Best Sequential Art Ever (This Week): Aaron Conley, Louis Roskosch, and Dustin Nguyen
The 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).
'Batman' #28 (2014)
Story: Scott Snyder & James Tynion IV
Pencils: Dustin Nguyen
Inks: Derek Fridolfs
Colors: John Kalisz
Lettering: Sal Cipriano
Editing: Mike Marts and Katie Kubert
Publisher: DC Comics
Available: Comics shops (print) / DC Entertainment (Apple + Android + Web)
It's awesome to see Lil Gotham mastermind Dustin Nguyen back on a main-continuity Batman title, and in the main feature -- not a backup. Although inker Derek Fridolfs and colorist John Kalisz have worked with Nguyen for years, there's something about this issue that feels brighter, slicker, and more modern than the team's previous work. Kalisz in particular has really brightened his usual color palette over Nguyen.
This page is fairly quiet but an exercise in excellent "camera" work and flow. The view rotates slowly around Selina and Batman in a way that's unobtrusive but gives a bit of tension to the scene as if we, the reader, are slowly pacing around them. The lettering is placed absolutely perfectly. And the panel of Selina with her arms out (what I've decided in my head is her "I run this sh*t" pose) is a great example of how to draw a woman in a sexy outfit without making her a sex object. Plus, there's a really great swoop of the statue behind her that's mimicked by her arm and works with the lettering to grab the reader's eye for the second half of the page.
'The Adventures of Leeroy and Popo'
Story and Art: Louis Roskosch
Available: Nobrow Store (print)
While the layout of this page is pretty simple, it's also wonderfully detailed; a great example of how angles in the art can guide the eye when there's not much lettering or other specific cues from the panel layouts. By having the mountain on the upper left, the reader's eye starts there and follows the slope down and to the right. From there it's a quick move over to the first balloon, and as the eye moves down the page towards the next panel it skims over the train in the lower right of panel one. That's a small but effective visual to let us know where the characters in the next panel actually are. The second panel has a lot of charm and both characters are expressive even though they're animals and their facial features are simply drawn. Popo's little dinosaur paw and Leeroy's downcast expression both give excellent dimension to the dialogue. The background details of the train environment make it feel familiar and the bag to the far right punctuates the page nicely.
'Sabertooth Swordsman and the Mayhem of the Malevolent Mastodon Mathematician'
Story: Damon Gentry
Art: Aaron Conley
Digital Production: Allyson Haller
Publication Design: Irina Beffa
Editing: Brendan Wright
Publisher: Dark Horse
Available: Comics shops (print) / Dark Horse Digital (Apple + Android + Web)
Fact: tigers are awesome. Additional fact: tigers with swords who live in a very video game inspired comic are extra awesome. ComicsAlliance has covered this comic before. It's one with a lot of detail and a lot going on, and this page is no exception. There's not much dialogue but what's there is very well-placed and very pretty. Despite the fairly trippy background designs, the clear positioning of the figures in each panel keeps the eye on track. The panel borders being solid black when most of the background art is in grey also helps to define each panel from the others. One of the coolest things artist Aaron Conley pulls off on this page, though, is the recurring eye imagery. The first panel, where the tiger's head is rounded; the center of an oval to the diamond between triangular panels three and four, there are eyes everywhere on this page. Ultimately, there are eyes all over the art in this comic but there's something about the unusual panel shapes and movement of this page that makes it stand out.
If you want to submit sequential art that you think is great, shoot us an email at comicsalliance-at-gmail-dot-com with “Best Sequential Art” in the subject line. Artists, writers and editors are welcome to submit their own work — we won’t tell.