Card Tricks In The Rain: Why ‘In The Flood’ Deals A Good Hand
by Rachel Bellwoar
There’s a lot you can learn from looking at a person’s hands. There’s also a lot that hands can’t give away. In In the Flood, a new, comiXology Original graphic novel from writer and artist, Ray Fawkes, hands are the regular focus of a one-page segment in which Mike tries to show Clara a card trick.
Structurally, these pages all take the same form. Four rows of four panels. The first and the third rows are where we see the trick being performed. Usually it’s Mike’s hands but sometimes Clara’s, too. She’s the person Mike is performing the trick for, but sometimes it’s only through the dialogue that her presence is made known. That’s where the second and fourth rows come in. Each of the hand panels has a corresponding dialogue panel and by returning to this set-up, Fawkes and letterer, Thomas Mauer, are able to establish a pattern that lets us know whose hands are whose and whose speaking, from whether the dialogue is indented to the left or to the right.
There’s something the hands can’t tell us, however, and that’s whether Mike knows how to finish the trick. A face or a voice might have a tell, but when Mike fails to reproduce the Queen of Hearts, it’s not clear whether that’s part of the trick, or if he’s trying to conceal the fact that it isn’t working.
Given what the Queen of Hearts represents, it’s not an insignificant question. In the Flood is a story about a relationship but one that’s coming undone during the extreme weather conditions of a flood. The rain is pouring down nonstop. Clara and Mike live on top of a hill, but the water’s almost up to their house. While Mike is inside, Clara’s not, which brings us to the other question. Where’s Clara? Where’s the missing Queen?
Mauer’s letters and Lee Loughridge’s colors offer some insight, but no concrete answers. Mike, for example, doesn’t usually speak aloud. While we can assume that he’s talking to Clara in the card scenes, the lettering is the same as when he’s alone and thinking.
There is a distinction, however, because Mauer uses speech bubbles elsewhere in the book, including a scene where someone asks Clara whether she’s in the tub. For the colors, Loughridge uses the same blue that, up until this point, had always indicated their house and the flood. Loughridge’s colors have the ability to change where a scene is set, though – turning a wave into a curtain, or deciding whether a character’s underwater.
It’s only in thinking back that you realize the trick Loughridge might’ve played. In creating an association between blue and the house, Loughridge prevents you from realizing, or even considering, that Clara might be somewhere else at the time.
That’s why reading In the Flood is a learning process, though. From the first page, where Fawkes makes it ambiguous whether the man is speaking or being addressed, understanding what’s going on gets easier but there are always conflicting explanations. By having the images run and bleed into each other, Fawkes and Loughridge make the context of the flood unforgettable. It’s really a masterwork of a graphic novel and it’s available now from comiXology.