I’ve always loved the art in comics. At first, I was fascinated by the draftsmanship and rendering. Then I learned to appreciate composition and storytelling. Only occasionally would I pay attention to color. I think Neal Adams’ stunning Tomahawk covers first opened my eyes to power of color in comics.
But in the here and now, let me review three current comics that make impressive use of color.
Trust Fall published by Aftershock
Aftershock’s newest book, Trust Fall has a lush kinetic feel that’s loose and breezy. Chris Visions’ masterminds all the art (pencils, “inking, colors) and from the outside looking in, it looks like he’s having the time of his life drawing this. To a longtime ad agency guy like me, I see a “storyboard sense of urgency” in his line and layouts that pulls the reader into the story. He only occasionally takes his foot off the gas pedal.
Visions’ color palette is thoughtful and engaging. It’s so clear that he treats each page as one cohesive image, rather than maintaining a focus on individual panels. And then he bathes the page in colors most appropriate to reflect the mood.
I’m familiar with Christopher Sebela’s work from Image’s recent pirate comic Shanghai Red. The story focuses on Ash Parson, whose unique teleportation powers are very important to her crime family. The plot twist is that she can’t use her teleportation abilities on herself, so she must trust her family during each caper.
Trust Fall’s focus on unique art and a crime story packed with family issues tee it up as a series to watch. This book debuted last Wednesday and like most Aftershock books, is $3.99.
Sea of Stars published by Image
I just had a great Father’s Day. Hope you did too. Maybe you can extend the fun of that special day with this new series. The upcoming Image book – Sea of Stars, isn’t on sale until July, but it seems like it should have debuted on Father’s Day.
Sea of Stars kicks off by introducing us to a young boy, Kayden, who’s traveling through space with his dad on a seeming routine work trip. Kayden wishes it all wasn’t so boring, and boy, does he get his wish.
Writers Jason Aaaron and Dennis Hallum deliver an intense debut issue. They deftly introduce the characters and the setting in an engaging way that’s not heavy handed. But once the reader is up to speed – whoosh! Off we go!
Artist Stephen Green keeps it all humming along, offering so many clever points-of-view. If this were a film and he was the cameraman, you’d swear he was using a steadicam while riding a hoverboard in zero gravity. One can’t help but also appreciate the work of colorist Rico Renzi. In Sea of Stars, there’s no black & white space-scapes. It’s all beautiful and vibrant. If there’s a worldwide shortage of fuchsia, I will be pretty sure it’s Renzi’s fault. But you know what? It would be worth it.
Technically, this is a YA title, but as an ..ahem…older reader, I really liked it too. I suggest it might be good to grab an extra copy of this one to pass along to some kid you know who’s “so bored with summer”.
Sea of Stars is on sale July 3rd and retails for $3.99.
The Giver published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
The other day, writer Don McGregor was telling me a story about the old days. It’s way overdue, but the world now knows Don much better after the cinematic success of Black Panther. I say that “all the good stuff in that movie” came from Don’s Black Panther run of comics, but that broad-brush statement probably slights many other talented folks. Still… I stand by it.
The story Don was telling me was not about the Black Panther, however. He was talking about his collaborator on the old Killraven series. That was a wonky, Marvel science fiction epic from the 70s. Once it really found its groove, Don’s stories were illustrated by a new artist named P. Craig Russell.
This series was the little engine that could. No one expected it to do well or last long. Certainly no one expected Don to write in controversial elements for the series to preserve through those issues.
Soon, other other creators and editors were noticing this series. Several offered P. Craig Russell better art assignments. His big talent was visible for all to see from outset and he was in demand. You’d think he would have said, “Yeah baby, I’m outta here.” But for whatever for reasons, Russell politely shrugged off the invites and continued his creative partnership with Don.
Obviously, he’s a stand-up, loyal guy. But I wonder if P. Craig Russell knew then that there was no need to hurry, and he’d have decades to create more stunning artwork? This amazing and prolific artist has been hitting it out of the ballpark year after year.
Which brings us up to 2019. I almost missed his graphic novel adaptation of Lois Lowry’s The Giver. I stumbled across it at our (wonderful) local library. I wasn’t familiar with the book but have learned it is a YA classic of sorts. My niece Jillian patiently explained to me that it has become a staple in Middle Schools.
If, like me, you don’t know about this one, here’s the pitch: In the future there’s a society that functions efficiently, but it’s joyless and subdued. The protagonist, a young boy, slowly realizes that there’s more to life. He begins to experience passion and pain.
I can’t help but think that this society is what would have happened if the pods took over in Invasion of the Body Snatchers. And just like lead actor Kevin McCarthy as Dr. Miles Bennell in that classic SF movie, the boy rebels against society.
Beyond Russell’s strong draftsmanship and still-envelope-pushing-creativity after all these years, he also uses color in a brilliant way in this story. Instead of taking the easy way out- and representing the subdued world in black & white and an emotion filled world in color, Russel develops an ink wash over blue pencil technique to signify the pallid emotionless society. It’s gorgeous to look at and brilliant as a storytelling advice.
In a way, this one reminded me of TV’s Wayward Pines. I didn’t read the books but I did enjoy that first summer replacement series. Do the networks even produce summer replacement series anymore? But…I digress.
The Giver was released back in February and the hardcover is priced at $22.95. I’m so grateful I stumbled across it. Not one to miss.
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And hey, here’s a classic Nick Cardy cover to get you ready for the beach this summer. And check out those colors!