Best Sequential Art Ever (This Week): Ted Naifeh, Javier Rodriguez, and David Messina
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 all-new recurring feature: Best Sequential Art Ever (This Week).
The idea of Courtney Crumrin creator Ted Naifeh drawing Batman makes me so happy. DC should let Naifeh draw all the Batman he wants. His work here on this Batman '66 story is standard for his art -- the facial expressions are fantastic, his anatomy is on-point with a touch of cartooniness (not an insult, by the way), and his environments always hit the mood they need to. The colors throughout this story, by Tony Aviña, are the right kind of bright and colorful that this universe requires. This page is great because, well, it has Batman and Robin riding bears. But also, the art flows well from panel to panel as the poses in each panel lead the eye where it should go. For instance, the bears are angled to the right, leading the eye to the characters at the bottom right of the panel, and then the eye does its natural S-curve to the next panel which has action that leads to the panel to the right of it. It seems like a simple page but there's strong storytelling behind it.
This whole page just breathes motion in a way that is almost unbelievable in a comic. From the first panel through the rest of the page, the feeling of motion is constant and well-executed. Major props to Javier Rodriguez for pulling off something that not a lot of artists can pull off in a still medium like comics. Even beyond the movement to the page, it's very pretty. The colors are vivid and perfectly evoke a fall day in New York. Both characters are wearing realistic, modern workout gear -- it's not even funny how many artists would get that wrong or draw the woman practically in her underwear just because. Finally, the lettering flows perfectly. This is lettering at its finest and most clear. The only text in panel 1, which is a long panel and thus very hard to letter and keep the reader's eye going where it needs to next, is in the upper right, allowing the eye to go down the panel and back up so that the next panel read is the one in the top right. The panel immediately below the long panel on the left has its balloon placed well away from the border of the long panel so that the eye doesn't accidentally go there first. This is great storytelling as a true collaboration between the team.
The Bounce #8 [page 9]
Story: Joe Casey
Pencils: David Messina
Graphic Design and Story Consult: Sonia Harris
Inks: Gaetano Carlucci
Colors: Giovanna Niro
Letters: Rus Wooton
Available: Comics shops (print) / Image (DRM-free download) / ComiXology (iOS + Android + Web + Etc.)
The art in this whole book is really beautiful and worth a look if you aren't already reading it. The real strength in The Bounce's storytelling, though, is in the transition between the two worlds the story takes place in. Transitions can be tricky things and without a clear delineation, readers can easily get confused. This is already a pretty twisty story so it's good that the team decided to have clear transitions. This page in particular has a really cool transition from one world to the other, with the black borders cracking and becoming white. There's also a great shift in the color palette from panel 3 to panel 4 where you can see, very clearly and easily, that the two worlds are colored differently. This book works well because it's a combination of intense mystery and confusion with clear, beautiful storytelling.