By Lilli Carré
80 pages, black and white
Published by Fantagraphics Books

When you hear a title like The Lagoon, you might end up thinking about a dark, murky sort of experience, thanks to the titles of works like Creature from the Black Lagoon. When I picked up Lilli Carré’s The Lagoon, though, I found myself very pleasantly surprised to find something entirely different; a forbidden love story that despite being a print book, has a real sense of music to it.

Zoey lives with her parents and grandfather, in a home that’s near the lagoon. When Zoey hears her grandfather singing a song, he claims that it’s the song from the Creature of the Lagoon that everyone in town used to listen to. What Zoey doesn’t realize, though, is that this song has a much deeper connection to her family. And on one night, someone in the family opens up the window to let the Creature in…

The Lagoon is a peculiar book, continually confounding the reader’s expectations. It starts out in many ways like a mystery or thriller novel does, with the mysterious song and the story that is connected to it. But as the book progresses, it turns into a very different beast (no pun intended); a hidden romance, a story about longings, and family relationships. It’s an odd book, and when I was done with it I found myself stopping to think about just what Carré brought her readers through and what she was trying to tell us. What I definitely do know is that this is a story that feels lush and moody in a way that comics often try to be but rarely succeed. It’s a little slice of life that slides onto your page without really noticing; there are moments in the book that genuinely took me by surprise because I didn’t see them coming, even though a re-read shows a lot of it carefully and quietly set up by Carré earlier on. And even after the climax of the book comes and goes, there’s still a quarter of the book remaining, a quiet jump forward in time that gives a strange-tasting epilogue to the entire event. It’s almost like a nod to the fact that life goes on, and while some things have changed, other pieces of the puzzle are still there and waiting.

The art in The Lagoon is a beautiful, lush, textured affair from Carré. It’s almost like a cross between Charles Burns and Craig Thompson, with that slick and slightly disturbing in places look of characters from Burns, but with Thompson’s attention to detail. The plants of the lagoon seem to almost sway in the breeze as you look from one page to the next, and the dark waters are simultaneously inviting and scary as you look at Carré’s creation. I also was really taken with how Carré draws the sounds of song and a metronome throughout The Lagoon. Having the words drift across the page isn’t an original idea, but it’s rather the method that the string of them wind and twist their way around people that gives you a real sense of these sounds and their power. Just as the sounds themselves drag the townspeople into the lagoon, we can see it almost tugging on them as they’re unable to break free of their siren call.

The Lagoon is a beautiful graphic novel, but if I had a single complaint it’s that in some ways it felt like it ended just as things were getting started. I’d have loved to see an even longer story from Carré here, while I appreciate that she didn’t overly drag it out. The Lagoon is a very solid, well-crafted book, and whatever Carré’s next project is, it’ll be one to keep an eye out for.

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