Friday, June 28, 2013

This Week In Panels

Let's try out a new (old?) feature and see if it's got some legs. Introducing the almost-certainly sporadic series "This Week in Panels," in which I choose panels or pages from comics that have come out that week. We've got three this time round, all Marvel-based:

Hawkeye 11:
Matt Fraction and David Aja. Aja's been drawing the hell out of this series for a while now, but this issue takes the cake. It's from the point of view of Hawkeye's Dog, Lucky, and I think it really sells the animal-based POV. Basically, it does so through three ways, all of which are present in the page above:
1. The dog (and thus the reader) only understands a very limited vocabulary, which means that--like an animal--we have to get most of the conversations from body language and tone.
2. The panels are, for the most part, wordless--a simple technique, but a useful one, as it foregrounds the importance of the images.
3. You've got the schematic-like, abstract depiction of the human characters following their first appearance, which represents a combination of the dog's scent association, and its memory. I'm not sure I agree with the notion that dogs think in so schematic a fashion, but I do like the idea that they conceive of the world in simpler, more iconic ways, and that it's all about associations. If nothing else, it really sells the notion we're seeing a nonhuman interpretation.

By Mark Waid and Chris Samnee. This is another series that has really been pushing the visual aspect of storytelling, although the more interesting stuff has generally been drawn by Paolo Riveria. Daredevil gives a unique challenge for an artist, because they need to convey the visual experience of someone whose defining trait is that he can't see. This panel isn't really showing that at all, though. I highlighted it mostly because it's the culmination of Mark Waid's run up to this point. For at least the past decade prior to Waid starting on the title, Daredevil's defining trait has been that his life is depressing as hell--his secret identity was ruined, his wife was driven insane by his enemies, and everyone he cared about ended up abandoning him or dying. Waid opened with a simple premise: Matt Murdock can either choose to enjoy what he has, or go mad. And he toyed with both extremes. The last few issues had Daredevil's enemies once again closing in on him, but this single page shows how he's overcome them, by refusing to be brought low. The size of the page--the single panel image--is also much more open than the rest of the comic, with a lot more open space, again symbolizing his reclaimed freedom (although that is a ridiculously long staff).

Young Avengers 6

By Keiron Gillen and  Kate Brown.  This is yet another young Marvel series that's really been pushing the envelope in terms of the visuals. Usually, though, Keiron Gillen's partner in crime is Jamie McKelvie; check out this feature at Comics Alliance.  My favorite is Marvel Boy's 2 page spread, numbered fight, though the panel-breaking Loki is also a highlight. But Kate Brown's proven she's up to filling McKelvie's shoes, and providing her own style. There's a number of pages that I could have picked for this one, but I went with the two page spread showing the speedster's perception of time when he's moving at high speeds. Time is a tricky thing to show in comics, because the images are, by the nature of images, static. And yet without the passing of time, nothing in a comic can happen. There's a number of ways to convey time; Scott McCloud devotes a whole chapter to them in Understanding Comics. Brown uses a few different ones here. If you look close at the images, his hands are slightly blurred, which is a pretty common device. She also uses the size of the panels--the smaller panels suggest not only speed, but fine detail, performing fragmented close-ups, contrasted with the larger panels that show "normal" time. And the whole page is laid out in a way vaguely reminiscent of a microchip, reinforcing the assembly that our speedster's performing. I also like her use of expressions: even without the word bubbles, Tommy's arrogance shines through, from his facial expressions to how he flings around the cup of coffee. David, the onlooker, in contrast doesn't say a word, but still conveys a mix of skepticism and slightly unsettled. I wasn't familiar with Brown before this issue, but I'll be keeping an eye out for her from now on.

I love that this sort of play with the comic form is happening at Marvel, in superhero comics, a genre of comics that tends to be rather traditional. Granted, it's all in decidedly "B-list" titles, but I think it's a good sign of the industry's creative health, if not financial health.

Will this feature ever return? Why not COMMENT AND LET ME KNOW WHAT YOU THINK?

Later Days.

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