One of the most impressive things about Steve Niles’ re-telling of the original 30 Days of Night is Brad Simpson’s use of colour to drive the atmosphere and the action from one page to the next. Throughout the three issues so far available he has adapted a simple colour motif to represent various elements of the story, however, the results are extremely affective.
While the narrative leads the reader through the story and the art gives the reader instantly recognisable characters and settings to become attached too, it is the colour work that gives each scene emphasis. It is the bold colour contrasts which give the comic it’s bite.
Take for example the opening sequence from issue 3.
The reader is drawn into the action on the first page as the panels change from a long a shot to closer character shots. For the most part the page has a cold, unwelcoming feel. And the majority of the characters have the same colouring, indicating the same coldness as the landscape. All except Gus who wears a red jacket and hat, making him the centre of the reader’s focus. On the page our eye is drawn Gus because of this colour difference. It also helps to navigate the page, Gus’ run for survival is clearly marked on the page by his positioning within each panel but also by the panels he is in. His movement creates a triangle shape that is easy to follow. The tip of this triangle, Gus in panel 2, also highlights the blood red sky in the background; an ominous sign of what’s to come.
As the reader moves on to page two, the amount of red in the panels increases, just like the amount of danger Gus is in. Add to this the colouring of Walt’s clothing, the same as Gus’, and you have a classic example of mis-direction. Walt is portrayed the same as Gus therefore the reader unconsciously makes a positive connection between the two.
But as soon as we turn to the next page we know that something is amiss. The silence in the first two panels and the dark red sky warn us of danger so the ‘surprise’ reveal that Walt is a vampire isn’t that much of a shock. We have been prepared. But the moment is not diminished because it is in the final panel of page 3 which is the focus of this introduction. The fact that the vampires were coming is not a major surprise to the reader but the savagery of the vampire attack is the point that Niles wants to make. That final panel is soaked in red so that even the snowy ground is tainted with an unpleasant pink hue. Walt’s back saves the reader from the actual violence but the horror is as plain as the fangs in Walt’s mouth. Gus’ end was foreshadowed from page one by the bloody sky behind him and he was bound to his fate by the colour on his hat and jacket. He couldn’t escape it any more than he could run away from the clothes he was wearing.
Simpson’s colouring works on several levels in this opening scene. It acts as atmospheric builder, narrative leader and emphasis for the horror. Without it the story still flows but it would be lacking the punch and the tone.
30 Days Of Night is published by IDW Publishing
Written by Steve Niles
Art by Piotr Kowalski
Colour by Brad Simpson