Required Reading is DoomRocket’s love chest, opened twice monthly to champion a book that we adore. This week Arpad recommends ‘Rain’, out October 9 from Dark Horse Books.
by Arpad Okay. Witness the walls erected to protect your city, now nothing more than a bowl to hold the septic soup of a flood. Here is a comic of dire consequences, love in conflict, and the heritage of the countryside. Mary and Bryan Talbot called their book Rain, because precipitation is the tipping point, but what it’s about is soil. Call it “Earth.” Precious, beautiful, important.
The Talbots write for a love of place, seeking home in history. It’s an interesting literary pocket to write from, an ardor for the open country and for literature come together in comics about people drawn to the moorland by books. Bryan’s The Tale of One Bad Rat was about folks like Beatrix Potter living with the bunnies; his and Mary’s Rain is about Brontë fans wandering Top Withins.
When and where influence here and now, and make for a fairy tale warning. If we don’t fight climate change, who will walk the moor singing Kate Bush? Instead, the land is monetized, an industry of grouse shoots that wring out nature like a washcloth. Bird murder population puts the bog ecosystem in peril, the parasites get out of control, people poison the parasites, the land itself runs with poison, the bog ecosystem is put in peril.
Rain makes a powerful argument for conservation, both capturing the beauty of the land with ink and paint, and giving a sense of age in what we’re upsetting through the story being told. It takes thousands of years to form a bog. What we do in these last instants erase what has taken literally forever to come to.
What the Talbots offer is a mature look at this conflict. Not a unified front of community versus corporation. And, like the rings in a tree, the further you travel towards a seed, the denser the pattern. Go deep and there’s as much in the dirt directly beneath your feet as in the whole countryside around you. The lovers argue, little bits of right and wrong in each side, all of it connecting them, the world, and you, the reader. Care about what they have to say and caring about them is next.
Then comes danger.
Rain is a work of sublime tactile beauty. Your eyes can feel paper grain and watercolor stain your fingers cannot touch. There’s a vivid tension between enjoying a good story that a crafty natural aesthetic improves and the inclination to let go of the story entirely to be touched by artwork. The interplay between watercolor objects and ink line contours is gentle, subtle, a natural touch. Even the format of the book, panels sized to landscape, contributes to the experience. If you care to catch a film in 70mm, you will fall hard for the book-ness of this graphic novel.
Also arthouse is Talbot’s thoughtful palette choices. There is a vague notion that now is in full color and reveries, memories, and the like are done in monochrome and other limited color palate passages, or scenes where only the nature is colored truly. These atmospheric choices reflect the inner weather of the characters.
Bryan and Mary extract maximum pleasure from modest means. A world of opulence (where you shoot two thousands birds in a day) pales in comparison to putting on old boots. A saint feeding sugar water to a single bee. How beautiful the big sky is, how green the fields. And how dark those who would sew them with lead, or paint the air with blood.
Rain is set to teach. Will you listen? Biodiversity comes from letting the Earth move in its natural cycles. Plant trees. Stage protests. Perform investigative journalism. Be gay, do crime. Read good books and listen to good music. Care, care for what’s in front of you, care for what you can’t see over the horizon. And hope.
Dark Horse Books / Dark Horse Comics / $24.99
Written by Mary M Talbot and Bryan Talbot.
Illustrated by Bryan Talbot.
Lettered by Bryan Talbot.
‘Rain’ hits stores October 9.
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