This city is lousy with top-shelf cartooning talent, from the scion of sad bastards, Chris Ware, to the up-and-comers we’ve seen slugging it out onstage in Ezra Daniels’s comic art battles. And very quietly, Lilli Carré has risen to that top shelf, thanks to lyrical storytelling and a black-and-white style too fluid to be confused for woodcut, but equally as rich.
In The Lagoon, Carré’s full-length debut, an amphibious creature enchants a village with its nighttime caterwauls. The young Zoey learns of the song from her senile grandfather, and hears it herself shortly thereafter. She sneaks out of her house and finds her grandfather, covered in leaves and bugs, standing in the town’s numinous lagoon. As the book progresses, the creature sings out to each member of Zoey’s family, and each hears a different melody. The creature seduces her mother, baffles her father, but never quite catches Zoey.
The Lagoon unfolds like a song, and Carré’s drawings match what we heard as the swooning rhythm of the monster’s singing. The way she wraps sounds and notes in speech bubbles that resemble slithering snakes enmeshes the reader with the characters. The slight narrative reads more like a tone poem than a story, and that might be the greatest detriment to The Lagoon. Something feels missing. Carré prefers to hint at what’s below the surface (metaphorically, and in the case of the lagoon, literally), but in a book so short, there simply isn’t much surface there. Still, that’s a fancy way of saying we would have preferred more. And for Carré, it feels like a beautiful beginning.
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