Monday, 27 October 2014

Worshipping The Wicked + The Divine #5

Or a look at the fade-out in WicDiv #5
by Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, Matt Wilson, and Clayton Cowles; Image Comics

The Wicked + The Divine sure ended on a roller coaster, eh? It has all the action, drama, and Earth shaking events that a properly good climax ought, and opens all kind of storytelling doors going forward. I really, really enjoyed this comic.

WicDiv #5 does a lot of things remarkably well. The use of comic paradigm rule bending as short hand for magic is fantastic, the simple and effective ways colour and iconography allows rapid recognition of characters is clinical, and the composition of action is heart-pounding and visceral and amazing. And that panel with the bloody grin is like some kind of theoretical ideal of comics. (Why do I love comics? THIS!) Basically this comic does everything it needs to portray a complete orgasm of action and bring the first arch of WicDiv to a satisfying conclusion.

Which is why it might be perverse that the part of the comic that I am absolutely fixated on is the post climax fadeout at the very end of the comic. 

So, without further ado, *SPOILERS* will be beyond this point.

So I think one of the most remarkable aspects of The Wicked + The Divine is just how excellent the facial acting of the drawn characters are. The amount of emotion that Jamie McKelvie brings to his figures is astonishing. This post was originally just going to be tight shots of Laura from all over the comic to show how, even without words or body language, we are able to experience the entire emotional arch of the comic from her facial expressions alone. But, a lot of the issue is her shouting and looking horrified, and I feel like such extreme emotions are things that a lot of comics artists can draw pretty well. I mean, few as well as McKelvie, but it's still normal comics wheelhouse. 

Which is why I want to focus on this quiet sequence here: the subtlety and richness of expression over these six panels is remarkable. With only the slightest tweaks we see Laura go through bored/sad to openly sad to thoughtful/sad to sad/wistful (or verklmept if you like) to wistful/wry to a kind of neutral/concentrative look while she is focusing on snapping. I think a lot of artists can rock an epic shouting person, but McKelvie is one of the only artists that I can think of that can so masterfully build such nuanced emotion into a downtempo scene with facial expressions alone. Like, I would argue the dialogue in this page is entirely redundant too: the saddness, to thoughtful, to wistful, to action on her face sells "I am thinking of Luci and she would do this thing" of the page even without us being told. It's perfection.

I also want to take a look at this sequence:

This sequence here is also really interesting to me. For one, this series of panels nails the climatic-not-really-a-resolution practice of the fade out in film media. It takes that ending note, in this case surprise, thoughtfulness, and dismay and drags it out so that the audience can stew in the emotional mixture longer. It also has the added effect of making the story feel like it is alive after the ending: the story hasn't abruptly ended, but rather we are backing away from a world that continues to exist and spin. It's apparently a thing in music that when a song fades out people more often continue tapping or humming along than with songs that have a hard ending (this episode of the Slate's The Gist has an interview on this topic.) And you totally get this wonderful effect of the story being bigger than the issue with this storytelling choice.

Of course, this sequence is also pretty interesting from the perspective of how comics are made. Like how great is the use of the glowing red tip of the cigarette and reflected light in the eyes on this page? It instantly is a great reference to Lucifer, who Team WicDiv have done a great job associating with fire and fierce, red eyes but also manages to give the entire sequence a menacing, demonic air. There is a monster with glowing eyes in this page. Also the use of white text in an all black panel at the end manages to give that phrase so much more weight: it takes what the "oh god" of Laura's internal narration and slams into the much more authoritative, direct authorial statement. Laura is telling it isn't over, but so is the book itself in a very heavy, unignorable way. This page makes great use of colouring and lettering to unambiguously and indirectly convey that there is a storm coming our way.

It's pretty great comics.

Post by Michael Bround

WicDiv #1 and popart head-splosions
WicDiv #2 and the use of black-space
WicDiv #3 and character design

WicDiv #4 and body language 

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