Can we truly hang onto the memories of loved ones? That’s the defining question behind Ray Fawkes, Lee Loughridge, and Thomas Mauer’s In the Flood. Through its abstract, emotional story, the team explores the lengths and damages many go through to preserve those who are lost.
In The Flood switches between three narratives: Mike, a lonely man waiting on his beloved Clara to return to their home as the never-ending rainfall slowly fills it up; Clara, a singer at a club who has the uncanny ability to make the audience fall in love with her, and one of the two characters together. Through this technique, bites of the mystery are disseminated slowly until the reader reaches its thought-provoking conclusion.
Memories and tricks are a reoccurring motif that Fawkes uses as glue to connect everything. One of Mike’s quirks is his love of card tricks and telling stories to Clara to accompany them. Clara’s singing is described as magical, and her audiences will boo her fellow singers to get her mesmerizing voice on stage sooner.
When it comes to memory, Mike is constantly reminding himself that Clara said she would return, using it as a mantra to keep him in the house. He expresses how he has to force himself to remember these things.
Much like a memory, the plot flows between perspectives and ideas but maintains a connecting thread thanks to these symbols. Until the end of In The Flood, it’s not clear which story is current events and which are flashbacks. Everything blurs together like one trying to recount a tale from long ago.
What makes this type of story work is the stunning art. The team for this book made a perfect collaboration, meshing all of their unique styles together marvelously.
Fawkes’s drawings follow the abstract nature of the story, using lots of irregular linework and suggestive shapes. It’s almost impressionistic, focusing more on emotion and tone than a solid depiction of what’s going on. Despite this, they’re never confusing to look at.
Loughridge makes each panel stunning. His use of creative shading and gradients give everything a painted look and allows the story’s core to sing.
Color is an important signal for who is the focus of each scene. Loughridge uses blue to signal Mike, Pink for Clara, and Yellow for the parts involving them together. In the conclusion, it becomes apparent that these color choices are very important.
Tying off everything for In The Flood is Mauer’s quality lettering. While in most instances, lettering is meant to be unnoticed, the words and sound effects of this book are just as important as the story and art.
The reoccurring “ZZZZ” sound effect turns the metaphorical thread connecting the three narratives into a physical one, reinforcing it for the reader. Mauer had lots of liberty with dialogue placement due to Fawkes’s many full-page spreads and blank panels, but he put them in natural feeling spots that give everything a great sense of motion and distinguish speakers even when they’re not present.
In The Flood pushes the boundaries of what makes a comic in the best way. The style may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but for anyone who doesn’t mind some experimentation and loves dense, heart-wrenching stories, this is a great read.