Comic Review: You Brought Me The Ocean (DC Comics)

You Brought Me The Ocean, a ‘coming of age’ story featuring queer characters, is a new release from DC, just in time for Pride Month. Writer Alex Sánchez, the Mexican […]

You Brought Me The Ocean, a ‘coming of age’ story featuring queer characters, is a new release from DC, just in time for Pride Month.

Writer Alex Sánchez, the Mexican American author of Rainbow Boys and other books, has won several awards, including the American Library Association ‘Best Book for Young Adults’ award and the Lambda Literary Award.

French Artist Julie Maroh is the writer and artist of the graphic novel Blue Is the Warmest Color, a New York Times bestseller (made into a film that won the Cannes Film Festival Palme d’Or in 2013). She is also the author of the graphic novels Skandalon and Body Music.

This Graphic Novel for young adults (13+) introduces us to Jake Hyde, a high school student who doesn’t swim – not since his father drowned. In his final year in high school in the arid landlocked US state of New Mexico, he has a fascination with water. His mother is ultra-hovering over him, wanting to keep him safe. His next-door neighbour Maria is his closest friend. But no one knows that he’s gay. And as he spends more time with Kenny Liu, the gay swim team captain, it’s clear that Jake’s life is about to become even more complicated. Perhaps the hiding is over. Or not.

Jake is full of secrets, including the strange blue markings on his skin that glow when in contact with water. What’s with that, and what’s with the bullies that are beginning to torment Kenny and him?

This tale of teen angst has ‘drama’ written all over it, and rightly so. The characters are earnest and confused. Jake’s coming to terms with his sexuality is fraught with tension and danger. Maria is kept in the dark as Jake makes several pivotal decisions, causing even more stress. Wow.

There is a lot going on in You Brought Me The Ocean, and most of it is positive. There are adult role models present in the story who are supportive of our teen characters. There are problems, plenty of them, but there are solutions and choices that can be made. Sánchez has a gift for creating and steering dramatic scenes, and there are some powerful ones in this book. Tender times, love connections, and ‘lightbulb’ moments too. The dialogue reads realistically, and situations make sense to the reader. If a scene seems prolonged or elongated, it’s for a reason, typically to help the reader understand or relate to emotional situations in the script.

March contributes expressive drawings and sensitive colour. She envisions the internal lives of Jake, Maria, and Kenny, and is able to pull the reader into their ‘shoes’. Her line drawings are not overly complicated or detailed, which in most cases is a plus; all in support of the story. At times, the character renderings verge on caricature but contain enough care that the characters remain believable, not cliché. Maroh’s line quality is strong and confident, and her colour choices work to dramatize the environments.

One aspect of the novel seems a bit heavy-handed, and that’s Sánchez’s treatment of the themes of water and desert, the yin/yang of it all. There is Jake’s constant thirst and fascination with water. He’s a fish out of water, that is, he longs to study ocean biology. Yet he’s far inland, in a desert climate. And so on, water versus desert at every turn. We need water, but not enough to drown. Yadda yadda. But it’s not enough to throw off the story, or distance the reader, it just ‘dampens’ our enthusiasm for an otherwise compelling story of (mostly) queer coming of age.

In addition to the story, there is a page of Resources to assist LGBTQ persons, plus a note from the artist and plenty of early character design sketches which are outstanding.

DC Comics, You Brought Me The Ocean GN, $16.99 for 200 pages of story content, 13+

Alan Spinney

About Alan Spinney

After a career of graphic design, art direction and copywriting, I still have a passion for words and pictures. I love it when a comic book comes together; the story is tight, and the drawings lead me forward. Art with words... the toughest storytelling technique to get right. Was this comic book worth your money? Let's see!!