Fran of the Floods Review

By | Monday, December 07, 2020 Leave a Comment
Evidently last year, Rebellion put out a collection of the "Fran of the Floods" strips that ran in Jinty throughout most of 1976 in Great Britain. I only recently heard of the strip and/or the collection, and the premise sounded interesting so I picked it up.

The basic story is that the polar ice caps have largely melted, and much of the world is experiencing torrential, seemingly never-ending rains. At the start of the story, newscasters are already noting how the Sahara Desert has already become fairly green and lush, so it's not too long before pretty much all of England finds itself underwater. The titular Fran is at a school assembly when the water comes crashing in, and she finds herself separated from pretty much everyone in short order. Much of the story then revolves around her adventures trying to make her way up to the Scottish highlands where her older sister lives. Along the way, she encounters a variety of characters; some helpful, some in need of help, and some downright dangerous. She eventually does make it to her sister, and reunites with her family just as the sun comes out and everything is fine again.

What struck me about the premise here was that it was warning about the dangers of climate change back in 1976, and I wondered how it was presented. The overall approach writer Alan Davidson generally takes is to focus on the social consequences. Which ties in pretty well with the serial nature of how the story was originally published. Fran would encounter one group for several installments, and we'd get to see how they live and are dealing with the massive flooding, and then Fran would head off and encounter another group that handle things differently. Davidson is able to showcase a variety of scenarios, rather than give a definitive "this is what will happen" suggestion that could get knocked down more easily.

There's a couple problems, though. The first thing that struck me is a pretty comprehensive misunderstanding of anything resembling science. The increased heat that's metling the ice caps is repeatedly blamed on "an extra flicker of warmth" from the sun. No mention of greenhouse gasses or global warming or anything. He's got the rain so torrential that virtually all of Great Britain is submerged in literally just a few days. The water is shown to be high enough to reach the clock face on Big Ben, so I think we're talking about 200-250 feet above sea level. It's estimated that if all the ice on the planet melted, sea level would rise about 230 feet. I'm certainly no climate scientist myself, but I would think that if you got that much ice to melt inside a week, your concerns would be more along the lines of spontaneous combustion, not flooding. At the other end, he has the floodwaters completely recede in about a week as well, which he mostly attributes to evaporation from the sun. Again, the heat needed for that kind of rapid evaporation is going to cause houses, forests, and even people to just randomly burst into flames.

So maybe you're thinking he's just expiditing the timeline for the reader's sake. I'm almost certain that's deliberate on his part, in fact, but it's almost comically fast for everything. One of the first groups that Fran runs into is some men who've captured locals and forced them into slave labor. Two days after the flooding starts. She finds another group who've taken up residence in a series of caves, and they already have built an electric generator from a nearby waterfall that's powerful enough to provide enough light for underground farming -- which they've apparently done very well at since they're already harvesting crops just over a week after evacuating their original homes. And how about the town that's self-isolating because of some mysterious "plague" that the local doctor can't figure out? Fran accidentally stumbles on the cure -- eating an orange -- that has people completely healed in just a few minutes! (Also, what kind of shit doctor are you that you don't recognize scurvy? I mean, I know it's not exactly common any more, but still..!)

Between the super-accelerated timeline and the lack of anything approximating reasonable science, Davidson manages to completely undermine whatever climate change message he might've been aiming for. Now, granted, we know more now that we did in 1976, but nearly everything in here could've been dismissed as bunk even back then!

From a craft perspective, the story starts off a bit weak, but noticeably improves as it goes along. Davidson's dialogue is pretty stiff at first, but he does better once he gets rolling. Phil Gascoine's art doesn't improve as noticeably but he was turning in some solid illustrative work right from jump. Most of his improvement comes in the page layout area -- there's a few pages earlier on that can be pretty confusing in terms of panel sequencing, but he seems to recognize what works and what doesn't as he goes along.

All that being said, I still found it an interesting read. Probably in part because I'm not super familiar with British weeklies, and I was able to pick up a bit on the structure and rhythm. But it's a generally enjoyable story overall, as long as you set aside any environmental intents and just run with it as a kid's adventure.
Newer Post Older Post Home