This graphic novel is perhaps the rarest book I have. Not because it's old or that only a handful of copies exist. Troubled Waters is rare because it was originally published or released in the 15 or so member states of the European Union. That's right, this graphic novel was designed Office for Official Publications of the European Communities of the European Parliament specifically for the peoples of the EU!
This Belgium book was released in 2003 to help (mostly) students to understand the ins and outs of the European Union. Apparently, it got the job done as this book won the 30th Annual International Comic Stip Festival's Alph-Art for 'best campaign using the comic strip medium.' So, with all that said, how did this book end up here in North Carolina?
I found Troubled Waters at the monthly Dollar Book Sale in Raleigh. I love to collect comics, of course. But one of my favorite type of comics to collect are publications sponsored by organizations and corporations as a sort of tie-in to teach and inform about some sort of concept. Whether it be a blatant 32-page ad for Subway subs or a Supergirl adventure about the importance of using seat belts, if it's a freebie comic used to educate or advertise, I want it in my collection. And that's why I grab this book when I saw it!
Along with being an educational tool about how bills become law in the European Parliament, Troubled Waters is also a little bit of a spy thriller. Irina Vega is a member of the Parlament and she's just brought forth a clean water bill. But someone isn't happy with her sweeping measures and is making threats to her and some of her environmental activist friends. When a mystery man presents her with some vials of polluted water to test, Irina will need her wits and luck to make sure her bill gets passed and that no one gets hurt or worse.
This was an interesting read, mostly because of its country of origin. But I think that also caused a bit of disconnect with me. The book contains a number of signs and artwork in French. While the dialogue is written in English, I think this book was originally written in French. That being said, I don't think the transcription was that very good. It's like a poor game of Telephone in which a Japanese spoken Godzilla movie was translated into Spanish and then dubbed in English. Something just got lost in translation.
Sadly, the art's not all that good either. The characters hardly look the same from panel to panel. I'm not one to talk, I am not a great artist. But when you have dozens of characters in a story, you need to be able to keep them straight. On the flip side, this artwork is very similar to another Belgian work, Herge's Tintin, in both color palette and inking.
I'm gonna keep this book even though I had trouble with it. I just did an Amazon search for this book and I can't even find it there. It's a hard one to find. But it is an interesting case study that I recommend you check out if you get the chance. Just don't pay more than I did for this- about a buck.
Rating: 5 out of 10 stars.