The year is 1887, and the steamboat Lorelei courses the foggy Hudson River. Its captain, Sailor Twain, is a dutiful man who runs the ship much on his own. Prowling the deck late one evening, he encounters a mermaid struggling to pull herself onboard. Blood flows out of a wound in her side, across her breasts and her gray, pungent skin. Twain clumsily carries her into his cabin, at once lustily drawn to and repulsed by her. He dresses her wound, and nurses her back to health in secret.
As the mermaid grows stronger, her presence transforms Twain's cabin into a seabed itself - seagrass grows through the floorboards and fish swim between its long fronds. As Twain spends more time with the mermaid he begins to neglect his duties on deck and makes fewer visits to his invalid wife on shore. Familiar with ancient legends, his only request of the mermaid has been that she not sing to him. But as his curiosity grows into an obsession, he begins to wonder - what would it be like to hear the mermaid's song?
As the plot unfolds and the steamboat travels further down the river, it becomes clear that not all is as it seems... and what's unseen converges in a staggering conclusion.
Unlike the Disney-based stories many of us were raised on, Sailor Twain draws on a darker, more ancient sensibility - one in which unsuspecting men are snared by evil-intentioned mermaids, whose songs draw them into the sea to be drowned, eaten or otherwise sent to their doom.
Sailor Twain's dialogue is heavy with mystery, and Siegel's dusky charcoal drawings create an atmosphere that mimics the foggy Hudson's. A dark graphic novel with a good dose of cynicism and humor, Sailor Twain is a haunting love story that delves into themes of human nature and desire.