REVIEW: ‘Dune: A Whisper of the Caladan Seas,’ Issue #1

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Dune: A Whisper of the Caladan Seas

Dune: A Whisper of the Caladan Seas #1 is published by BOOM! Studios, written by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson, art by Jakub Rebelka, and letters by Ed Dukeshire. The surprise attack by House Harkonnen is one of the pivotal moments in the original Dune. While the core story focuses its narrative on the Atreides family and their various escapes and demises, this story looks at some of those less lofty individuals who were forced to face the Harkonnen onslaught head-on. Those who were expected to fight and die for the House Atreides.

When adding a story to an already existing narrative, one of the biggest questions I ask after finishing it is always why. Why was this story added to the narrative? What does it enhance, strengthen or elaborate on? Essentially, what is the point? Or is this story feel more like a creator’s whim or a cash grab to get fans to spend more money on a property they love? By and large, Dune: A Whisper of the Caladan Seas #1 comes across as one of these later possibilities, as it brings nothing of importance to the signature moment in the Dune narrative it takes place in.

This story centers around Sergeant Hoh Vitt of the Atreides Gaurd. He is a Jongleur. A descendent of a lost minor house who can impart the emotions of stories upon those who listen. As his unit becomes pinned down by Harkonnen artillery, Vitt uses his powers to weave tales of their home planet of Caladan for his troops. These moments provide them with some respite as their supplies dwindle and they await death.

And that is really what Dune: A Whisper of the Caladan Seas #1 brings through its narrative. The writing attempts to draw the reader into the inevitable doom facing the story’s focused troops but never manages to truly land it. This is largely because we never know any of these characters. They appear, and we are granted only the most superficial glimpses of their personalities before their inevitable deaths. There is little to become emotionally attached to and little reason to try knowing what end undoubtedly awaits them.

With a narrative that fails to truly engage the reader with the plight of Dune: A Whisper of the Caladan Seas #1‘s cast, the art is faced with the struggle to enhance a story that has already failed. While artist Rebalka does everything possible to bring the emotion through to the reader, it never manages to be quite enough. While the unit’s struggles are depicted skillfully, they remain the largely faceless specters that anyone with prior knowledge of the larger narrative knows are already dead.

The only time Rebalka is almost able to succeed at what feels like the impossible task the artist has to tackle is through the coloring. When Vitt tells one of his tales of Caladan, the shift in color palette creates such a stark contrast, as it moves from the harsh reds and dark tones of the doomed battlefield to the soft blues of the Caladan seas, that it almost manages to break through to the emotional resonance the story so wants to reach.

Lastly, we have the lettering. While Dukeshire’s letters do a solid job of delivering the story, letter design feels ill-suited for the art it is paired with. The perfectly smooth, industry-standard fonts and balloons don’t match Rebalka’s rougher art style.

When all is said and done, Dune: A Whisper of the Caladan Seas #1 delivers a throwaway tale that will be of little interest save for the most diehard Dune fans. If you don’t consider yourself such, I can’t imagine there will be much for you here.

Dune: A Whisper of the Caladan Seas #1 is available now wherever comics are sold.


Dune: A Whisper of the Caladan Seas #1
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TL;DR

When all is said and done, Dune: A Whisper of the Caladan Seas #1 delivers a throwaway tale that will be of little interest save for the most diehard Dune fans. If you don’t consider yourself such, I can’t imagine there will be much for you here.

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