In this story exploring the depths of heartbreak, two women lose the baby they have planned and hoped for so acutely. Waves is a heavy, very personal comic, based on the author’s own experience with a miscarriage and the emotional aftermath.

Despite previous difficulties, a young woman and her partner are determined to have a child. When the woman finds out she is pregnant, the two rejoice, and finally allow themselves to feel some excitement for their future as mothers. Before long, though, the woman experiences complications and is rushed to the hospital. Doctors do what they can, but the woman loses the pregnancy and must find a way to cope with everything that comes afterwards.

Waves is a comic driven by emotion and there is a dream-like quality to it. The story alternates between the real-life experiences of the characters and a metaphoric representation of the woman’s grief and struggle in the form of a boat on the water. There isn’t a heavy focus on the development of character or plot. In fact, the characters are never even named, and the story jumps around in time, giving the readers snapshots of moments. This type of storytelling is a tool, and it’s used well by writer Ingrid Chabbert, but it may mean the story doesn’t resonate as much for some who prefer to know characters more intimately or to follow them more closely. To me, the dialogue did not seem particularly realistic or natural. The characters are very much more ideas than people.

The content of Waves may be difficult for some readers, so it should be approached with full knowledge of what’s involved. The woman’s physical trauma is not presented graphically and the medical details are sparse. There is discussion of her bleeding and we see a little bit of blood depicted. After the miscarriage occurs, the women hold the body of their child. The comic does not shy away from presenting the lows of grief and depression, including suicidal ideation. Things end on a hopeful note, however, and throughout, the love and relationship between the two women remains strong.

This is certainly a book that may not be for everyone, but its existence is important. Miscarriage is a topic rarely addressed in the medium of comics, and it’s rare in any medium to see this kind of story being told about a gay couple. Even with the tragic subject matter, it’s always a pleasure when I can read about queer people with ordinary, loving relationships, and when the focus of the story isn’t them facing discrimination or hatred. The depiction of an interracial lesbian couple is also important representation.

One relatively small detail which bothered me was when the couple goes in for an ultrasound. The technician asks, “Well, my dears, another try to see their gender?” The technician and the couple look at the screen and then declare the baby to be a boy. In the very next scene, the two women are buying blue clothes in a “Baby Shop” full of blue and pink items. Especially in a comic featuring queer people, I would have hoped for a more sophisticated understanding of gender than what these two scenes provide.

Carole Maurel’s artwork is gentle and skillfully employs both color and many wordless panels to tell the story. A lot is conveyed visually rather than through explicit narration or dialogue. After the miscarriage occurs, all color disappears, and the art feels bleak, interspersed with occasional inverted black-and-white panels—moments of striking pain. As the couple moves gradually through the process of healing, colors begin to seep back into their world, appearing in more and more places. There didn’t seem to be a specific pattern or reasoning to which objects regained color when, which is a detail I would have liked to see, but the technique still worked well paired with the characters’ emotional journey.

Though there is nothing explicit or objectionable for younger readers, Waves may be most appropriate for adults and older teens. Those who have suffered through a miscarriage, lost a child, or struggled with deep grief may find something to relate to in this comic, and there are certainly readers for whom this connection will be important.

Waves
By Ingrid Chabbert
Art by Carole Maurel
ISBN: 9781684153466
Boom! Studios, 2019
Publisher Age Rating:

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Creator Highlights: LGBTQIA+ Creator

  • Sharona Ginsberg

    Past Reviewer

    Sharona Ginsberg is the Head of the Terrapin Learning Commons at the University of Maryland, College Park. Her work fits where technology and learning intersect, and she is especially interested in makerspaces and creating. She is also interested in issues of equity and social justice, serving LGBTQ patrons, and her dog, Bilbo Waggins.

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