Volume 1 of Days Of Hate from Image Comics is released this week.
And it is worth checking out if you’ve not been reading the monthlies.
Don’t believe me? Here’s why I think you should.
In a not too distant future, one that doesn’t look too dissimilar to our present, a run down, broken America struggles with its internal prejudices. On one coast gangs rule the streets and the other a more political game is being played; equally as deadly.
And so begins Ales Kot’s thriller which poses the question, how bad can the current situation get? The social and political climate that Kos depicts in Days of Hate aren’t that far removed from the world we live in. He gives us two, female, central characters who seem so different in their outlook but there is a connection between them; a link that is brilliantly illustrated early on in the comic by following the flight of a bird as it crosses a page transition.
Through these two characters the creators are able to establish the world that they live in while building an intriguing plot shrouded in mystery and inhabited by a number of fascinating characters.
Danijel Zezelj is creates atmosphere by packing his panels with extras and detailed interiors while in contrast the outdoor scenes are sparser, open spaces. This makes the reader feel trapped in this world, hidden away in the recesses of a scared country. Jordie Bellaire’s colours reinforce this point. She gives each scene its own tone simply by highlighting one particular colour throughout a given sequence. For instance, Amanda’s journey to the all American Diner in issue 1 is soaked in a pinkish red which reflects the gaudiness of the venue but is also an omen of things to come. And one chapter has three distinct time periods each with their own hue.
Every aspect of Days of Hate appears to have the same thoughtfulness applied to it which makes this a superb, if sometimes challenging, read. The story flows effortlessly through the page transitions, flicking back and forth between the central characters and their lives. Each section of the comic feeds off and responds to each other creating a single narrative unit. To take away any section of the comic would create a hole in the narrative which may not be obvious, but it would be there, niggling at the back of your mind like a fake news story ringing muffled bells of warning.
Elements of socially accepted racism, expressions of inner turmoil and opposing personal/professional beliefs make Days of Hate an insightful read. Kot does not make this easy for the reader and just like the real world, the simple good/evil dynamics of the superhero genre have no place here. Each character is multi-layered and the creators take time to portray the different aspects of each. There are twists and turns that build the characters as they move slowly forward through the narrative. It is difficult to tell what is going to happen next and this is another highlight of this comic. Its unpredictability makes it a refreshing read.
Days of Hate is an outstanding character driven narrative with some of my favourite comic book art from recent years. There are some pages that are beautiful, stand alone, works of Art. This is a comic that I would recommend to anyone. It has an engaging story and wonderfully designed layouts which allow the story to flow from panel to panel, page to page. There is a lot going on visually and narratively. For an immersive comic reading experience you can’t go wrong with Volume 1 of Days of Hate.
Days of Hate Act 1 (collecting issues 1 – 6)
Written by Ales Kot
Art by Danijel Zezelj
Colours by Jordie Bellaire
Lettering by Aditya Bidikar
Published by Image Comics
(some of this may have been unashamedly plagiarised for some of my early reviews of the monthlies, please feel free to re-read everything I've written to find out which bits came from where)
After taking in an overview of Simon Bowland’s letter in Motherlands last week, I wanted to take a closer look at a few lettering techniques. To do this I have chosen the latest issue of The Dead Hand from Image Comics.
There are a number of very good reasons to be reading The Dead Hand, Jordie Bellaire’s colouring over Stephen Mooney’s Art for one but it’s Clayton Cowles lettering work that I’m focusing on today.
Lettering has an important function within any comic while at the same time has to be the one aspect that is the least noticeable on the page. A comic wouldn’t function without lettering but the reader doesn’t want it to distract from the action or the narrative. When done badly, the lettering breaks the momentum of a page and no matter how good your story is, or your art, once the reader is distanced from the narrative it can be difficult to get back into the flow.
However, when done right, the lettering can enhance everything else, as I illustrated in my previous post about Motherlands. And in The Dead Hand Cowles does an excellent job of using the lettering to add more than just information to the page; in fact, his lettering helps to highlight aspects of the art, the narrative and the flow of the panels.
The page below is a good example of Cowles ability to employ basic lettering techniques to make the page easy to read. The consistency of his word balloons and the balloon tales show off his understanding of ground floor lettering. Each of the balloon tales has the same width and lead directly to the mouth of the person speaking. On occasion the tale is short, such as in panel two, leaving a larger distance from the mouth to the balloon but this is so the art isn’t obscured and the positioning of the tale makes it obvious who is talking.
The balloons themselves exist within their own space, covering the background artwork so as not to detract away from the characters and their conversation; except on one occasion which I will come back to in a moment. The placement of the balloons helps to lead the conversation and show who is speaking when. A bonus touch is added when Cowles overlaps a couple of the balloons, in panel 4, highlighting the pace of the conversation and the fact the characters are almost talking over the top of each other.
The artist obviously has a part to play when it comes to balloon positioning. A good artist will leave enough space for the letter but this isn’t always the case. In this example it is as if the artist, Stephen Mooney, and Cowles are working very closely together to maximise the effect of the words and images.
There is one moment on this page that stands out, from a lettering point of view especially, and this is in panel 5.
