Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Pondering About Pretty Deadly #10

Or a look at contrast and story fulcrums
by Kelly Sue DeConnick, Emma Rios, Jordie Bellaire, and Clayton Cowles; Image Comics

Pretty Deadly continues to be one of my very favourite comics both as a reader and a comics wonk. It is perplexing, challenging, and virtuosic. With the issue #10 the second chapter closes on an appropriately spectacular note. The fulcrum of the issue in particular I think is a really amazing feat of comics, and I really want to take a closer look at it. It's inherently spoilery though. 

This post will contain *SPOILERS* for Pretty Deadly #10

To me this is the fulcrum of the comic, the turning point between an unwinnable conflict and the epic conclusion of the comic. It is also a wonderfully constructed moment that brings nearly every component of the comic together to create a tipping point, a honed moment of contrast that the story teeters on before crashing into resolution. And I think the way the contrast here is constructed and used is really interesting. 

The first page of the spread is a sequence of action and fire and blood. The page shows the armed combat between War and Ginny in a swirling open storyspace. The page flows along sweeping slashes of red capes and carnage and blood that trail across the page and drag the readers eyes through the violence quickly and precisely. It is idealized motion and a very quick page to experience. It is also a page of reds and hot smouldering greys, a page of fiery, passionate colours. It is a fantastic page that encapsulates everything I love about the portrayal of action in Pretty Deadly.

The next page is almost the perfect opposite: it is still, and structured, and cool. The page shows Cyrus, the would be Reaper of Courage, taming the Reaper of Fear. The page is broken up into eight discrete panel-areas, including inset panels which provide structure to the page and slow the progression of the reader and expand the sense of time. It creates stillness. The way the clouds and mist hang in the air, enhances that sense of stillness, since they could only linger like this in the absence of motion. And the colour palette is calming too, blue-grey and icy. It is artful, and beautiful and haunting. 

The way these two pages come together and interact though, is what is truly special. The fiery motion of the left page stands in distinct contrast to the cool, still page on the right. This puts both pages into sharp relief: the violence is brighter and the peace calmer for having the two moments in juxtaposition. It sets both pages as distinct and powerful, especially the right page since it is such a complete visual and structural departure from what's preceded it in the issue. It feels like a turning point built of opposites. At the same time, the pages feel balanced to me, as though even if they are opposite, they are somehow equal. That the combat and motion on the left are as important, as valid as the calm, and stillness of the right page. Which for me, signifies that an act of bravery, that calmly facing ones fear is just as strong, as powerful as actively fighting. To me, it's as if the two pages are balanced on a kind of narrative scale, and it's tipping this scale that is the climax of the comic. Which, to balance a story on such a keen edge, narratively and artistically, is a tremendous feat of story construction. 

Pretty Deadly continues to be remarkable comics. 


No comments:

Post a Comment