Friday, 5 June 2015

Brooding About Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier #8

Or a look at  yet more dynamic layouts in BB:TWS #8
By Ales Kot, Marco Rudy, Clayton Cowles; Marvel Comics

Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier continues to be a comic that combines a trippy, empathetic storyline with some really far out, psychedelic visuals to make for a really fun and interesting reading experience. I like this comic, is what I’m saying.

BB:TWS is also an interesting comic from a technical perspective. Marco Rudy is a painter-style comics artist which means he uses colour and lighting to create gorgeous moments of story. The way talented painters can use light in their artwork in particular adds a wonderful layer of reality to their artwork which brings an added level of verisimilitude to a comic. That said, by fixing the lighting in their artwork, painters compositions can occasionally look  static. Painters also feature the challenge that their artwork tends to look it’s best in fewer, larger panels where they have the space to really let their artwork shine. But this comes with a cost too, fewer larger panels results in less sequential space to tell the story. BB:TWS is a comic that works within these considerations and uses innovative layouts to maximize Marcos Rudy’s skills as a painter while overcoming some of the limitations of this style of artwork.

And so I’m going to take a look at some of my favourite layouts from BB: TWS #8.

There will of course be *SPOILERS* for BB: TWS #8.

BB:TWS #8 starts with a scene where Daisy Johnson and her pterodactyl friend jump off a cliff and have a flying adventure. This is told over a double page spread that is composed of a number of skinny, blade-like panels that progress down the left edge of the layout. This gives the double page spread additional panel space to introduce the situation and draws the reader from the top of the spread to the bottom left corner. Critically the last three of these blade panels, as they transition from vertical and horizontal in the corner, have no text and are sparse on details and can be read very quickly. This means that when the reader looks upwards into the largest, main panel in the composition where the ptereodactyl-thing catches Daisy and carries her into the sky it feels very dramatic and kinetic. The reader’s eye has travelled down the page, down and up in a long arch that captures the motion and feel of falling and being caught; it’s wonderfully evocative stuff.
This double page spread here is very much an ideal storytelling space for a painter. It features a very large panel that is the centerpiece of the composition where the painter can make a really complicated and beautiful picture. It also features smaller panels that give the artist more room for storytelling which are also used to build motion into the layout of the page which lends a sense of dynamic movement to the fairly static images in each of the panels. This spread is ideally designed to play to the strengths of painters while cleverly overcoming the potential weaknesses of the style.

This page, which continues the story of Daisy and the peterodactyl-thing, is another great example of layouts being used to impart motion to a painted composition. This page uses the same essential tricks as the previous spread: long, blade like panels around a central feature image where the panel shape gives the layout motion. This page, though, takes the trickin last page and drives it even further: the shape of the small panels is much longer and curved, creating a rifled spiral around the page. This carries through the implied motion of the central panel where the pterodactyl-thing is swinging Daisy around and makes the entire page spin in a barrel-roll. It’s super dynamic and really showcases just how much motion can be built into a page through layout. Wooow!

I’m also really fond of this layout. The story of this page is that Bucky and old-Bucky have done a lot of the empathy drug Illum which has caused them to enter the dreams of Ventolin. Something, incidentally Ventolin knows about and consents to (which, btw, have I mentioned that I like Ales Kot a lot?). Anyway, this is another interesting double page spread that plays to the strengths of a painter. The page opens on an absolutely beautiful page of Ventolin sleeping in a bed, draped with wonderfully shadowed sheets that is a pleasure to look at and captures the peaceful beauty of sleep. The right side of the page though is split into a knot of smaller panels that originate from a braided rope of something biological and brain-tissue like that originates in Ventolin's head. These small panels depict the contents of names dream in biological shards that are obviously taking place in her mind. It’s another evocative composition that is emotionally effective and really maximizes the compromise between space to paint and panels to drive the story forward.

BB:TWS #15 is the Illum mind-trip issue where Bucky and old-Bucky have their consciousness expanded by the empathy drug.  This issue denotes the profound experiences the men have while on this drug using a fairly simple, but really effective trick: BB:TWS #15 uses double page spreads turned 90 degrees to convey the experience of an Illum high. It’s a really effective choice because it makes these pages feel special and different than typical comics and, since there is just something massive feeling about this angle, makes the pages feel massive and profound. It’s a cool choice.

Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier continues to be a great comic filled with some of the smartest, most effective painted comics I’ve ever read.


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