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Book Review: Flood! A Novel In Pictures: Special Edition

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It seems like an exercise in futility, using words to describe of a novel completely in pictures. With that in mind, I’ll keep my first comments brief. I won’t feel bad if you stop reading after this sentence and just click on the image above.

Eric Drooker’s Flood! is a brilliant piece of graphic literature, one no legitimate library should be without. (Go ahead. Click.) Still here? Okay, I’ll expand a bit if you’re still reading.

The commanding use of human symbols in Drooker’s work, both tribal and corporate, is the brilliance in this graphic novel. This semiotic adventure through a New York most people have never encountered is an important literary and artistic marvel, one that effortlessly takes over your mind.

Leading the conquest of your thoughts is a down-on-his-luck New Yorker who encounters parts of the city that have were common “before Disney took over,” as Drooker puts it. Prostitution, unemployment, and homelessness are all prevalent in the era, but these images transcend time. This transcending of time is not just the result of the images, but also how these images are created.

Using a black-and-white scratchboard technique, Drooker’s frames and pages recalls the woodcut picture stories from the early 20th century that his grandfather showed him, according to an interview with the artist. In addition to giving Flood! a sense of timelessness, the age-old technique evokes the dramatic nuances in his character’s everyday life. Not until the third and final chapter of Flood! do we see an additional color, which separates the artist in the book from the artist making the book. It lets us know just how autobiographical, or a least self-reflective, Flood! truly is.

The realization of the author’s role makes the final frames of this graphic novel all the more poetic. As a Biblical flood submerges the city, we are told in no uncertain terms that the author is no innocent. He too will be lost, to his own creation no less.

As I flip through the pages while writing this I still find it hard to do this book justice with words. Describing the scene above is hardly as moving as actually seeing it. Coming from a writer, that’s a dramatic statement. Every flip of a page forms a new connection and new insight into Drooker’s masterful work. You realize the immensity and importance of this work, if only in terms of how it impacts your own worldview.

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About Daniel J. Stasiewski