One thing I notice a lot of in comics is the visual isolation of a central character. When a narrative requires the reader to understand that said character is becoming ostracised from their peers for one reason or another a number of different visual techniques can be employed. It happens a lot in comics: see Hi Fi Fight Club issue 2 as an example where the entire issue is about segregating the central character in various ways and for various reasons. There are some fine examples in Postal where the locals of Eden are set apart from interlopers. However, in issue 3 of Sisters Of Sorrow, the artist, Hyeonjin Kim, uses three different techniques on a single page to isolate one.
Sisters Of Sorrow is a revenge driven, violent vigilante story written by Kurt Sutter and Courtney Alameda. The four central women of the story bond together when they start killing those they believe have crossed the line but not all of them have the same motivation for ‘the mission’. Misha soon decides she doesn’t want to be a party to it; the consequences of their actions play on her mind but the others refuse to listen to her.
On the opening page of issue 3, Misha is on her way to meet the other women at their apartment. The vigilante actions have just made the prime time and Misha has realised that she hasn’t got the same view of the ‘mission’ as the others. Her moral sense is forcing her to become an outsider from the group.
The first panel of the page immediately illustrates the gulf between the women despite the fact that Misha is on her own; in fact, the very nature of her isolation requires her to be on her own in this scene. In this panel she stands, by herself, at the far right of the panel talking to herself. The speech indicates that she is going to visit the other three so that the reader can surmise that at the end of the corridor, in the other room, the three women are waiting for Misha. There is an empty gulf between Misha and that room. The panel contains a large expanse of wall, an alcove and a door to another room. Misha has a long walk to get from her current position to that slightly open door. Without even showing her interactions with the others, the image portrays the distance that has formed between them.
That slightly open door is the basis for the second instance of isolation on this page. In panel three the reader is behind Misha as she approaches the door. Despite taking up nearly half of the panel, Misha is dominated by the door. It sits central to the panel and it’s black colouring gives it a heavy presence in the scene. The thin strip of light coming from beyond is a sickly green colour and is therefore not at all inviting. Nothing about the doorway is welcoming. It is smaller, thanks to perspective, than Misha and reflects how difficult it is going to be for her to go through it. The reader also has no desire to venture any further. The partially open door has exactly the same effect as the gulf of a corridor in panel one. Misha is on the outside looking in and appears to be in no rush to close that gap.
Whereas these two panels help to distance Misha from the situation, the next panel isolates her directly from her friends. Firstly; the angle of the image is slightly off, tilted to the right, which causes the reader to instantly recognise that there is something not right about the scene. The characters are then separated psychically by a table in the foreground and a pile of shadowy clothes in the mid ground. Misha is stood defiantly in the background framed by the blackness behind her. It’s as if she is not part of the room or welcomed by its occupants.
Each panel on the page has the deliberate purpose of creating a distance between Misha and the others, a physical and moral gulf that the reader can identify immediately. Sutter and Alameda want to create an uncomfortable tension between the characters and Kim does this brilliantly in these few panels.
Sisters of Sorrow is published by Boom! Studios. It was written by Kurt Sutter and Courtney Alameda, illustrated by Hyeonjin Kim and Coloured by Jean-Paul Csuka
Life long comic book reader, collector, and reviewer.