really make this world come to life.


I wish more existed of SALTWATER: THE ANARCHY OF WATER. The book left me with so many questions. When I learned that this comic was only a single issue, my heart fell. Still, it seems clear that Rick Quinn and Dana Obera understand the mechanizations of the universe they created. Here’s to hoping they expand more and more on this beautiful aquatic world.

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