Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Pondering About Pretty Deadly #8

Or some thoughts on colour in Pretty Deadly #8
by Kelly Sue DeConnick, Emma Rios, Jordie Bellaire, and Clayton Cowles; Image Comics

Something that I continue to find fascinating about the current iteration of Pretty Deadly is just how dream-like the comic is. Between the lyrical story, indistinct yawning battlefields, and supernatural elements, Pretty Deadly feels to me like its constructed out of the collision of a dream and a nightmare. Pretty Deadly #8 takes this sense to the next level, letting the supernatural elements take centre stage, and really unleashing some truly feverish artwork. It's horrible and beautiful and effective. An important element of why this comic is so effective is a great use of colour.

There will be *SPOILERS* for Pretty Deadly #8.

The battlefields of Pretty Deadly are muted, dark places. Instead of a colourful world, filled with verdant life, the battlefields are barren places constructed of desaturated colours: greys and grey-browns and grey-olive-drabs. I'd say it's as if the world has been bleached, but the overall colour palette is also particularly dark, colours showing a certain black tone that further increases the gloom of the page and gives the artwork a kind of claustrophobic heaviness. The effect, when summed up makes the battlefields of Pretty Deadly feel like nocturnal zones, a kind of world of twilight that to makes me think of sleep and alienation and a kind dream-logic gulf. It's effective stuff that I think really showcases just how lost and lonely Cyrus, the protagonist of the comic, is. 

Pretty Deadly #8 also introduces a new colour palette that takes a different approach that adds to nightmarishness. The comic features the confrontation between The Horsemen Big Alice and Deathface Ginny and the rogue Horseman of War as well as their proxy/allied armies. This conflict happens in the midst of green clouds of toxic gas and the whirling blood and viscera that are hallmarks and visual signs of War and his power. This choice significantly enhances the nightmare quality of the page. One of the fundamental aspects of colour theory (and really about the limit of my understanding of it) is that certain colours are 'complementary', that they are opposite colours that essentially clash in a way that is striking to the eye. Red and Green are such colour complements, and their use together here makes both colours surge off the page with a feverish intensity. It feels and looks unnatural, lending to the nightmare reality of the comic. It also, when contrasted against the dark, muted palette of the usual battlefield, makes the green/red pages painfully intense. The switch from green/red page to dark/barren page gives the issue a seething pulse, that again evokes the feelings of nightmares and malaise. It's... so effective that staring at the colours now to write about them is enough to get my vertigo going a little and make me feel nauseated. It's great stuff.

Pretty Deadly #8 is a noxious fever dream, and its colours are enough to make me feel sick.


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