I am often drawn to brief moments that in their quietness are oh, so epic: the inhaling of a book’s scent, the opening of its cover, the parting of lips before a story is told. Sometimes more is said in those tiny seconds than in all of the sentences that follow. In the Sounds and Seas: Volume 1 is a wordless, 22-page, black and white comic. It is a thin, modest book that like the parted “oh” before an utterance, holds whole worlds at its small center. Partially inspired by such epic poems and ballads as The Iliad, The Odyssey, and The Kalevala, Marnie Galloway’s Sounds and Seas is a creation story told through pictures. From frame to frame, Galloway cleverly weaves the images of her beautifully crafted ink drawings to create a book that sings to the reader. And song is exactly what this first volume of a six part series is about.
The story opens with three people sitting around a campfire surrounded by a dark-shadowed forest. The atmosphere is quiet and pensive. Any movement is subtle: the flickering of the fire, the rustling of a bird taking flight, the scratching of one of the sitter’s noses. (These latter two are brilliantly framed vertically down the page.) The soft whispers of noises slowly build to create a tension that is felt both within the reader as well as within the characters. It grows from their bellies and fills their bodies and soon bursts out of them as song, three songs, of birds and bunnies and fish. They are exquisite.
Borrowing from Julio Cortázar’s short story, Letter to a Young Lady in Paris, Galloway takes the fantastic (and slightly unsettling) image of vomiting up rabbits and makes it her own. Not only are the three singers bringing a new world into existence—the sky, earth, and sea of the future five volumes—but Galloway herself is giving birth to the creative being of this book that has consumed her during its six-month production phase, finally releasing it out into the world. The series is about “obsessive creative production and failure,” Galloway says, and she leaves her readers curious as to how this will play out in the next five volumes she has already mapped out. She ends this first book with images of the three singers’ voices intermingling with the fire to create a smoky cloud that soars above the trees of the forest and into the sky, melting into a sea of waves that calms at the edge of a pier. The protagonist of the series enters at the last page spread. The magical world of the singers is now gone, but hints of it glimmer in the new world, leading the reader to question what is real and what is not and where the borders of these two stories exist, if they do at all.
Marnie Galloway’s In the Sounds and Seas: Volume 1 is a true gem, both as a story and as a physical object. The pages are rich in design, detail, and texture. Published by Monkey-Rope Press and printed in a limited edition of 175 copies, the covers are hand-printed by Galloway at Evanston Print and Paper Shop, and the text blocks are offset printed by Salsedo Press in Chicago. I highly recommend this book. Read it. Buy it. Give it as gifts. I am confident this comic will soon get the attention it deserves. Be one of the lucky ones to have it in its first edition. It is available for purchase at Monkey-Rope’s Etsy shop, Quimby’s in Chicago, and Comix Revolution in Evanston ($15, or subscribe to all six volumes for a discounted $72).
Marnie Galloway is a printmaker and alternative comic artist working out of Chicago, Illinois. She studied philosophy and symbolic logic at Smith College in Northampton, MA and spent a year at Columbia College’s Book & Paper MFA program before leaving to pursue book work on her own. She is currently finishing up In the Sounds and Seas: Volume 2, which is set to debut at Chicago Zine Fest on March 10, 2012.