GRAPHIC NOVELS

Fire on the Water

ComicArts: Abrams. May 2020. 288p. ISBN 9781419741166. $24.99. Rated: Teen+. HIST
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Gas pockets created from millennia of natural processes hide under the deep waters of Lake Erie just off the Cleveland shore. Rodger Clarke leads a crew of men building a waterworks tunnel under risk of asphyxiation or worse from randomly uncovered small gas pockets. Willy “The Dutchman” profits from the jobs done under the table illegally by Rodger’s crew, blackmailing Rodger into the desperate work while concealing his own complicity in a previous mining disaster. Neither Rodger nor Willy know that the gas already uncovered is nothing compared to a major gas deposit they are about to hit. When the tunnel site explodes and burns, Benjamin Beltran, a local African American innovator, hears the call, and risks his life to help rescue any survivors with his revolutionary invention.
VERDICT MacGregor bases his first full-length work on the horrific true story of the 1916 Waterworks Tunnel disaster, and with artist Dumm (American Splendor) compellingly utilizes biographical elements, political machinations, corruption, humor, and even light touches of fantasy to weave a nuanced tapestry about the richness of human experience under the most trying circumstances. [Previewed in Douglas Rednour’s “Picture This,” LJ 4/20.]

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