When a creator wants to show off a character’s inner thinking there a number of techniques they can employ. A conversation between characters, an inner monologue or even the once popular Thought Bubbles which were a very simply way for writers to get their message across. But the art work can play just as an important role in expressing emotional states.
Ryan Kelly is an impressive, expressive artist who has worked on a number of titles, imbuing the narrative with subtle emotional context.
In the following page from Cry Havoc, issue 2, Kelly uses detailed visual language to highlight the inner turmoil of the central character, Louise Canton.
In the first half of the page, Lou and her girlfriend Sam are having an argument. Lou had behaved badly the night before and she has woken to face the consequences in the form of an angry Sam. Kelly wants to express the division between the two characters as Lou’s life is slipping out of her control. She feels as though she is starting to lose the things that are important in her life and Kelly illustrates the start of that divide in the panels below.
The first row doesn’t even feature Lou. The two panels are from her point of view so that the audience is seeing what she is seeing, which in the case of panel one is nothing at all. The speech from Sam floats in the blackness, almost unconnected to anything. The language is unfriendly which makes the pure black panel all the more uncomfortable. This is followed by the yelling face of Sam. This row sets the scene and the audience is witnessing it first hand, through the eyes of Lou. Already a certain distance has been created between us, the audience, Lou and Sam.
This is followed up in the third, page wide panel. Now Lou is the central character with everything in the panel designed to lead your attention to her. She is sat in a defensive position on the bed, her arm down in front of her like a barrier. She is being guarded and this adds to the feeling of distance. Sam is leaving the panel on the left, only partially visible to heighten the sense that she is walking away, her arm also acting as a barrier between them. Add to this mix the positioning of the speech bubbles, down the centre of the panel, between the two characters, and you have an image full of barriers between the two women. There is physical distance on the page, there are anatomical barriers and then there is a verbal wall. All of these separate Lou and Sam, highlighting the argument that the central character has woken up in and reflecting her inner fears that she is losing aspects of her normal life.
The separation of the characters is followed up in the fourth panel. This is another long shot of their home. This time, Lou is in the foreground and Sam in the background. Sam is physically distant, the reader can see her entire body which contrasts the view of Lou, who is again using her arm as a barrier between herself and her girlfriend. The devastation in the flat works as a visual signifier to illustrate the relationship and also, in conjunction with the wall in the background, as another barrier between the two characters.
The top two thirds of this page has a barrier that runs down the middle, firstly a gutter separating panels, then a wall of speech bubbles and finally, detritus from the previous night. At each point the two characters find themselves on opposite sides of these barriers. The art succinctly illustrates that this is a relationship in trouble. Even without the text on the page, the reader can tell that not everything is going well for this couple.
The final panel on the page not only reflects the destruction from the panel above but also hammers home the point that it is Lou’s lycanthropy that is the cause of the problems displayed on the page. By being the only panel on the page that doesn’t have the central barrier, it highlights the importance of the image; that of Lou as a wolf. This acts like a punctuation to the argument above. The distance, the destruction, it is all caused by the creature at the bottom of the page.
The narrative requires a transitional stage for Lou as her life is changed by becoming a werewolf and Ryan Kelly expresses that perfectly across this single page.
Cry Havoc was written by Simon Spurrier
Art by Ryan Kelly
Colours (in this section) by Nick Filardi
Published by Image Comics
Full page marking the barriers between the two women from the top of the page to the bottom.
Life long comic book reader, collector, and reviewer.