Monday, 6 July 2015

Brooding About Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier # 9

Or a look at incorporating character symbology into layout in BB:TWS #9
by Ales Kot, Marco Rudy, and Clayton Cowles; Marvel Comics

Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier continues to be a comic that exemplifies just how great painted-style comics can look. The comic is also a great showcase of just how effective layout can be as a tool to impart a sense of motion or identity to static artwork. Previously, I pointed out some of the really great ways the creative team incorporated character symbols into layout to visually key pages and spreads to certain characters. In BB:TWS #9, the team continues to play with this tool in some really interesting ways. Since I still find this approach so interesting, I'm going to take another look at it.

There will, as always, be *SPOILERS!* below.

Take these pages focusing on Crossbones as he targets the planet Mer-Z-Bow with a planet-sized gun. The layout is built out of a skull, the emblem of this villain, and so the pages are obviously linked to him. This layout is also, much like the threat Crossbones poses in the story, decidedly unsubtle: the pages are constructed out of a goddamn skull, with all of the menace and cultural meaning that implies. Crossbones represents poison and death and he is one deeply bad dude. Which is all conveyed from the way the layout is constructed.

(This is also a pretty significant moment in the broader themes of BB:TWS since Crossbones story is deeply tragic: his crusade of inter-universal murder originates in a childhood tragedy. For him to discuss his motivations, which bear a marked similarity to the security state, within the rictus of a skull is pretty significant stuff.)

A more subtle character note that is incorporated into layouts is Loki's. Early in the comic we see a page where the panels bend and warp to the shape of Loki's horned helm. It's a great structure since it is emblematic of the trickster's look and also tells us something about the god's role in the story: the very fabric of the comic bends to his imagination. As Loki's plan is revealed throughout the comic, I think we see this motif repeated providing a visual cue to Loki and to the way Loki has warped the comic to his will. It's a really clever choice.

This page is kind of the culmination of why I think these character based design elements are so clever. In the story this page represents the final domino in Loki's plan where he effectively gives the heroes of the story his catch 22: they can succumb to him and save Daisy Johnson from Crossbones, or stop him and probably doom their friend. This story is built into a layout that starts with normal square borders, gets drawn into the loki-horn warped panels as the plan is revealed, and then finally resolves into the radial bullseye iconography of Daisy Johnson as it is revealed she is in danger. It's a brilliant page that expresses the relevant characters at play in the fabric of the layout. Absolutely wonderful comics.


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