Sunday, November 4, 2012

Double Creature Feature

Prophet #30 and the 2012 Swamp Thing Annual conclude October's single comic-book page examination. From a month of focusing on a page per review, the largest realization turned out to be how color functioned to move the eye through the left-to-right reading pattern. In the two books under examination this week, red continues this tradition and ushers the eye from panel to panel.

Prophet #30, has a dark palette splashed with an arresting swatch of red. While unsure of the actual division of labor, story credits go to Brandon Graham with Iannis Milonogiannis and Simon Roy; art credits go to Giannis Milonogiannis and Brandon Graham; and color credits go to Joseph Bergin III, Giannis Milonogiannis and Brandon Graham.

The page is divided into three rectangular panels, the first two of equal size and the third of equal height, but the right wall of the rectangle stretches to the edge of the page. Each of the three larger panels contains smaller rectangular insets. The insets of the first two panels hover near the right margin of the page (with the first inset having a barb that snags the reader’s eye from the swimming Kakcrik and yanks it to the right of the panel). The next two insets (in the second panel) are stacked on top of one another, with the lower one skewed to the right, like a stair for the eye to descend to the third rectangle of panel three. The third panel’s inset is perched on the top left and breaks into the left margin, balancing out the break of its parent panel breaking the right margin. The inset in the third panel is the first of three steps; two text boxes complete the leading of the eye to the bottom of the page. The inset panels, although small and shifty, help guide the eye from the top to the bottom and contain enough variation in placement and shape to contribute to the narrative’s advancement. 

The crimson head of Rein-East commands primary attention for this page. The red is softly muted by the illuminated tan background, (ironic that the interior of the Kakcrik serves as the brightest environment on the page) and the slices of red on the back of Rein-East’s hands along with a maroon eye stone move the eye from left to right and down. This bright panel snuggles between the two darker panels, which maintains the page’s balance, as well as giving a dramatic introduction of the orphan assassin Rein-East.

The second, but by no means lesser creature, of our double feature is page 15 of the 2012 Swamp Thing Annual written by Scott Snyder and Scott Tuft, art by Becky Cloonan, framing sequences by Andy Belanger (pencils) and Karl Kerschl (inks) while Tony Avina colored the pages. 

Page 15 holds three rectangular panels set atop the background showing Alec Holland introducing himself to Abigail Arcane, with each of their respective avatars (the green and the rot) showing in the background…a vine meets bone motif that is woven into the panel. Red, as in Prophet #30, guides the eye in a right-to-left crescent by the red of Abigail’s shirt that appears in the first and second panel and the bottom half of the page. 

In this coming together of opposites, Cloonan always keeps Alec Holland on the left and Abigail Arcane on the right (I don’t believe this placement involves any kind of political commentary) for the whole page. And while the page is balanced, nothing is perfectly centered, which causes the eye to never stall or become lodged in a rut or dead zone. 

In the first panel Alec stands to the far left, and Abigail stands just to the right of center. Panel two has Alec in the foreground and Abigail in the background. Panel three has Alec’s hand lower with Abigail’s hand raised. Not only does Cloonan keep the contents of panels from perfectly centered, but she keeps shifting the focus as well, zooming in and out.

The bottom section of the page synthesizes the top three panels. Here, Alec and Abigail are shaking hands (with nothing resting firmly on the pages central vertical axis). Alec’s hand remains closer to his waist, while Abigail’s arm is stretched out further. The demarcation line in the skull's nose cavity where vine meets bone is to the right of Alec and Abigail’s entwined hands. In the lowest section of the page, the hands of vines and bones grasp one another, but they’re to the right of Abigail and Alec’s hands in the panel above. The page balances well as the panels have been woven together resulting in finely designed and active comic book page. 

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