Tom Spurgeon's Web site of comics news, reviews, interviews and commentary

Home > CR Reviews

The Drowners
posted March 22, 2006


Creators: Nabiel Kanan
Publishing Information: Image, 106 pages, $14.99
Ordering Numbers: 1582406170

There are two things about the book's opening that distinguish The Drowners from other recent comics attempts at darkly psychological crime stories. The introductory pages are designed using Kanan's cover image as gray-tone abstraction; the book itself opens up on an even more recondite moment of a page depicting the water's surface. Both are really lovely. Kanan has become a fine comics artist over the years and through a handful of well-liked series. His character design is stronger than his staging and rendering, but that works out just fine for a drama played out mostly across faces. He draws particularly good-looking women -- again, a distinct advantage for the story he sets out to tell?

That story is a reasonably ordinary tale of past crimes, guilt and the cost incurred by blatant manipulation of others' feelings in order to squeeze what you want out of life. Here Kanan's skill are almost the opposite -- the details of dialogue he has down fine; much of the banter feels burned down to its essentials in a flattering way. But the characters are all from a stock company circa 1947. No one acts in a way that surprises; nothing breaks past the relentless feel that comes with the plot grinding on to its inevitable end. This book looks so nice that one want a story that matches rather than takes advantage of it. Until then, young artists can study the grid work and breaks in larger space, the visual rhyming, and the joyful use of faces in shadow. It's almost enough.