Derelict is a webcomic created by Ben Fleuter in 2011. Dang Thu Mai, our protagonist, endures a solitary post-apocalyptic existence aboard a small ocean-going vessel, named Penumbra. For Dang, survival rests on salvaging useful flotsam from the remains of a human civilization which has been ruined by a confluence of ecological disaster, mutant antagonists and the supernatural. Amidst this isolation, every chance encounter holds danger and the even the Fog is deadly.
Following a world wide ecological catastrophe, presumably rising sea levels or widespread flooding, humanity has abandoned vast areas of the mainland which is now populated by a race of anthropomorphic mutants. These creatures vary in size and appearance, having heads not unlike that of the hunter alien from the Predator movie series. These are the "Miasmics" or "Gargoyles," as Dang disparagingly call them. These creatures are likely of aquatic origin and have a strong association with a supernatural Fog called the "Miasma."
Ben Fleuter often draws this Miasma with pale embedded tentacles and is suggestively of some intelligent and of evil intent. This fog does not harm the Miasmics, but humans who breathe the fog succumb to a kind of paralyzing or hypnotized state marked by intense hallucinations. If the Miasma is intelligent in some way, this state may be some sort of mental assault upon its human victims who experience an altered or parallel reality and may speak in cryptic tongues. Some of the Miasmics appear to revere the Miasma. To these grim-robed occultists, the speech of a human victim afflicted by it may have some spiritual or religious significance to their rites.
In contrast with humanity, the Miasmics have a severe sensitivity to UV light and when going about during the day, protect themselves with robes and wrappings. Many wear animal skulls of curious largeness to protect their faces. There are other mutants, more akin to sea serpents, in the oceans as well as a surprisingly benevolent Cthulhuoid being of some otherworldly significance, and something, or someone, which may be a terrifying and unnatural hybrid, or something new altogether.
Most of humanity now dwells on cities borne upon platforms rising from the sea beds, as oil drilling platforms do. Battleships are of importance for security. Some of the Miasmics live in these cities in a tenuous and guarded relationship with humanity. Other renegade bands of Miasmics are altogether hostile of humanity and abuse captured humans in their occult Fog rituals. The storyline is punctuated by violence such as battleship engagements between hostile Miasmics and humanity and a captured oil platform-city replete with human sacrifice and crucified Miasmic traitors.
Most of the installments in this comic are presented, however, with the tedium and gravity of the experience of Deng as an isolated survivor. In an encounter, it is suggested that she may belong to a specific race or a clan, but for the whole of the first book, she is alone. She has a strong emotional and psychological dependency on her ship Penumbra on which is seemingly completely dependent on for survival. Her existence depends on salvaging and scavenging for food, fuel and anything that she can make use of. To this pursuit, she seems entirely successful and the hold of Penumbra is full of potentially useful salvage.
Yet hostile encounters seem always around every corner. The diminutive Deng has a MacGyver like aptitude for creating useful tools and for the ability to better her adversaries to escape from peril. However, every encounter seems to conclude with the increasing disenfranchisement or imperilment in some way of Deng and Penumbra.
Derelict is drawn in a manner that I find to be attractively uncomplicated yet realistic. Many early installments are very sparse without any dialog. In this, the comic succeeds in creating an atmosphere that imparts the gravity and isolation of the world that Deng is surviving. Ben Fleuter has a good ability to draw landscapes and objects with realism. His action scenes come alive with the illusion of motion quite well.
Ben Fleuter began installments of Derelict in February of 2011 and concluded the first book, called Deluge, consisting of 154 installments. As of January 21, 2016, 91 installments of a second book, Cloister, have been started, although recent installments have been few and sporadic.
Update: As of 2017, the author seems to have abandoned this webcomic and the site is, well, derelict.