“A Sea of Love” by Wilfrid Lupano and Gregory Panaccione shows that sometimes, when you miss the one you love, you can buy a cruise ticket to Cuba and hunt him down.
Just don’t eat the canned sardines!
Cruising to the Credits
Artist: Gregory Panaccione
Letterer: Not Necessary
Translator: Mike Kennedy (“Localization and Layout”)
Published by: Lion Forge/Delcourt
Number of Pages: 224
Original Publication: 2014
A Sea of Love Filled With a Fisherman, His Wife, and True Love
This book is a Pixar movie waiting to happen. Or maybe it’s a ten-minute short before one of the movies. That’s how it feels to me. It’s told clearly, features two memorable and strong characters, and as a twist is told completely silently: 224 pages and not a line of dialogue.
I remember some Marvel comics during their silent month 18 (!) years ago that couldn’t make it 22 pages without throwing in all sorts of cheats…
In any case, this book features a slightly older couple. She dotes on him. He’s a fisherman who goes out to sea each morning in the hopes of bringing in the big catch.
Times are tough. The big commercial fishermen are crowding his kind out.
On one fateful trip, he gets caught in a larger vessel’s net and dragged across the Atlantic.
At home, his wife realizes he’s gone missing, consults a pyschic, and follows that lead in the hopes of finding him — in Cuba.
She won’t take no for an answer. She’s going to find him, no matter what, and bring him back home. “Love” and “stubborn” makes for a great storytelling combination.
Meanwhile, he’s fighting for survival on the high seas, sometimes quite literally. His only companion is a bird he befriends along the way. It gives him someone to play off of, as well as to share in the misery.
That’s the bare outline. There are tender and sweet moments in the book. There are hilarious bits of comedy, from her misadventures on the cruise ship to his crazy antics on the sea and the troubles he finds himself in.
And there are, of course, heart-stopping moments when you think all might be lost. The best comedies are often the most dramatic, after all.
It’s a wonderful love story that feels complete, well structured, and ultimately satisfying. “A Sea of Love” is one of those books you can’t put down once you get started with it, and it’s one that you’ll keep in your library to read again for a feel good moment.
The Art of “Love”
Gregory Panaccione’s art is wonderful for the book. He has an interesting shape language, to start with. The fisherman is wired with a large head and enormous eyes behind his glasses. His wife is twice his height and has a much fuller shape. They play off each other well.
The fisherman has a helper on his boat at the start, who is a classical goofball type: taller, with a bobble head that has a massive overbite and a big nose. Picture Goofy as a human with slightly smaller feet.
All of the other incidental characters in the book have their own shapes. The other wives in town look very similar to the fisherman’s wife, but have a good variety of faces and hair styles. They’re in the same class of character for the purposes of this story, but still maintain uniqueness.
The strength of Panaccione’s visuals goes beyond the people. There’s a wonderful moment where the fisherman’s boat shows up side by side with the commercial boat. Panaccione goes to great lengths to show the enormous size disparity.
The rinky dink fisherman’s boat becomes a cartoon character all on its own next to the more realistic leviathan of the commercial ship that’s so big that you can’t even make out all its details. The further back at it you look, the foggier it becomes. That’s just how large he draws it in comparison.
It’s a strong double page spread and memorable. It’s the kind of moment you can get away with in a longer form book like this. If this was a size issue mini-series, someone would be complaining about padding the page count or decompressed storytelling. No, this is a storyteller hitting the reader across the face with a big image that has a huge importance to the story. It’s a moment that Panaccione doesn’t just show, but sells.
His art style looks more like the kind of thing you’d see in commercial greeting cards or children’s books. It’s painted, though I couldn’t tell you if that’s done digitally or not. It’s not a style that I’d normally seek out, but it fits this story very well. I was hooked quickly.
His panel to panel storytelling is always clear. And those panels are rough in their definition. There are no black borders and very few panels have right angles at their corners. There’s a very organic feel to this art, with white gutters acting as borders and the wavy spaces between panels keeping the book from ever looking anything less than handmade.
I never got lost in the book, and Panaccione takes his time to make sure things are easy to follow.
