Ingrid Chabbert has commented that she doesn’t want Waves to be labelled as a story about a same-sex relationship trying to have a baby. Arguably comics are a bit more forward-thinking than other mediums, and to show how progressive this volume is, the writer isn’t trying to make any big statement towards this central relationship, let alone their genders.
Based on Chabbert’s own experience in 2009, Waves – originally published by the French comics publisher Steinkis – explores a young couple who has finally announced their pregnancy after years of difficulty attempting to have children. However, their hopes of starting a family are sadly diminished by a tragic turn of events. Following this loss, the couple tries to move forward with the realization that they can never conceive a child of their own.
No doubt the subject matter here will upset a section of the readership as it deals with the loss of a child and Chabbert is candid about showing the difficulties of such an event, with an extensive sequence featuring our protagonist losing too much blood under hospital treatment. As heartbreaking as the unfortunate event is, Chabbert isn’t trying to depress us as the story is ultimately about regaining that sense of hope during one’s exploration of pain. Certainly, for our protagonist, she rediscovers her voice through her writing, which leads to new career aspirations and eventually her beginnings as a children’s author, and leaving her wondering if her child would’ve liked his mother’s stories.
Although you hear more from one half of the central relationship, the participants of which remain nameless throughout the book, the two are defined by love and sympathy towards each other. One of the most touching sequences feature the couple attending a group therapy session involving other couples talking through their own experiences of child loss. Considering how upsetting this subject can be, Chabbert eventually turns this into an uplifting narrative that can serve as a touching life lesson for anyone going through some form of pain.
For something that is both sad and uplifting, it is an achievement that artist Carole Maurel perfectly captures that balance. With her simplistic art style, Maurel achieves an awful lot in under a hundred pages, from her characters that are very expressive to her panel layouts that cleverly play with the passage of time. What is most impressive about Maurel’s art as well as coloring is how it visually expresses the protagonist’s mentality in numerous stages throughout the book — a lot of it is in black-and-white at the start of the tragedy, but during the recovery, the pages become more and more colorful.
In under a hundred pages, Ingrid Chabbert and Carole Maurel create a masterpiece about heartbreak that also explores love and reconstruction in a way that is truly heartwarming.
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