Monday, 29 December 2014

Brooding About Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier #2

Or a look at more dynamic layouts in BB: TWS #2,
by Ales Kot, Marco Rudy, Clayton Cowles; Marvel Comics

Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier is a trippy, psychedelic spy thriller that uses innovative and dynamic layouts to tell its story. Every page of the comic offers a unique design that incorporates the narrative elements of the page to maximize storytelling. Plus the layouts just look wicked cool. So here are some of my favourite layouts from BB: TWS #2

There will be *SPOILERS* below.

This double page spread has a huge amount of narrative information that is encoded in some really adept ways. The story of the spread is that Bucky Barnes, the Winter Soldier, is infiltrating Asgardia to speak with Loki (or one of the Lokis or Loki-aspects? What is Loki's deal these days?). On these pages Bucky is scaling the cliffs of Asgardia while on the influence of a drug he was exposed to in the previous issue and speaking with his partner Daisy Johnson who is in space. And all of this is layered into the page design. The panels are all tight and tall, which emphasizes the vertical direction and helps sell the feeling of Bucky climbing the cliffs. Daisy Johnson, meanwhile, is portrayed with the icy colouring of space and is surrounded by radial broadcast lines which help convey that she is communicating from a distance. The narcotic that Bucky was exposed to was associated with this hot pink colour, and we see it used in this layout in the gutters between panels. What's interesting is we see the height and intensity of the pink in the panel gutters increase as we progress from left to right, and I think this was a deliberate choice to show the increasing influence of the drug on Bucky. Another interesting aspect of this layout is the introduction of Loki, who seems to grow into the layout in a way that implies that he is aware of Bucky's impending intrusion and which also ties the deity to the hot-pink drug which Bucky is tripping on. It's a deceptively simple layout that is just loaded with thoughtful touches that layer in extra-narrative information in innovative ways.

One of the things I'm digging the most about BB:TWS is how even the simplest layouts play with story context to capture the emotion of the moment. This page here is a great example of this. Daisy Johnson is aboard a small spacecraft hiding in space near Asgardia. The panels depicting what she is up to are these great little window shaped boxes that really capture this sense of outer space. They are reminiscent of the tiny windows on modern space vehicles in real life and also, given their small size on a large page, really build a sense of claustrophobia and isolation into the page. It's great stuff.

This is another two page spread that uses layout and colour beautifully to carry the narrative. The story of the pages is that Bucky escapes into a hall of mirror, while very high, and harassed by Loki. He then emerges from the mirrored tunnel to stand in a colourful plain where he is stalked by a giant wolf monster. I love the narrow, shard panels that are used to depict the hall of mirrors, and the horrific feeling that exists between the skewed reflections, looming wolf, and the grinning Loki who lurks behind the scene. It is wonderfully evocative. And the contrast between the bleached, icy blue mirror panels and the warm, flowing pastels of the bottom half of the page is surprising and kind of magical. As a reader I really get a sense of the abrupt change in setting and the wild trip that Bucky is on. It's a great page of comics.

I just kind of love everything about this page. The tidal wave shape of the lunging wolves is dramatic and just explodes with emotional impact. It's also an approach that is very kinetic: this page feels like it is in motion, that it is an unstable snapshot. Which is actually pretty special: I find that a lot of painted styles have a rigidity that more lineart/animated styles can get around. This page is a great example of using evocative shapes to convey motion in a static picture. It's great painted comics. And poster-ably rad as Hel.

Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier continues to be a comic filled with really interesting cerebral comics. I picked my favourite pages from the comic to talk about here, but really, the entire issue operates like this: every page has something innovative or remarkable going on in it. If you are someone who is invested in reading paradigm challenging comics, BB:TWS should be on your pull list.

Post by Michael Bround

BB: TWS #1: Interesting layouts


  1. I read this, saw the art, and went, "Uh oh. I think I may need to be reading Winter Solider." I have two friends staying with me now who are also comics fans, I showed them the art, and they went "oh no" and "sh*t, I was really hoping to escape that one."


    1. Yeah. Someone on here said "oh hey, you should review this comic because its great!" Which is the only time that has ever happened to me.