‘Deluge #1:’ Comic Book Review

The Earth is washed clean of sin by Heaven’s tears.

It’s been ten years since the Category 1 hurricane named Katrina came ashore in N’Orleans.  In that ten years, for all those living outside the Big Easy, Katrina has become something removed from what it was: a symbol of the failure of Federal Power, a tragedy whose response is the new standard upon which to base every catastrophic event.  How much damage was mitigated in New York when Sandy struck, and how many lives were saved because of lessons learned in the heart of the Gulf?  And how much was lost in spite of those lessons?  When society falls apart, what is the moral compass that guides you?  Do you work to help others or just get yourself out of harm’s way?  When the eyes of the world turn away from you, who emerges?

This is somewhat the basis for J.D. Oliva and Richard P. Clark’s Deluge.  Set before and in the aftermath of the storm when the invading ocean amplifies pre-storm tensions and factions, we are shown a city gripped in mistrust.  The police come down hard on minorities, and the main antagonist seems to be the kind of officer that would someday be the target of a Black Lives Matter protest.  Partnered with a female officer whose views tend more toward “protect and serve” than gangbusters, we see the lines drawn in the sand before the storm washes it all away.  There’s a fantastically deep and provocative look at the nature of the human spirit on display here, and it would take a very stonehearted individual to not be moved by the events that Oliva lays before us.  Examining the world where the outside pressure to keep to society’s rules has been removed, we see how those barely in control can unleash and wonder, truly, if we would be much different.  It will make you think, which is really the best we can hope for in any form of literature.

Clark has a great touch for switching tone and atmosphere between the pre- and post-storm worlds.  The French Quarter is as bright and full of life as it is today, but post-storm it’s a reversal of Dorothy’s famous journey: The rain washed everything away, and the loss of color reinforces how dour an existence reality has become.  Clark manages to convey the other-worldliness of the aftermath incredibly, not in a photo-realistic way, but with feeling and imagination leaping off the page.  There’s the moment where a drawing of any type transforms from image to art, and that’s when the intention and thought behind the image imparts itself on the viewer.  It’s very hard not to see feelings in these pages.

There are a lot of post-apocalyptic stories that have come and gone over the years; the “group vs. nature” mechanic is prevalent in every zombie story running and was even the subject of Marvel’s latest Secret Wars event in a way.  It’s very interesting to see someone not only place their story in a real place and event that those tales draw inspiration from, but to wash away the metaphor entirely and deal with real-world issues while delivering a good story told well.  This is the kind of work that should be talked about when the “comics are fantasy” arguments arise; the stakes may be the same, but the real-world influence cannot be overlooked as easily as when everyone on the page is in tights.

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Last modified on Monday, 31 December 2018 20:24

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