cover image July Underwater

July Underwater

Zoe Maeve. Conundrum, $20 trade paper (88p) ISBN 978-1-77262-069-6

In this introspective graphic novella, Maeve (The Gift) spins a tale of loss and self-discovery, connecting a teen’s mourning to passages from Virginia Woolf and Patricia Highsmith. Lina, a high school graduate, has plans to celebrate with her classmates, but first must attend the “kinda awkward” funeral of her childhood friend, Alicia. Lina attempts to work though messier emotions around Alicia’s death and questions the “role [she] should play,” as she “feels a selfish sense of guilt for existing.” The book opens quoting Ophelia (“There’s Rosemary, that’s for remembrance”), with images of water and allusions to drowning repeating throughout. Alicia hangs with friends at a lake but gets “weird vibes” from a male classmate; later she recalls a childhood memory when she and Alicia floated a burning shrine on the lake. Interspersed, Maeve draws Lina “flung out in space” in scenes from The Price of Salt and To the Lighthouse. There’s even a chart looping through how the books connect to her conflicted sense of self. Maeve employs colored pencils, ink washes, and brush work, with different hand lettered fonts, flipping between detailed and simplistic character designs to create a raw, diary style. It’s organic and unpolished, and will appeal to fans of unusual indie mini comics, with the caveat that readers unfamiliar with the literary touchpoints may find themselves lost. (June)