While on patrol off the coast of Syria, the naval submarine USS Nebraska detects a distress call 4000 feet down at the end of a long tunnel. They find a lost Russian submarine from the 1950’s perched on a precipice in the shadow of a massive underwater structure. On board the Russian sub the men find artifacts and ancient texts from the lost Ugarit people, the first known civilization with a written language. They learn the huge building is a sanctum, dedicated to an ancient god called Mot. A team is sent to in to investigate the archeological find.
When the first away team goes missing after entering the huge building a second is sent to find them. Meanwhile, members of the Nebraska still on ship are starting to go crazy and coming down with horrific diseases. But they are not dying, their bodies racked with pain are still keeping them alive, prolonging their suffering and no medical treatments are working. The chief engineer goes nuts and sabotages the engines trapping them below without hope of rescue. Running out of time, cut off from the away team and command structure, the officers and crew take matters in to their own hands and put in motion a desperate plan. In the sanctum, the truth of what happened to the Ugarit is revealed and a malevolent entity stalks the away team one by one inflicting on them their worst nightmares come to life.
Sanctum is a good story and would make a really good movie. It borrows from submarine thrillers like Crimson Tide, Below, and sci-fi classics Event Horizon and Alien. The resulting story is good, creepy at times, but brought down by some incoherent art and generic characterization that makes it hard to tell the men apart. Illustrator Christophe Bec obviously used known actors as his models for the characters. Bruce Willis, Beau Bridges, and Adam Baldwin are all recognizable. In a couple of panels, the Bruce Willis character pose looks like it was taken from the poster for Armageddon. It’s kind of odd, but does give the action a very cinematic feel.
The story is more horror than science fiction and has a large scope. Action scenes are good, but there are times I had to go back and re-read scenes to understand what was said and who was doing what. The lack of distinguishing characters beyond the few mains makes it really difficult to care about anyone much. The action starts quickly and writer Xavier Dorison tries to introduce his large cast in a few panels, but there isn’t much mention of rank and title so everyone just blends together. In some of the action sequences, the art seems to skip panels making it hard to make out and understand what is happening. I never really understood the layout of the Sanctum either, so it was difficult to figure out where anyone was in relation to each other and the exit. Worse, the ending is rushed and rather implausible and I’m not all that sure what was accomplished by it.
If you enjoy horror comics Sanctum is worth picking up. It’s a stand alone story (I think) so you don’t have to worry about continuity or only getting half the story. It’s a bit rote but Sanctum is a pretty enjoyable ride while it lasts.