Editors: Jordaan Arledge & Bryce Beal
Creators: Alexa Cassaro, DCS, Dee Scarborough, J.D. Fuller, Jem Milton, Juliette GMM Lopez, Leanna C., Aurelia Rhoads, Lonnie Garcia, N. Queen, Robin Daehling, Shaina Lu, Sunny Ochumuk, Skylar Kardon, Valentine Barker, Joni Miller, Diane Rockell and Andrea Rosales Publisher: Arledge Comics
WHAT IS IT?
An anthology featuring 18 queer creators and 15 stories centered around the theme of water.
From the publishers: "The stories emphasize both the freedom water can bring as well as the mysteries that lurk beneath the surface."
It's cute as hell, folks.
WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
Queer identities and queer love take many forms in this fractured and strange world. Strange Waters features fantastical creatures and surface dwellers alike, and often explores the boundaries between water and land, duty and love, and family and freedom.
We've got nautical creatures galore within, and there's also a common theme of transformation. Dee Scarborough's “Tide Porosity," J.D. Fuller's "Naiade," DCS's "Nest," Alexa Cassaro's "The River Rabbit" and Robin Daehling's "Dracus" all look at how we build relationships as queer people and how we create space for our hearts, our loneliness and our dreams when there's none offered by the world at large.
In "Tide Porosity," the choice to go silent helps the bubbly cartoon visuals really pop on the page. The lack of word balloons helps the art feel expansive as the two characters struggle to have a fun day together on the surface, and the final note resonates because it's all visual.
In "Naiade," there's a lot of movement as characters reach for each other, travel distances and, eventually, swim together. Anatomy has to be on point with that kind of physical expression, and Fuller delivers.
In "Nest," the sweet faces and evocative art help carry the grief and eventual joy of the story, and the final silent page boasts a good visual cue of time passing.
In "The River Rabbit," Eastern European mythology gets a serious upgrade as two women meet and share their secrets, pain and fears. The story's a folktale through and through, and Cassaro nails the pacing and lyricism of simple declarations.
In "Dracus," beautiful grays, soft light sources and gentle cartooning mesh to create excellent backgrounds. That lovely texturing mirrors the gentleness of the story as it explores loneliness and connection.
WHAT DOESN'T WORK?
Overall, there are minor issues with lettering in almost every story - balloon strokes are often too heavy, and some of the lettering is too big. There's even one attempt to nest an illustration in a word balloon that doesn't entirely work, but there's nothing that's egregious or that detracts from readability.
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
When you don't have a road map for who you are and everything about your culture is commodified and sold back to you in the name of equality and acceptance, basic things like representation and agency matter. Queer stories by queer people are far more important than most people realize.
If you're looking for a plethora of tender meditations on romance, connection and magic, Strange Waters is for you.
If you're looking to normalize queer love for anyone in your life, young or old, Strange Waters is for you.
If you want to read a bunch of stories about cute magical queer dates, Strange Waters is for you.
Strange Waters is an anthology that has potential to resonate both inside and outside of the queer community. It's neither a primer for cisgender, heterosexual folks to parse our identities, nor is it aggressively exclusive or elitist. It's heartfelt and showcases quite a bit of talent, to boot.
HOW DO I BUY IT?
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