Story: Ingrid Chabbert
Art: Carole Maurel
Translated: Edward Gauvin
Lettered: Deron Bennett
The loss of a newborn can hit your life like a thunderclap. There is your life before the tragedy and then there is what’s left of your life after it. I watched my sister go through this. A tiny little bundle named Autumn came into the world too soon; a few days later we laid her to rest in a coffin that could have doubled as a shoebox. I spoke the eulogy for the family and I will never forget that freezing, grey, morning surrounded by family, and the look of total destruction on the face of my little sister.
Fast forward a few years later and that same sad soul is now the doting mother of three wonderful children. Her life is complete in ways she could never describe. Each moment with her little ones made all the sweeter because Autumn had come and gone from our lives so quickly. Time heals all wounds.
I tell you this personal story so that you might be better prepared for the journey that you will take when you open the cover to Waves. It is a heartfelt look at a couple dealing with the loss of their son, who dies in childbirth, and how the couple recovers as best as they can in the aftermath. No punches are pulled here. This painful experience is played out with unwavering honesty. From the joy of discovering that there is a baby on the way, to the endless doctor visits, to the troubled pregnancy, to the loss of the child, to the immediate events afterwards, to the grief, the loss, the frustration, the isolation, the support of others, to the ways we cope, to a glimpse of life moving forward, to ultimate redemption. The journey is all here.
For those who have never lost a child, this book will be a depressing human drama with seemingly no point. But for those of us who have had to stand in that personal hell ourselves, or with someone we love, this graphic novel is a calming salve that treats the wounds left behind in the devastation. Too many times I have written in my reviews that the one element today’s comic book market is lacking is heart. Here is a title that is nothing but pure unadulterated heart. It hits the soul with maximum impact and leaves you thinking about it long after you have put the book down.
It will not shock me at all to see this work receive numerous industry awards. It does what only a well-built comic can do, and that is finding a way to express the emotions that go beyond words and description. The creative team of Chabbert and Maurel will be long remembered in the hearts of those that read this work.
There is deftness to the story that speaks volumes about the skill of the creators. The book starts out colored fully and as the events of the story take place we are dumped into a cold grey world after the baby’s passing, but as the characters move forward in their own stories of survival we slowly see color return to the book and their world. This is not an accident. This is subtextual storytelling that takes real timing and planning and this story pulls it off beautifully.
There is also the dreamscape that comes and goes throughout the story. It is a nightmare scenario that the mother goes through before, during and after the birth. It plays out every mother’s fear of worry and anxiety, of not being ready, of not being enough, of life overwhelming you. It’s these flashes of fear that help leads the main character to her worst moment but ultimately helps her recover and move on. It’s how the writer conveys to the audience that the mother has made peace within herself.
I walked into this review blind. I had no idea what this graphic novel was about. I didn’t know that it was originally printed in French; by the publisher Steinkis as Ecumes. But it is safe to say that this is a work that I would gladly hand out to friends and family who lost in the impression that the medium of comics is nothing more than stories about adults running around in tights fighting.
This is a hallmark work and should be lauded by critics and fans alike for breaking down the barriers of what a comic book can be. This is excellent and should be enjoyed by those who are ready to tackle a very tough subject matter with class and grace. I give this my rare perfect score.