Daily Graphic Novel Recommendation 23

A Taste Of Chlorine

by Bastien Vivès
Genre notes: day-in-life, sports, romance
144 pages
ISBN: 0224090968 (Amazon)

A Taste of Chlorine is an evocative treatment of language, of the wonders and woes of the human spirit’s attempt to connect to others of the like. Bastien Vivès seems focused on the elusivity of that connection and the concern that even physical proximity can be alienating if language falters. In Taste of Chlorine, art and design and story conspire to sing a kind of methodical lament, a series of mechanical refrains meant to mirror the repetitive nature of the act of swimming while simultaneously signaling an anthem to the soul who struggles with human connection.

Vivès strikes at how simply we might be distracted from accessing the true meaning of words. A Taste of Chlorine incisively intimates how easy it is for two people to remain foreign to each other—to be shuffled from the path of understanding and hope by little more than a misplaced word and an absence of meaning. This is the story Vivès toys with and his art throughout drives this home.

For a work concerned foremost with communication, Vivès spends surprisingly little time on actual dialogue. He lets his art speak for him and for his characters. The story moves through the stealing of glances, the submergence of physiques, and what is revealed above and below the waterline.

One of the things about Vivès’ art that I loved and wanted to highlight is the way he draws form underwater. Check this out:

The top panel is from below the surface. Vivès completely obliterates his inks and relies wholly on his simple colours to tell the story. The swimmer is pushing off the wall in the moment before launching into her next lap. Her legs are coiled in a mess of diminished flesh tones (what Vivès uses for her skin underwater), but Vivès makes certain we know what’s going on, implying the position of her left leg by having the ankle appear in the foreground where her crotch would be. Additionally, the lights from the pool’s skylight hover above and a man on the edge is partially lit brightly, telling us that his head and shoulders are above the surface.

In these panels we see how Vivès treats the underwater when the camera is above the surface. Normal inks and colours above, no inks and the less-saturated colours below. Additionally, when the viewer’s eye approaches the scene from above the surface, Vivès takes more liberty with the refraction of the body-blobs below. It’s a lovely technique.

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