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Best Sequential Art Ever (This Week): Juanjo Guarnido, Annie Wu, Chip Zdarsky

BlacksadThe comic book, animation, illustration, pinup, mashup, fan art and design communities are generating amazing artwork of myriad styles and tastes, all of which ends up on the Internet and filtered into ComicsAlliance’s Best Art Ever (This Week). These images convey senses of mood and character — not to mention artistic skill — but comic books are specifically a medium of sequential narratives, and great sequential art has to be both beautiful (totally subjective!) and clear in its storytelling (not so subjective!). The words and the pictures need to work together to tell the story and create whatever tone, emotion and indeed world the story requires. The contributions of every person on a creative team, from the writer to the artist(s) to the letterers, are necessary to achieving a great page of sequential storytelling.

It is the special nature of comic books that we’re celebrating in this recurring feature: Best Sequential Art Ever (This Week).

 

Blacksad Juanjo Guarnido

Blacksad [page 69]
Story: Juan Díaz Canales
Art: Juanjo Guarnido
Letters: Studio Cutie
Available: Comics shops (print) / Amazon (print + Kindle) / Dark Horse Comics (iOS + Android + Web + Etc.)

Blacksad is truly one of the greatest comics in existence. Juan Díaz Canales and Juanjo Guarnido have crafted a gorgeous, compelling story that uses, in this volume, animals to talk about racial issues. If that’s not enough to get you interested, consider this: the fact that the story is cast entirely with animals never really matters except on a very superficial level. The use of animals softens a story that’s really about human failures. It took a long time to pick a page to feature because really, page after page of this book is fantastic. This page is a great example, though.  The faces are expressive and interesting, the clothes are realistic, the environments are rich and detailed.  The story flows well from panel to panel and the lettering follows a readable and sensible path throughout the page. The previous page has a great establishing shot of the environment but it’s not needed to follow the action on this page as the movement of the characters is clear and easy to follow.

 

Sex Criminals #4 Chip Zdarsky

Sex Criminals #4 [page 9]
Story: Matt Fraction
Art: Chip Zdarsky
Color Flatting: Becka Kinzie
Production: Drew Gill
Available: Comics shops (print) / ComiXology (iOS + Android + Web + Etc.) / Image Comics website (iOS + Android + Web + Etc.)

I’ll admit it: I was reluctant to give this book a chance. The premise sounded too weird. I have a limited budget. But I was won over, and I don’t regret it.  There’s a lot of fun art and color work in this book to show the stoppage of time and they all work really well. There’s also, of course, a lot of smut.  But even in the less time-stopped or sexy moments of the book, the storytelling is quite strong.  This page features Suzie dressed as the Hamburgler, so it’s winning right off the bat.  It also has a clear progression across the page as the lettering and art draws the reader’s eye along an S-curve.  It’s clear in panel 5 that Suzie is narrating the moment but not present in it with no extra tricks or clarification needed. The placement of the final caption in the cloud of exhaust from the van is perfect both as the next logical place for a caption and as a great period on the page.

 

Young Avengers #14 Annie Wu

Young Avengers #14 [page 17 - 2nd page of Annie Wu story]
Story: Kieron Gillen
Art: Annie Wu
Colors: Jordie Bellaire
Letters: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Available: Comics shops (print) / ComiXology (iOS + Android + Web + Etc.)

Young Avengers is consistently fantastic, and it’s true that the book has been featured here before.  This issue is special because it features a bunch of different artists all telling different parts of the same story.  The Hawkeye story, drawn by Annie Wu with color by Jordie Bellaire, is perfect because it doesn’t feel like too much of a departure from the regular art on the book but it is clearly its own thing.  This page really pops as the tension between the two characters is clear and their conversation is illustrated clearly.  Panels 5 and 6 are especially great because they solve the problem of how to keep the characters in place as they’ve been shown before but still leaving room for the character on the right to speak first.  Obviously those shots could have been combined into one panel that was just a close-up version of panel 4, but because Hawkeye speaks first it works way better to frame it the way Wu has here.  Bellaire’s color palette can sometimes seem TOO consistent on the various books she colors so it’s awesome to see such a talented colorist work with a bright and splashy color palette here.  Bonus points for the eye candy in the final panel, already hitting one of ComicsAlliance’s Diversity Resolutions for 2014.

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