Ranked #5 on Comics Bulletin's Top Ten Best Graphic Novels of 2011
When ten Oregonians travel to the Gulf Coast in August 2010 to plumb the devastation wrought by the Deepwater Horizon spill, they discover that "Oil and Water" is just the first of the insoluble contradictions. Between the tarred sands of Grand Isle and the fouled waters of the Louisiana bayou, they come to find out that Gulf Coast residents are economically dependent upon the very industry that is wreaking havoc on their environment. In the shadow of the greatest ecological disaster of our time, they are forced to reassess their roles as witness, critic and environmental steward.
In this 144-page graphic novel — written by Steve Duin, a columnist for The Oregonian, and illustrated by Eisner-winning New Yorker cartoonist Shannon Wheeler — readers will tour the shark-pocked beach at Grand Isle with the local head of Homeland Security; step aboard the crabbing boat of a 20-year-old Mississippian who works 16-hour days and spends his nights dreaming of M.I.T.; enter the "Hot Zone" where volunteers work desperately to save brown pelicans drenched in British petroleum; and hear shrimpers, Vietnamese and good ol' boys alike, describe what happens to their livelihood when 200 million gallons of oil flood the scene. The readers' perspective on what hope and what mission remains along a ravaged coastline, and one awash in both seafood and oil, will be changed as irrevocably as that of these ten Oregonians.
Download and read a 19-page PDF excerpt (4.7 MB).
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Praise for Oil and Water:
"Duin and Wheeler offer a penetrating perspective on what many considered to be the worst environmental disaster in United States history. With a resolutely unsentimental voice, they capture many of the complex and deep tragedies of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon event in post-Katrina coastal Louisiana. Through accessible images and writing, they portray the spirit of real people in real places imperiled by a disaster of global proportions. As a documentary of visiting, engaging and learning from these communities, their work illustrates how Louisiana and its people are defining the legacy (writ large) of energy and the environment in contemporary society." — Dr. Michael J. Blum, Assistant Professor, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Tulane University
"Reporter Steve Duin and cartoonist Shannon Wheeler visited Louisiana to investigate the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster, and their legwork shows. By contrasting the perspectives of out-of-state do-gooders and hard-bitten locals, Duin and Wheeler tell a nuanced story that goes a long way to evoking what the catastrophe means to those who still live with it." — Joe Sacco
"Oil and Water is smart, informative and completely engaging. We experience the disaster through the eyes of Duin and Wheeler's richly developed, beautifully illustrated characters and the result is a stunning graphic novel not to be missed." — Jeff Lemire
"Four months after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, a small group of Oregonians traveled to the Gulf Coast to assess the damage. In this graphic-novel recounting of their expedition, we follow the well-intentioned but naive activists as they meet scientists, crabbers, bird rehabilitators, the local head of Homeland Security (found shark fishing on a beach), and other locals whose lives were roiled by the disaster. ...[T]he work effectively sets forth the essential dilemma: the region's economy remains dependent on the very industry that ravaged the coast; and the "hush money" paid by BP in the wake of the disaster ensures that most residents continue to see oil as the solution to their woes rather than the problem." — Gordon Flagg, Booklist
"Oil and Water by Steve Duin and Shannon Wheeler proves the graphic novel's strength as a powerful medium for telling captivating stories and rallying for social justice. With vivid illustrations, likable characters and witty dialogue, the book shares the aftermath of the worst man-made environmental disaster in U.S. history... Their harrowing encounters and experiences in the gulf reveal that the real issue is our dependence on oil, and if were not careful, the oil hot shots will continue to win. Educational, entertaining and brutally honest, Oil and Water tells the story of the catastrophic Deepwater Horizon spill like you've never heard it before." — Emily Buchholtz, Wend