In the spring of 2015, Montreal French-language publisher Éditions Pow Pow issued a slate of English translations of its comics after a crowdfunding campaign that yielded more than twenty-four thousand Canadian dollars. An award-winning graphic novel called Les deuxièmes was published by Éditions a couple of years ago. A translated edition, For As Long As It Rains, is among the new books, which are each bound in textured, heavy stock softcovers that bear the name of new imprint Pow Pow Press.
Montreal creator Sylvie-Anne “Zviane” Ménard, who earned a Joe Shuster Award and the prize at the Festival de la BD francophone de Québec for the best French language album published in Québec in 2014, follows two lovers around an austere but enviably spacious mid-century modern cabin in For As Long As It Rains. Indeed, from the inside-out, the artist drafted an elegant setting for her characters, alluding to revered architect Marcel Breuer‘s impact on 20th Century design both visually and in dialogue over the course of the comic. While everything isn’t as made as clear as the finite architectural details are, the couple — a man and a woman — tuck themselves away in a forest in Holland for a couple of days, using the home of a friend to cook, laze around its comfortable confines, and to make love.
Recessed bookcases, towering floor-to-ceiling windows, and two pianos get inked in single black contour lines in For As Long As It Rains, while areas out of daylight’s reach, which are given an olive green tone on the cream cover, get warm swathes of pewter gray. Rain batters the windowpanes in a sequence of splash pages drawn from an aerial view that spotlights spare decor and wholly unadorned walls. Zviane’s nameless characters are treated just as minimally. They don rumpled plain t-shirts and eye each other with ardor through short, black oval dashes. And amid For As Long As It Rains’s pronounced interior flourishes — from the utensils pinned to the walls of the organized kitchen to the angular wooden beams jutting from high above the stairwell that leads to the bedroom — the pair spends a lot of time having sex.
Although they’ve pledged not to watch the clock, curt discussions and arguments suggest that they’re on borrowed time at this house, and that they’ll mostly use it to make love. Be it on the couch or the bed under those clinically precise ceiling beams, Zviane’s figures are frequently disrobing, engaging in playful and graphic sexual romps that are as beautifully drawn as they are frank. Naked bodies twist and tumble, with the action of each bold scene proving in stark contrast to the home’s clean backdrops.
Music plays a refreshing role in For As Long As It Rains; it underpins the erotic nature of Zviane’s comic but backstory is scarce. There are no names, no occupations, and little indication of the pair’s history other than that they were in college together, and that the home belongs to a friend called Jerome. The lack of establishing details weakens the impact of the book, as the drama would likely cut deeper if we had a clearer picture of the characters. But this work, which relies far more on evocative wordless panels and the artist’s emotional figures than it does copy, still elicits sympathy in that we’re able to deduce that the road here has been arduous for the young lovers. And the choice to skimp-out on plot even finds its way into a conversation between intimate encounters, making plain that Zviane’s hope for us mirrors the sentiment she has in mind for these secluded characters — to take this spare but resonant moment-in-time for what it is.
“This is amazing, right?” asks the man at the kitchen island. “The food is great, the sex is great, this place is cool. Why not just enjoy the moment — no past, no future?”
For As Long As It Rains images © 2015 Sylvie-Anne Ménard. Translation © 2015 Helge Dascher.