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posted December 1, 2008
Fantagraphics, hardcover, 80 pages, November 2008, $14.99
1560979542 (ISBN10), 9781560979548 (ISBN13)
I cringe a bit when I see The Lagoon
discussed as cartoonist Lilli Carre's graphic novel debut. A lot of how it doesn't satisfy as a novel doesn't even cross your mind if you treat the hardcover effort from Fantagraphics for what it is, a nice short story. There are five or six effects that Carre achives on the comics page that are as fun as anything out there. It's a comic to significant extent about sound and noise and reassurance, and the various ways the cartoonist depicts the aural element impress with their shared, visual shorthand. In its best sequences, the Creature From the Black Lagoon comes to represent this gut-wrenching combination of sex and death, of comfort and thrilling danger. The best thing about the whole look is the casual manner with which the creature is present in the life of the main characters, just beyond a pile of wood or slipping into ear shot. A late-night exchange of cigarettes proves creepy and alluring in equal measure.
All that said, I don't think it quite adds up to anything approaching a novel, which is unfortunate only in that there are themes and visual elements here that could have carried the reader into some fascinating, dark places over a few hundred pages. What's left is a suggestion of certain ideas rather than their exploration. If you can take your eyes off of Carre inventing a visual language for herself with which to tell the story, and all the fun that entails, you may notice the emaciated nature of the general plotline. Blinking again, you may not care.