Best Sequential Art Ever (This Week): Yasmin Liang, Roc Upchurch and Sara Pichelli
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).
'Star Trek' #30
Gender-swapped Star Trek! What a glorious thing. Yasmin Liang's art is very strong on this issue, which must have been extremely challenging. The balance between making sure the regular versions of the characters look like the actors in the newer movies and making their gender-swapped versions look similar must have been very hard to hit just right, but Liang does it with very few missteps as can be seen here. Like other artists of a similar style, Liang's art occasionally feels like it lacks motion, but this page is a great example of her putting characters into motion well. The panel sizes and shapes are interesting and different without being distracting. The lettering is on target and the figures help to guide the eye. Probably the best part of this page, though, is the subtle cues in the first panel. Female Spock tries to protect Uhura in the same way male Spock does, thus implying that in the gender-swap world, Spock and Uhura's roles are not reversed in a way they might be in a more sexist comic. Instead, we get to see female Spock do exactly what male Spock does, showing that being a leader and person of action are not traits reserved for one gender. It's great, quiet storytelling that happens and is over in a flash but is nonetheless appreciated.
'Rat Queens' #5
Story: Kurtis J. Wiebe
Art: Roc Upchurch
Lettering: Ed Brisson
Editing: Laura Tavishati
Publisher: Image Comics
Available: Comics shops (print) / ComiXology (Apple + Android + Web) / Image ( DRM-free download)
If people have told you that Rat Queens is one of the most fun, accessible, and entertaining comics on the stands, well, those people were not wrong. As can be seen on this spread, it is chock full of violence and tough ladies, but it also has a lot of heart and colorful swearing! This page is just a beautiful example of action in a comic. It feels fast paced and brutal in all the best ways. There's not a lot of lettering but all the sound effects look great, are colored well enough to pop but not distract, and everything is placed well. The featured character is facing forward in all but one of the shots, as it is she and not her foes that really matter in this battle. The lightning effects are well done and really help push that last blow over the top. Certain hits and other actions help guide the eye, too, as in panel two and the lightning at the bottom of panel six, which make you want to see what happens to cause that lightning. Artist Roc Upchurch has done some truly outstanding work here.
'Guardians of the Galaxy' #12
Story: Brian Michael Bendis
Art: Sara Pichelli
Colors: Justin Ponsor
Lettering: VC's Cory Petit
Editing: Ellie Pyle and Stephen Wacker
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Available: Comics shops (print) / Marvel (Apple + Android + Web)
Sara Pichelli's art is gorgeous. Clearly. This page is a perfect example of how even a quiet moment can be given depth thanks to her artwork. Cyclops walking away upset in the third panel is beautifully done, and the serious looks on everyone's faces are both appropriate and unique -- which is important since, you know, people don't always look serious in the same way.
Honestly, though, the real star of this page as far as storytelling is the lettering. The first two panels are a master class in how to lay out balloons to get a lot of copy out of the way without clogging the art. Certainly Pichelli gets credit for leaving that space -- artists who understand they need to leave room for lettering and leave it in the right spots are way too few and far between in American comics. But letterer Cory Petit really did a great job with the space. The rest of the lettering is just as well-placed, but it's the start of the page that really pops.