(Left – the cover to The Sound Of Drowning 14. Right – Lawrence Elwick’s promo image to give you a lovely idea of the strips inside)
Now this was impressive. And attractive. And fun, cute, disturbing and unexpected. All in one go.
The creators are the guys behind the wonderful Charlie Parker handyman strip that I’ve mentioned a few times, something I love for it’s originality and simplicity of the idea. But here in Sound Of Drowning they have much more to offer. A collection of six strips, repeating throughout the comic, with a dazzling array of themes and all cleverly and unexpectedly drawn together by the end of the comic.
So far, most of what I’ve seen from O’Connell and Elwick falls into either the wacky or the cute. So I was rather expecting more of the same, either the funny, silly, clever visual gags of Charlie Parker or the cute as anything of their World Of Lil strip (of which more details here – including the Kickstarter appeal).
(The brilliant visual gag fest of Charlie Parker “Handyman” by O’Connell and Elwick)
(Lili in “She’s Leaving Home”, a lovely yet bitter-sweet tale of space adventuring)
And neither of those strips disappoints; Charlie Parker is forever funny, simple ideas, brilliantly done – “The Flying Dylans”, Mick Jagger wandering round with a tin of black paint – very funny indeed. And Lili tells a gorgeous little story of one girl’s trip into space, as cute as anything, but with a bitter-sweet steel to the storytelling.
However, even a quick perusal of The Sound Of Drowning website shows that there’s a darker side to their work, with an ironic cutting edge of humour through the darkness that’s tempered very well by Elwick’s rounded, simple line and polished, breezy finishing. And the remainder of the strips in The Sound Of Drowning have a fair bit of darkness in them, perhaps made even darker due to the finished art’s polish and rounded, cartoony line.
(Klopsy & Chops – starts dark, gets a lot darker)
(A complete artistic change round in their depiction of Bukowski’s works)
So we get the dark strips – “Klopsy & Chops”, “Klaus The Louse”, and “Bukowski”. Suicidal puppet-masters and psychotic puppets, Klaus Kinski reincarnated – Kafka style, and illustrated moments from Bukowski’s life. Funny at times, well observed, silly but all veering into sinister in some way or other.
“The Klu Klux Klan Kids” takes the mix of sinister and dark with silly, cute stylings to another level though and the strip is difficult – as all edgy comedy should be. A hateful subject, but handled extremely well.
(Klu Klux Klan Kids – a brave mix of vile subject, cute art and silly story – until the very end, where even the silly storytelling takes a nasty turn)
The strangest strip in many ways is “Can’t Wait For Tomorrow”, a seemingly throwaway thing that proves to be the key to them all.
The Sound Of Drowning would have been perfectly good, with traces of great, if it were simply a collection of strips. But the extra kick to the book that the ending, where it all gets tied together in a perfectly believable, clever way really does elevate the whole thing into something excellent. Except I’ll not tell you how – you should really buy the book for that.
It’s a real collaboration as well, with O’Connell and Elwick working on both art and story, although most of the darkness in the writing seems to come from O’Connell whilst the breezy finished artwork is more down to Elwick from what I can gather. But it doesn’t matter – as a team, it’s excellent work.
And you get to find out how many Charlie Parkers it takes to change a lightbulb. What more could you want?
The Sound Of Drowning is available from The Sound Of Drowning site, together with a host of great online comic strips.