by Michel Fiffe
COPRA is a pretty awesome comic. It tells the story of a bizarre team of government mercenaries sent on surreal suicide missions. It is just about as complete a comics experience as I read: the stories are action packed celebration of superhero comics brought to life in an extremely stylish, surreally unique way. COPRA is a comic you should be reading.
COPRA is also a comic that shows a fantastic attention to detail and uses some basic page elements as storytelling tools.
There will be *SPOILERS* for COPRA Vol. 2 below.
COPRA does the big things really, really well. Like in this above sequence that sees one of the COPRA team pursuing Dy Dy, a brain in a jar villain and crime boss, flying inside a building. Eventually the pair approach a grating to outside the building where Dy Dy pulls a jackmove and swoops upward, leaving the pursuing COPRA member to blast through the gate and outside the building. The way this sequence is encoded is really kind of ingenious: Dy Dy's upward motion is expressed in a "J" shaped panel that translates the fiends motion into the vertical and unexpectedly against the grain of the page flow. It's a panel that is easy to follow and quick to read, and yet surprising feeling with its convention violations. Then we track down from the top of the page to the next panel where we see the COPRA agent crashing into the grate in a simple, sudden panel. It's a great feat of storytelling and a good example of the kind of exciting, clear, and smart comics to be found in COPRA.
But this kind of obviously good comics only shows one level of the smart storytelling in COPRA.
COPRA is also a comic with exquisite attention to detail. One of the ways this scrupulous approach to comics manifests in COPRA is how margins are used as active storytelling elements. The default margin colour in COPRA is white, with coloured panels floating on a white page background. This situation denotes that the portrayed events take place in the default world of COPRA and are, in some way, normal. The opening chapter of COPRA, in contrast, has all black panel gutters. The story is a quiet retrospective that examines the battered COPRA team as they bury one of their own. The black gutters on the page help sell the sobriety and grief of the chapter. COPRA Volume 2 also takes place in two alternate dimensions: a dystopian warscape reality and a psychedelic, demon-infested prison reality. Both of these alternate dimensions get their own gutter colour: every page in the dystopian world has a bright green background colour while every page in the prison plane has a hot pink page colour. This gives each of these dimensions a unique visual identity and, when compared to the white gutters of the default reality, provide these dimensions an exotic, alternate feel. It also goes a long way to helping readers keep the various worlds of the story straight without being explicitly told where things are happening. Which is a simple seeming choice that works really effectively in the comic.
Which is a great example of the really smart storytelling in COPRA.
COPRA Round One
COPRA Round Two
COPRA Round Two