That’s one of the things about silent storytelling: You need more space for it. You need to draw more to piece the moments together, because the writer can’t save you with a caption or an extra word balloon. You can’t always depend on the reader to pay close attention, so you need to make things as simple and obvious as possible. Only strong storytellers know where to make those trade-offs, and Panaccione does that here.
There’s a lot of pantomime in “A Sea of Love”, and you’ll have no problem reading what’s going on, both thanks to the context of the moments, as well as Panaccione’s gift of gestures and storytelling.
It may not look like the coolest or hottest comic on the stands, but there are lots of lessons today’s artists could take away from it.
Wilfrid Lupano has a gift for telling stories featuring relatively ordinary characters. “The Old Geezers” proves this out, and this book adds more to that corner of his bibliography. This is your ultimate working class adventure book, with two humble people from a seaside town somewhere in Europe getting caught up in an adventure greater than either of them.
He mixes a great deal of storytelling styles for “A Sea of Love.” The husband and wife have separate adventures, but they’re equally dramatic and, at times, charming. The wife won’t take no for an answer, and it’s more than just for saving her husband based on the flimsiest of proof. She’s headstrong in other departments as well, but also caring and giving. She teaches people that don’t things those exact things that she knows. She doesn’t do it for the sake of repayment or bragging rights. It’s just who she is — warm and friendly.
She wants people to have nice things and do things the right way. She doesn’t recognize the limits that society might conventionally place on her. She’s living her best life.
His adventure is a bit more conventional. It’s man versus nature, ultimately. How can a man survive a long voyage, lost at sea, with dwindling resources and hope? Just when you think he’s worked it out or found a solution, fate has a way of smacking him across the face to put him back into his place. But he doesn’t give up and continues to fight forward.
The challenges he faces begins relatively normally and then ramp up as the book goes on. By the end, things start to get a little crazy, but it fits the tone of the book so much that I don’t mind. Lupano works up to that level of nuttiness and the story pays it off well.
Ultimately, it’s not about the obstacles thrown in front of our friendly neighborhood fisherman, but in his reactions to them. He may not be quite as stubborn as his wife, but he’s not a quitter, either. He’s an active participant in his story, and a very rootable character.
And if this book interests you, I have some other recommendations, too, before we continue:
Other Books By Wilfrid Lupano
There are the ones I’ve reviewed, in any case:
And they’re all positive reviews, too. That Valerian book is particularly gorgeous with Matthieu Lauffray’s artwork in it…
I have nothing to complain about here, for obvious reasons.
The sardine can has a nice, classic design to it, though. They nailed that!
Further Reading and an Asterix Connection
The Comics Journal has a great interview with Lupano about this book. It’s worth a read, with great tidbits, like that Panaccione drew the whole thing in six months, that his first layout of the book was about 40 pages shorter, and that the couple have no names in the script beyond Madame and Monsieur.
It also clears up one question I had early on: The book begins in Brittany, France. That puts it right around the area where Asterix lived. So, just for kicks, let’s pretend this book exists in the same universe and that the couple in this book live in Asterix’s Village, just 2000 years later.
I’m not going to speculate on whether the happy couple are at all related to any of the Asterix characters… Not Impedimenta and Geriatrix, nope. I would never say that….
The Award Nominated (But Not Winning) Book
This book received three nominations for the Eisner Awards in 2019: Best Painter/Multimedia Artist, Best Publication Design, and Best U.S. Edition of International Material.
It didn’t win any of them, but it was facing some stiff competition. It’s hard to argue with the winners, but “A Sea of Love” definitely earned all of those nominations.
Absolutely, yes. “A Sea of Love” is a wonderful book that doesn’t follow the typical comic book storytelling patterns in any way, and feels like a comfortable Pixar movie. What’s not to love?
The silent storytelling from Panaccione is strong, and Lupano’s story gives us two characters to fall in love with.
It’s a complete and self-contained book that could appeal to any comics reader. Would it be good for a first time comics reader? It might be a little tricky to read a silent comic as your first, but this one is still as clear as they come. It might be worth a shot.
For more preview pages, check out the publisher’s page for the book.
— 2019.035 —
Buy It Now
Good news: There is a print edition of this one.
It’s still available digitally, as well, on Comixology/Amazon. (Once it went to print, it technically changed publishers and left Izneo because of that.)