Strip Panel Naked: Flirting With Danger In Latour, Brunner And Renzi’s ‘Loose Ends’
I loved every page of the first issue of Jason Latour, Chris Brunner and Rico Renzi's Loose Ends. There was a whole load of storytelling tricks and techniques to unpack, but I want to look at one that has sprung up before with Jason Latour in Southern Bastards, and it's the use of red throughout. This time coloured by Renzi, he starts to drop a very saturated red tone in various stages of the story.
We're introduced to these two waitresses, and they both established wiith similar visuals in the opening issue. We see Kim playing with this shoot 'em up, and she's being sandwiched by two arcade machines both in red, while she's bathed in the same light. The back of this bar here is positioned as red lighting because of these arcades.
Red has a heavy link to blood and death, and it's a link to what happens to Kim at the end of the issue. Also worth noting; the presentation of her with a gun is a nice thematic link to what ends up happening to her, too.
The rest of the bar stays that yellow-green, so the red stands out very distinctly, and Renzi even places a color hold over it so the line work dissipates more into the background.
As a further point, Renzi even colors Kim's top red, too. She's practically painted in it --- if she's not bathed in the red light, she's often framed in red panels, or heavily red backdrops.
We've also got Cheryl, the other barmaid. She's wearing blue, typically a placid colour, but later in the story we find her mimicking the scene with Kim by playing on the arcade machine, only this time she's driving rather than shooting.
Again, this is a heavy tie to what happens to her at the end of the book, and once again, there are these red panels. You start to build up this feeling that red really does mean something.
And we see more and more examples of it in the book; when the lead character heads into the toilet to find Cheryl being attacked by some punters at the bar, suddenly the lighting shifts from this neutral feel to three dramatically red panels. So the color starts to take on a meaning of danger, and particularly of impending danger. Nothing bad actually happens in the red light, but it always signifies that something bad is about to happen. It's just round the corner.
Looking a little later on, we see that threat paid off. The framing on this page is very similar to how we saw Kim earlier, playing the arcade game with the fake gun. Only this time, Cheryl has a real gun and she's firing away. These visuals all start to wrap up towards the end of the book, as we realize that the gun Cheryl is firing links back up with Kim, quite literally. Only a few pages later, we see Cheryl getting into a car, ready to drive away.
Little tricks and touches like this, by Latour, Brunner and Renzi, give the book a feeling of dread. The red --- without anything happening early in the book --- gives you a feeling in your gut that something isn't right. It starts to draw attention, like a laser pointer on a presentation, telling you that danger is lurking. The visuals would still work if every panel had that greenish tint, but that effect of something just waiting round the corner would be missing. You'd stop paying attention to those striking red images, and the meaning and foreshadowing would be lost.
Loose Ends shows that with everyone working together and on the same page, a comic can bring that same sense of fear and anxiety as the best thrillers.
In Strip Panel Naked, Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou looks at elements of the art of visual storytelling on the comics page.