Harriet is having an argument with her mother and the Sheriff, she feels as though she is being deliberately left out of something and treated like a child. The discussion reaches a point where both adults talk down to her with a condescending tone; she is better off not knowing something. It is at this moment that Harriet becomes aggressive and literally stands up for herself. In the first 4 panels Harriet has been seated, towered above by the adults but in panel 5 she stands up, she raises herself to their level and reaches out as if to tell her mother to back off.
And it is at this moment that Cowles' wonderful lettering becomes more than technique and enters the realm of storytelling. Renae tries to calm her daughter, to reach out by saying her name, but Cowles places this speech beneath Harriet’s hand and for the first time on this page the word balloon covers up part of a character. This helps to emphasis the fact the Harriet is distancing herself from Renae; she is putting up a barrier. Her outstretched arm indicated this and so does the word balloon hanging between mother and daughter.
Cowles also adds an extra dimension to this barrier building. Instead of using a straight balloon tale and ending it a great distance from Renae’s mouth, as he did in panel two with the Sheriff, he bends the tale around Harriet’s hand. This illustrates how hard it is for Renae’s words to reach her daughter, the speech has to curl around her out stretched hand.
This also highlights Harriet’s movement, like underlining a piece of text. This one speech balloon adds so much to the panel; emphasising the character relationships and enforcing physical movements.
The placement and design of the Speech Balloon’s are as important to a narrative as the artwork. They are more than a ‘necessary evil’ and when used correctly, as with Cowles work in The Dead Hand, lettering enhances the story telling. Everything on the page can be used to highlight, define or express character and plot: the creators of The Dead Hand know this and use everything at their disposal to tell the best story they can.
Issue 4 of The Dead Hand is published this week by Image Comics
Written by Kyle Higgins
Art by Stephen Mooney
Colours by Jordie Bellaire
Letters by Clayton Cowles
So I finally finished reading Motherlands from DC-Vertigo.
I know, it’s took me ages, the collected edition is probably nearly out but it has definitely been worth the wait. I picked up the last issue last week and sat down with all six issues for a read through. And I was enraptured from beginning to end.
The story is compelling, packed with outstanding characters, narrative twists and so much humour. This is a comic that will make you laugh out loud on several occasions. But for each LOL moment there is a scene which gets you in the gut or pulls at your heartstrings. It’s a surprisingly moving tale of a dysfunctional family hell bent on redemption through self-destruction.
However, the aspect of Motherlands I want to talk about here is not the brilliant scripting by Simon Spurrier or the energetic art or bold colour choices by Rachael Stott and Felipe Sobreiro; no, it’s Simon Bowland’s exceptional lettering.
I’ll be the first to admit that I have a lot to learn about the art of Lettering but thanks to numerous sources I’m beginning to appreciate the skills involved much more. This learning process is greatly enhanced when faced with such wonderful examples of the craft available in comics like Motherlands.
Page 1, issue 1 and straight away Bowland is using a very simple lettering technique to differentiate between people and machines: different coloured text. It may seem like an obvious thing to say, but making the text different colours helps the reader negotiate through the first page very easily. The blue text, belonging to the robotic teachers, are scene setters, informing the reader about the larger world that the story is set in while the standard black text forms the start of the human drama. Throughout this series the human drama and outlandish World building evolve side by side but never get in each other’s way. And this is illustrated on the very first page of the very first issue thanks to the lettering.
A few pages later and there is another instance of the lettering helping to illustrate aspects of the narrative. As two character’s leap from one String (dimension) to another they continue their abuse riddled conversation. The changing backgrounds drawn by Rachael Stott help to set each scene but it is the lettering that gives the reader the sense of pacing. Bowland chooses to use diagonal slashes in his speech balloons to literally slice through the conversation. It gives the impression that the speech has been cut off put also that it is picked up directly in the next balloon. The actual text shows that there is a bit missing as the sentences don’t make sense however the ‘slash’ effect on the balloons indicate that it is all part of the same speech, therefore the jumps from one panel to another are in quick succession.
Bowland often plays with the speech balloons to create emphasis for the text. One notable technique he adopts is to give the balloon a thick, red filled boarder. He uses this mostly to highlight emotional outbursts but occasionally these types of balloons are used to make part of the narrative stand out as being of particular importance.
One of my favourite, and subtler, effects Bowland uses on his balloons is to make the edge uneven, almost shaky. This often reflects the implied hurt feelings of certain characters and these are used during a character’s moment of weakness. As a rule, this creates a sense of empathy for a particular character which in turn forces the reader to question the following interactions between the cast. It casts a new light onto the situation.
Add to this changes in text size when characters are under particular types of stress, bold speech within balloons, split and linked speech balloons, captions, and sound effects; and you have a multitude of lettering techniques all of which assist the narrative in one way or another. In a number of comics, and I’ll hold my hand up and admit it, I barely notice the lettering unless it has a negative effect on my reading but in Motherlands Simon Bowland’s lettering standouts and adds so much to the reading experience it’s almost impossible not to notice his mark on the pages.
The rest of the creators do a good job as well.
You might still be able to pick up some of the individual issues but if not, the collection can’t be too far away.
Published by DC-Vertigo
Written by Simon Spurrier
Artist Rachael Stott
Colours by Felipe Sobreiro
Letters by Simon Bowland