12/08/2008

Powerful Panels: ABC Warriors

ABC Warriors: The Black Hole is one of those comics that sums up these Powerful Panels posts. Every issue has at least one or two that force you to pause and take a closer look at what’s going on. Every panel gives the feeling that it could stand on its own and still have some meaning. It’s the equivalent of reading a book with all exclamation points or listening to Ghostface rap, rapid-fire details, ALL THE TIME.
Simon Bisley illustrates the most exciting issues. His art is a strange combination of extremely detailed realism with a cartoony surrealism. In the above panel you can see every wire on the robot, Mongrol, and every spike on the boot of the guy he’s crushing, but the tear of the woman, Lara, is exaggerated. This gives the indication of two separate worlds: the real world and the one inside Mongrol’s head.

The writing has the same weird contrast as the art. It’s extremely detailed, giving you way more information than you need to know, but the plot and characters are like something someone wrote in middle school. The art is really what keeps you turning the page. It fills gives meaning to what is being described. We know that Lara is always in Mongrol’s thoughts but having her hair as the background of the panel gives the thought a visceral quality.
A technique that Bisley employs with great effectiveness is the use of shadow. He blacks out the entire background so that only the characters are visible. It’s especially effective because so many of the panels are jammed with detail that it immediately stands out. The battle freezes and we are forced to focus on the act of the panel. It wouldn't be nearly as significant if you were just reading the text. The two characters haven’t known each other for long enough for it to really mean anything to the reader, but the strangeness of this panel and its black background makes it tangible.

This page uses all of the techniques: the baby is cartoony, the robot is detailed, and the last panels background is black. The death of the babby has a particularly uneasy effect because it happens off-panel. We’ve already seen so much violence that it’s really kind of stunning when we don’t see this death. The issues are in the super-short 2000AD magazine format so everything is dense and rushed. When the comic slow things down and focuses on a moment or a specific action it’s super effective.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

abc warriors is great. when i was in middle school i bought a run of like 60 issues of 2000 AD on ebay, and it included the whole "black hole" storyline and simon bisley's stuff blew my mind.

Brandon G said...

I really like how dense the storytelling on ABC is, like 12
Bendis comics per page.

And it's so metal.

Karen Peltier said...

WE'LL NEVER KNOW HOW THAT BABBY IS UNFORMED

Jesse Reese said...

Thanks for the comments guys.

I feel like middle school would be the perfect time to read ABC Warriors, although I love it now anways.

BG-
I really think the density comes from the 2000AD 8 page format. It makes writers/stories so good.

literally metal. haha.

K-
I don't really even want to know how that babby was formed!