Review by Frank Plowright
For a graphic novel that packs in so much yearning, hope, pain and loss, Waves is a relatively quick read. It’s the story of a couple, in this instance same sex, and the troubles they have bringing a baby to term. The impression we’re given is that the story revealed isn’t the first time the circumstances have played out.
Several deliberate, yet puzzling narrative choices are made, curious because they distract from the main thrust. That people are never named is one, although a form of explanation is eventually given. The use of colour is open to interpretation also. The scenes of nightmares taking place on a blood red sea are vividly coloured, while the real world is muted. Halfway through the book there’s a switch to black and white with spot colour, and the reason isn’t entirely clear. It could be a metaphor for a form of depression, with the coloured items those offering some small joy, but that doesn’t entirely hold up, as surely a loving partner doing their best to offer comfort and understanding would qualify. When the active reading mind is constantly dragging up questions, then something’s not entirely right with the approach.
It’s a pity because Ingrid Chabbert’s story is admirably straightforward in addressing a tragic subject relatively rarely dealt with in comics form, at least not with any detail. It’s not until the end of the book that we learn it funnels Chabbert’s own experiences. She couldn’t have asked for a better or more sympathetic collaborator than Carole Maurel, who supplies gorgeous naturalistic art. It’s simple, yet so expressive when it comes to running through the emotional gamut, as seen on the sample pages, and Chabbert’s a rare writer intuitive enough to let the art take the weight of the storytelling.
Understandably, Chabbert notes it’s taken her a number of years to come to terms with her sad circumstances, and it perhaps accounts for a lack of explanation. Everything is centred on loss, but some greater fleshing out of other circumstances, particularly of the partner, would provide more context. That noted, Waves being moving and magnificently drawn carries the story a long way.