Points of Impact – February 2012 – Week 3

Welcome once more to another (second in fact) installment of Points of Impact, where I tell you what had the most impact on me in my reading of the weekly harvest. Enough preamble, let’s get to the nitty-gritty!

I loved…

The use of silent panels in Nathan Edmondson’s THE ACTIVITY #3 – Sometimes you have to know when to shut up. With this third issue, Nathan Edmondson demonstrates that he masters that ancient and sadly oft-forgotten art.

After the first page (a splash panel with a single speech balloon), the following spread is completely silent until the fifth panel. However, during these silent panels, a lot is being said. Edmondson takes his time to let the mood set in, pacing his beats carefully until the silence is ready to be broken, when the tension has been deemed high enough to be broken in a dramatic way.

All throughout this issue, moments of silence come punctuate the narrative, as if it were one long conversation where the sentences need periods from time to time. This gives the whole story a kind of rhythm reminiscent of French novels that manage to be impervious to being put down despite the evident lack of action. The comparison isn’t that far off considering that THE ACTIVITY #3 is nothing short of a long argument between the team members after a failed mission. Sure, we get some glimpses of the mission in very brief flashbacks, but the meat of it is just the operatives arguing on a helicopter.

Well no. Because it ISN’T only that, because there are these moments of eloquent silence, Nathan Edmondson manages to tell a lot more than if he had crammed every panel with speech balloons.

I liked…

The space given to magical moments in Kurtis J. Wiebe’s PETER PANZERFAUST #1 – The same way Nathan Edmondson lets silence speak in THE ACTIVITY, Kurtis J. Wiebe lets special moments take some expansion in the first issue of his WWII-era Peter Pan.

Anytime the character of Peter does anything that approaches the magic performed by his namesake, it’s like time slows down around him. All of a sudden, the panel count grinds down to splash pages and we’re left taking in the epicness that seems to permeate the very air around Peter. For example, his introduction marks the first use of a splash page. In the same way, the panel count goes down when he later on dodges German fire and then jumps a 20-foot gap between two ruined buildings.

The empty space left in the splash page for that last occurrence is very evocative in itself; it occupies roughly half the page. That’s precious real estate for a story told in 22 pages – but it works.

And in that moment, you really can believe that Peter does fly.

I was disappointed by…

The confusing plot of Brian Azarello’s WONDER WOMAN #6 – I was almost hesitant to admit I understood next to nothing about the plot of this comic. I read it once, cover to cover, and then I had a moment of abject terror when my mind refused to accept that it didn’t understand something on the first try. “I’m a smart guy, dammit! Come on, this is a comic book! I had to study Kant in college and that went down well!” So I settled down for a second more attentive reading, hoping that I had read it too fast, being too eager to type up these fine precious thoughts you’re reading right now.

It didn’t work. I was still confused. “OK, I must be tired. It’s been a long day after all.” I got up, took a long shower and fixed myself a drink. Then I sat down with it again.

Still nothing.

I mean, I have a pretty general idea of what happened: I could recite by heart by now the exact sequence of events from the first page to the last. However, by my troth, I couldn’t tell you why what anybody did led to any of the events depicted. The links between cause and effect is so tenuous as to be almost nonexistent. Even worse: when it’s all said and done, I still don’t know what bearing the events in the comic had on the ending, how the status quo was changed and how that change was achieved.

In order words, the narrative went from point A to point B by passing though a wormhole.

Special mention: Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo manage to do a 13-panel page in BATMAN #6 and it’s still less confusing that the entire 20 pages of WONDER WOMAN.