Friday 20 March 2015

Deep Sequencing: Consistently Outstanding, Positively Righteous Comics Awesomeness

Or some wicked cool art choices from COPRA: Round One
by Michel Fiffe; Bergen Street Press

Copra is maybe the most dynamic and unique looking Superhero comic I've read recently. It looks like nothing else, and really delivers each discrete moment in a way that optimizes the depicted action. It's a really complete, constantly exciting book. And I really want to try and convey this to you all. So here we go.

There will be *SPOILERS* for COPRA: Round One below.

COPRA right from the start has a decidedly different look than the vast majority of comics. Michel Fiffe has an expressive, minimalist style to his characters, that while detailed, have very obvious features that makes them all immediately recognizable. The comic also has this soft, pencil crayon shading style that looks beautiful and gives the comic a unique and very art-forward feeling. Even in a quiet moment like this, just at a glance, you can tell COPRA is something special.

Or take a look at this action sequence here. The woman in green shoots and eviscerates the chain-goon, clips the flammable gas tanks of the fame thrower guy, and then the sequence focuses on flame thrower guy smouldering for a moment before igniting as his gas tanks rupture. It's a wonderful (can you call panels depicting a man burning alive wonderful?) collection of images that really zoom in on the action and give it space to be as visceral, and dramatic as possible. It's also a cool sequence because in the peripheral of the immolating man the woman in green moves on to new targets and the man in the red mask hops out of the truck and is punched. These peripheral elements, seen at a remove, help convey how much chaotic action is happening around the focus of this sequence. These bakcground elements also provide critical time information: they show that while the burning man seems to take forever to burn, it is only a moment in the grand scheme of the story. This collection of panels im emblematic of the attention to detail, beauty, and moment by moment storytelling focus that makes every second of COPRA memorable.

I am always interested in how comics go about trying to depict impossible elements like magic or time travel or reality warping physics. COPRA has some really memorable sequences in this vein. Like the above selection which features parallel scenes happening in two separate dimensions linked by a portal. The layout is directly playing with this, with the page split down the middle between the prison dimension on the left and the normal world on the right. This layout is all about playing with the permeable portal barrier between the two sides and making sure that simultaneous events are portrayed in a clear way. What this layout does very effectively is break the page into two separate vertical comic strips that interact in three tiers of time so that when the cross over event between the prisoner and the #-monster happens in the lowest tier, it is very obvious what has happened. This layout is all about taking a very complicated story beat and conveying it in an instantly understandable and visually satisfying way. It is exactly what it needs to be.

Another great sequence that deals with the impossible is this page of magic. In the page the sorcerer and his apprentice have cast a spell to contain a powerful magical artifact for study. The page conveys this by creating a cage of tiny panels around the shard-artifact to imprison it. Beyond being a great symbol for the spell, it is also creates this element of depth to the page, where each panel now has three layers so that depicted objects can be in front of or behind the plane of the panel cage. Which leads to some really, really cool features like in the second panel where the sorcerer directly interacts with the cage-panels and reaches through them and out of the page. It's a really cool effect. It's also a wonderful visual representation of magic in comics: something structurally impossible and fourth wall breaking is occurring on the page much like how magic is a phenomena that violates the rules of reality. It's absolutely great comics.

And really, all of COPRA is of this quality. If you like artistically interesting comics or just totally rad superhero comics you really need to track down COPRA Round One. It is totally worth the effort.

Post by Michael Bround

So I Read COPRA: Round One.

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