Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Art Discussion Month: Simon Spector #1 by Jacen Burrows

[Continuing Art Discussion Month 2010. 31 days, 31 artists, a whole lot of discussion. The explanation behind my choice of comics and the archive can be found here.]

Simon Spector #1. Written by Warren Ellis. Drawn by Jacen Burrows.

Jacen Burrows was the only artist who had worked with Warren Ellis prior to the Apparat books. He hasn't actually worked with him since except doing covers for some of his books. Funny that.

Unlike previous work by Burrows, there are no tones, no shading. It's all strict black and white, which gives his art a different look. It's a lot more empty and spaceous than normal. He purposefully operates in those heavy contrasts here.

Simon Spector is your Doc Savage type. An old nemesis has kidnapped a man to get his attention. He must rescue the man and kill the nemesis. He does this by taking a small pill that makes his brain work faster and better. The transformation he undergoes after taking the pill is some of Burrows's best work. He's not a man with especially kind eyes before, but the crazy look in his eyes after is fantastic.

The visualisation of Spector talking and thinking his way to his nemesis is handled perfectly visually in three pages. The first page has three panels of equal size, all taking up a third of the page, stretched right across. We see Spector from the shoulders up, he tilted, looking off to his left/our right. He never moves, but the backgrounds change as he goes from a wide map to a closer one to a specific view of an area. On the second page, it's again divided into three tiers, the top two with two panels each, the bottom one with a page-wide panel. The first four panels are all profile views of Spector, all the exact same, again with shifting backgrounds to match up with what he saying. The final one shows him standing, cars speeding behind him, him looking badass and cool as he says, "YOU'RE INSANE AND I'M SUPERSANE. / I ALWAYS THINK FASTER THAN YOU." The third page has six panels, two per tier (notice how it went from three to four to six), we see Spector's head from just below the chin to partway up his forehead. His head is on the left-hand side of the panel and we only see half of it. Heavy shadows, eyes mostly white except for a purposeful pupil dot. Again, backgrounds change. The shadows get heavier as we progress, and we get closer to Spector, leading to the fourth page where it switches to a splash, pulled away from Spector, looking down on him, him facing away from us... he's in his library/study/thinking room, books scattered on the floor, computers and all sorts of other tech around, the whole thing arranged in a circle. Very few shadows, very white: the clarity of knowing where his prey is. He's figured it out. He has seen the light.

Burrows's style leans towards realism with a European influence in the faces. He uses clean, thin lines, but with a lot of shadows in this issue. A fight later takes places mostly in a dark room and allows Burrows to play with light and shadows quite a bit. The fight is choreographed wonderfully, using these big meat hooks hanging from the ceiling. Very interesting visual with Spector in his white suit fighting this roided out moron, using the hooks for leverage and as weapons, unless he uses brass knuckles with these big spiked claws on them to end the fight.

The confrontation with Christos (the bad guy) is brief and done well. Christos is confined to a wheelchair, faced scarred to shit, computer speaking for him, gun trained at the kidnapped man (the hand holding the gun the only part of his body he can control). It's a stand-off that concludes with Spector shooting him in the head. Great comic timing by Ellis and Burrows as Christos even says "I. MEAN. WHAT. ELSE. CAN. YOU. DO. QUESTION MARK. / SHOOT. A. PARALYZED. CRIPPLE. IN. HIS. WHEELCHAIR. QUESTION MARK." and Spector responds (as he look straight him, his gun held out, head lowered slightly so his eyes are focused just below his brow) "WELL, YEAH." We then see this shot of Christos's face that is oddly funny as he looks stunned despite his face not looking any different than before. He can't move his face or change his expression, but it still looks like he's thinking "oh shit" before the next panel where his head explodes.

There are two main thrusts to this comic: Spector finding Christos by thinking and the fight with the meathooks. One goes from light to dark to light, a pattern the other one follows somewhat. However, Burrows really uses these big, broad backgrounds, endless whites and blacks it seems. His art has a real sense of space and scope here. It's an approach I haven't seen him use elsewhere.

And so concludes the Apparat Singles Club. Tomorrow, we kick off twelve days of Global Frequency with Garry Leach.