The Magnetic Collection, the imprint of Lion Forge Comics that focuses on reprints of international comics work, has been making a name for itself, winning a number of awards recently for their work. Which means when they release something new, it is cause for attention. Their most recent release is Watersnakes, originally published in France as Le Serpent d’Eau, written and illustrated by Tony Sandoval and translated into English by Lucas Marangon.
Mila is a quiet teenager who, while out for a swim, hears someone calling out, “Watersnake!” She leaves the water and finds Agnes, a mysterious young woman with uncommonly attractive teeth and a love for trouble and fun. What starts as an afternoon of excitement and teenage hormones becomes a darker mystery as Mila learns that her new friend died 11 years ago and has a black octopus living inside her. At which point, the story starts getting even weirder.
Sandoval’s art is perfect for this style of story. It is whimsical and spooky in the right measures, and when he needs to make animals magical, he achieves it completely. Just take a look at the image of the foxes below. The indie European comics art influence is clear in Sandoval’s line work and style, with understated coloring, lots of smooth curving lines, and exaggerated details.
The story itself starts strong. Sandoval presents magic and mystery in a way that feels comfortable in contemporary fairy tale-style fantasy, both in prose and comics. Angie’s mysterious teeth that travel the world when she releases them is told so simply and confidently that it feels charmingly surreal. In fact, part of what makes this story tricky to grapple with is that it doesn’t seem to know whether it is an all-ages fairy tale or an older teen/adult surrealist fantasy.
The quiet, playful art feels gentle and suitable for a children’s book illustration, and at the same time includes swearing, violence, plenty of blood, and nudity. Frequently, the tone of the writing and art feels a little disconnected from the story. Sandoval feels at his strongest early in the story, when the focus is on character building and relationships, and it feels like the writing and art both struggle some in the second half of the story, when the story shifts to action.
Watersnakes is undeniably stylish and pretty. Unfortunately, the story is not as strong as the art, in particular in the second half. I also enjoy experiencing stories from outside the United States, as they present another perspective on familiar tropes. If you have enjoyed European comics art in the past, Watersnakes will provide an enjoyable, if not memorable, experience. If you are looking for a strong story or bombastic action art, you may want to look elsewhere. Read Watersnakes if you are looking for stylish art and a strong sense of atmosphere.
Note: A copy of Watersnakes was provided to GeekDad by Lion Forge for the purposes of providing a review.