In 2015 the brilliant new Sci-Fi comic RunLoveKill was released by Image Comics. Written by Jon Tsuei and illustrated by Eric Canete, the story followed Rain as she attempted to leave a futuristic city before the impending lock down.
From the very beginning there is a cinematic feel to the visuals and the narration. The first 11 pages are virtually text free, with only the ‘TIC TIC’ sound effect of a metronome to break the silence however the tone and pacing for the four-part series is laid out in those 11 pages.
It starts very slowly on the first page. A silent, unmoving metronome is spotlighted in the first panel. It is like an intake of breath, the peace before the storm. The panel is long, stretching from the left of the page to the right. The first 8 pages of the comic are split into panels which are shaped like this, like the screen in a cinema. It makes a bold statement about how Tsuei and Canete view the Sci-Fi world they have created; it is a wide, encompassing place. It has scope and space for a lot of action.
The cinematic feel continues across the first page with the interjection of ‘title card’. “Image Comics Presents” and “A Jon Tsuei, Eric Canete & Mafufo/Olea Production” split the first movements of the metronome like the opening of a movie. And as the arm begins to swing back and forth the Tic Tic sound first appears. It is the Tic Tic sound that gives the final panel of the page it’s sense of time. In the previous panels, nothing was happening, nothing was moving, they were moments in time. When the metronome begins to tic, the sound effect signifies that the panel represents a number of seconds, a stead rhythm has begun.
Onto the second page, with that steady momentum entrenched, you are faced with two distinct time periods; distinguished by Leonard Olea’s colouring. The past is in blue and the future in orange.
In the past Rain is giving a musical performance, on stage and under spotlights. These panels are emotionally charged and intimate. This is achieved by isolating the character from everything else, the white lights block out most of the scenery and there are no other characters. A number of close up panels bring the reader into Rain’s personal space and show the emotion on her face.
The future is a high octane chase sequence with a number of long shots and blurred movements. The attention is focused on Rain’s movements as she attempts to avoid her pursuers before engaging them. It is a fast paced sequence but it measures against the Tic Tic of the metronome.
As the action hots up in the future, the reader begins to inject an upbeat tempo onto the music in the past. Rain appears to be playing with more vigour, the shots of her and her double bass are packed with more movement and speed, mirroring the athletics of the future Rain.
Then at the bottom of page 7 a single dart strikes Rain’s leg. It happens central to the panel and the background is a murky yellow, as if the fire and energy of the previous panels has been used up. Putting this panel at the bottom of this page creates a pause in the story, a moment of reflection. The reader, like the characters, all hold their breath for a brief moment.
Page 8 is slower because of this pause, the pacing has been cut back and Rain takes a slow decent from the wall. After the building tempo of the previous pages, these three panels seem to be in slow motion, as quiet as is indicated by the lack of speech or sound. Panel 4 shows Rain in the past, her bow away from her instrument; the music has stopped. That Tic Tic that was in the reader’s head for the last 7 pages has ended. The artists have created a moment of reflection and managed to add a layer of silence to an already silent panel. This isn’t just lack of speech; this is a lack of sound.
The next page changes again. The Tic Tic is back and the panels have changed from the previous uniformity. Rain has fallen into the ocean, the colours have become blue and green, even though we know that this is the future, which we have up to this point associated with an orange pallet. By making these changes the creators have reasserted the initial level of pacing. The scene has played out, building from page one to a crescendo that resulted in pure silence, and now reset so that we know what the rhythm is going to be for the next few pages. It is also a precursor for the rhythm of the first four issues.
In the opening of the comic Tsuei and Canete have laid out the pacing of the comic. They have let the reader know what the tempo of the story is going to be and as a result have let the reader know what to expect over the coming issues. It is a magnificent opening to the comic, cinematic in style and substance, and a pleasure to read.