Writer: Geoff Johns, Scott Kolins
Pencilers: Francis Manapul, Scott Kolins
Inkers: Francis Manapul, Scott Kolins, Joel Gomez
Colorists: Brian Buccelato, Michael Atiyeh
I have to say right away that, to my memory, I’ve never read a Flash book before but the artistic approaches employed here alone would make me take a moment of pause in a comic store. Overall the work is something akin to a crossing of the drawing style of Ryan Kelly and Jim Rugg of The New York Four/Five and some more traditionally illustrative comic book styled books: the work emerges as fresh, lively, and shows a versatility of materials and approaches that I feel you don’t often get to see combined in one book and done well.
Lets split up the twelve issues into two sections accordingly: Issues #1-6 and #9-10 and Issues #7,8,11, and 12 mainly because the emotional charge of these two groups is so different yet work together so well to show the turmoil, stakes, and inherently oppositional natures of Flash and Zoom.
Issues #1-6, 9-10
The first six issues are a visually pleasing jaunt through the versatility that watercolors provide; they are often overlooked because they take some patience and practice to arrive at the level it’s being used here. Buccelato easily creates the sensation of depth by not treating anything like a flat surface but instead uses washes of watercolors to lift a sense of dimension and depth, and this goes for whether he is depicting flesh, shadow, various materials, or atmospherics.
Buccelato and Manapul have a canny understanding of composing and coloring without over complicating the frames by making them too busy for no good reason, leaving impressions of detail to washes, flushes, and blotches that only watercolors know how to do when in the middle of drying. On a number of occasions they are also able to evoke flesh tones as they should be: soft and believable no matter the location or lighting, and often they successfully render flesh in such a way it seems opaque, partially translucent, or just flat out looking like real skin that so many other comics sort of seem to pay less attention to or over compensate for (see my review on Superboy #1-7). This same technique is used in creating textures and shadows like they should be: not completely blacked out forms all the time, but gradations of hues that lead to a very dark area eventually. In a way I think this book, perhaps out of the reviews I’ve done so far, comes closest to a sort of “naturalism” that isn’t photo-realistic or hyper-real.
An obvious staple that should come with illustrating a character like this is the movement you feel from frame-to-frame thanks to Manapul’s talent. Even in the moments where things are standing still you get a sort of subliminal sense that you’re still in motion, perhaps it’s grandfathered over of previous frames or the inclusion Buccelato’s coloring picks up on, or both.
I think issue #4 stands out the most to me for two reasons. The first is, I feel like for this character specifically –a very physically based character– the organization of the frames because of the actions of Flash are the most important and the most obvious approach. But it makes me wonder how abstract you can get with telling a complete story line, maybe just one book deep rather than a mini-series, by just using the red streaks and lightning trails to direct the reader around villains, loved ones, or the landscapes. The villains would be treated in the same way perhaps, always in constant motion like Flash. It could be a very dynamic, visually impactful, minimalistic yet Suprematistic-Constructivistic-Futuristic experiment; something like Malevich meets Boccioni:
Issues #7,8,11, and 12
My first reaction to the change in artwork is similar to those I’ve made known in past reviews: what’s going on, why did they change, is this going to last, are they coming back to the previous style, etc. Often its jarring (which this was) and creates an uncomfortable if not unnecessary move that the previous artist could have done and the outcome would have been the same. But I think this contrast in approaches in this instance works for and not against. The dynamic not only creates a greater sense of disconnect, urgency, and anxiety within the story line but raises an emotional sense of awareness and dread in the reader that, if the comic had been done in one style or the other, wouldn’t imbue the same level of intensity.
The representational style and color palette in these parts of the story line first reminded me of Beavis & Butthead and King of the Hill, combined with something out of MAD Magazine (i.e. the way facial expressions were drawn, the unorthodox facial anatomies, the at times awkward poses, the strongly contrasting washes of color against pure black, and the overall graphic style used).
Not only does every facial expression look like it’s on the verge of bursting out in anger or crying or anguish, but Kolins lays on the heavy use of black and smokey effects to bring another level of intensity and stress to the forefront. It’s hard not passing from page-to-page and not feel like, in a comic-book sense, like you’ve been playing Resident Evil in the dark for the first time back in the day and sitting on the edge of your seat because you don’t know where those moans are coming from or what’s going to pop out next (I don’t know about you guys, but that game scared the sh*t out of me).
I’m just going to say that most of the covers aren’t really anything special to talk about, most of the ones I feel were probably used as the main cover are fairly generic while some others are much more interesting –one even looks as if it’s drawn by the same artist who did Ex-Machina.
I’m generally not one for computerized comic book enhanced art –used strategically it can enhance the work, usually it seems like a distraction– so I tend to be a traditionalist in that way that I like seeing the hand in the artwork, however here it’s treated like a grain of salt: carefully and selectively used that doesn’t take away from everything else. I also really like when I see illustrators and artists expanding what perspectives are used to convey a scene more accurately or powerfully.
The book isn’t trying too hard to be more than it should or delivering less; the artists sync up well and deliver a book that is visually appealing and slightly disturbing. It balances a sketchbook styled approach with selections of carefully tuned moments that really play against and with one another.