Friday, 11 July 2014

Deep Sequencing: The Ghost of Station X-Plosions

Or simple layout choices that make for more exciting explosions in Atomic Robo and The Ghost of Station X
by Brian Clevinger and Scott Wegener, Red 5 Comics

Atomic Robo is, I think, best known for being an excellent adventure comic filled with action and humour and a bent towards being respectful and friendly to a large and diverse audience. The thing is, Atomic Robo is also a really well put together comic built around some pretty intricate, high concept stories and with some really deft artwork. And I want to take a look at a sequence I think is especially well put together in Atomic Robo: And The Ghost of Station X.

There is will be very mild *SPOILERS* in this post for Atomic Robo Vol. 6. Be aware.

So this page here I think is really, really well done. At first glance this page is deceptively simple, Atomic Robo shoots a helicopter he is perched on, falls to the ground, then does a jumping punch thing with an explosion. Comics! But the thing is, this page has a really efficient layout that makes excellent use of the way our eyes naturally track around the page to enhance the motion and emotion of every panel in the composition. 

Every panel transition in the composition is designed to take advantage of the movement from panel to panel to capture the moment. In the first two panels, the direction of Robo's gunshot is right along the left-to-right eye path, so we get to fly along the bullets trajectory into the helicopter rotors. The second to third panel transition takes advantage of the carriage return of crossing the page to follow the path of Robo falling from the damaged helicopter. Then the third to fourth panel transition goes down the page and matches the path of the helicopter crashing. And finally, the fourth to fifth panel transition follows the angled onomatopoeia to trace the path of Robo performing his leaping tackle, framed by the explosion. In each of these instances, the eye path matching/guiding enhances the speed and emotional weight of every shot, drop, crash, and explosion in the composition. Individually every choice is great comics. 

The other cool thing about this page is that these same elements that increase the weight of every moment in the sequence also help the reader see the key moments more quickly. This speed of navigation makes this page not only full of emotionally charged action, but also very quick feeling action. It's a fantastic action page and really, really smart comics. Atomic Robo, it's great stuff.


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