Best Sequential Art Ever (This Week): Jayd Aït-Kaci, Chris Samnee, Sean Ford
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).
The Fox Sister, Chapter 1
Story: Christina Strain
Art: Jayd Aït-Kaci with Christina Strain
Design and Production: Fawn Lau
Lettering: Dave Lanphear and Fawn Lau
Available: Free webcomic
This is one of the most beautiful webcomics I've ever seen, and the beauty holds up really well in the printed first volume. Jayd Aït-Kaci's art is simply stunning but her real strengths lie in the facial expressions of her characters, as can easily be seen on this page. The contrast between the two excitable but slightly downcast girls and the deadpan Yun Hee is pretty hilarious. The use of white/grey backgrounds could make the page look boring, but instead it offers a great foundation for the bright colors to pop off of. The flow from panel to panel is clear and consistent. Using the charm to drop into panel five and help the reader locate the speaker of the second balloon without feeling like necessary information has been cropped out is something more people should utilize, although it wouldn't work nearly as well if the character on the right had a balloon. Finally, the lettering is all well-placed to guide the eye through the art.
The first part of this page is nothing mind-blowing. It's a good page, of course, and strong storytelling; just nothing to write home to mom about. But the end of the page is smart, gorgeous storytelling. I'd love to know whose idea this was between Mark Waid and Chris Samnee, or if it was a shared idea, but whoever decided to show blind Matt Murdock's other senses is pretty brilliant. Samnee is a very talented artist who just seems to get more talented every month, and somehow he's managed to make a visual representation of sounds and other non-visual things in a way that's clear, fun, and nice to look at. Ultimately I think the final balloon would be better placed further to the right to avoid it getting lost in everything that's going on, but in such a fantastic page it's a very minor gripe. It would be surprising if this didn't become a new way to illustrate Daredevil's powers. It could easily get overdone, but in this instance it's absolutely wonderful.
This first sample of Shadow Hills is printed at such a size that I can only imagine Ford drawing the whole thing with the tiniest of pens (that's not actually how comics are made...). There's a great deal of line work in pages almost half the size of a standard single comic book issue, and it adds a really great texture to the whole package. There are very few solid blacks or whites in this comic and it works very well. While the content is generally serious, there's bits of humor from the detective checklist to the peanut butter and jelly hand-off. The characters' faces and body language are expressive but never overdone. The lettering is perfectly clear and moves well from panel to panel, and even though there are no borders on the captions they're all still visible. In fact, that the solo "K?" at the top of panel 5 doesn't get lost at all is a testament to the great flow and synergy between the art and the lettering.