Saturday, March 13, 2010

Art Discussion Month 2010: Global Frequency #3 by Steve Dillon

[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.]

Global Frequency #3 ("Invasive"). Written by Warren Ellis. Drawn by Steve Dillon. Coloured by David Baron.

Well, fuck me, I don't know if I'm ready to do Steve Dillon yet.

Probably the most difficult thing I've found in discussing art is truly conveying, in words, what an artist's style looks like. Most of you have seen a comic that Steve Dillon has drawn, so you know how unique and distinctive his look is. Show me any random panel of his and I know it's his work. His style is his own and I have no idea how to get it across in words.

But, hey, that's the challenge, isn't it?

Warren Ellis tailors this script to Dillon's strengths, which is in his characters, of depicting the subtleties of body language and facial expressions. While Dillon characters have automatically, immediately recognisable Dillon-drawn faces, they don't really all look alike. In this issue, some sort of alien (not UFO, but foreign, not what we're used to) thought idea (or meme) infects an area of a city. While there are numerous people with killing skills put on the Global Frequency here, the issue really focuses on Lana, an expert on the subject of memetic attacks. She has to, firstly, figure out exactly what the alien idea is and, then, how to destroy/kill it. And, if it can't, the area will need to be carpet-bombed to keep it from escaping its limited quarantine area. In the end, she does it by, basically, summing up human civilisation/existence through her conception of love. (I told you people before that Ellis is a sappy bastard at times, I know I have...)

One of the things that Dillon does in his art with facial expressions to communicate the character is in how he draws Mirando Zero. She's drawn fairly consistently throughout the series, but Dillon does something rather smart. Up until the day is actually saved, she always has a look of focus, determination... almost anger on her face. Tightened jaw, thing lips, eyebrows arched down, eyes squinting slightly. She's no-nonsense, a bit of a hardass... she looks kind of bitchy. And justifiably so since she has a limited time to save not just the infected people, but, possibly, all of humanity. She looks like the sort of person you want handling this. Her expression doesn't change much in the broader sense, the characteristics I mentioned show up all throughout. Except in one panel, after everyone has been cured of the alien thought: Lena has said that there is one side-effect (that everyone infected may now be bisexual since that's her concept of love/how she relates to the idea) and Mirando looks over at her and says, "I CAN LIVE WITH THAT." It's a close-up of her face, slightly turned away, and she looks relaxed and relieved, almost happy. Her eyes are wide, her eyebrows straight, only arching down at the outside, a hint of a smile coming across her face. Visually, Mirando Zero tells the reader how to feel: she looks focused, determined, conveying that this is serious business until it's not and she relaxes, telling us that we can, too.

That's what Steve Dillon does. He does that with other characters, but I'd just be repeating myself by discussing them.

Since an indication of the infection is bleeding from the eyes, Dillon draws our attention to eyes throughout, using that as a motif. While the alien thought is passed verbally, eyes are, as the saying goes, the window to the soul: what we see in a person's eyes help define them as people. So, Dillon makes sure that we see characters' eyes a lot, focusing on them, trying to give us a hint of what's inside of them. The eyes aren't the same throughout. Different colours, shapes... how much the lids are closed/squinting changes. Very good.

David Baron's colouring is a little paler here than in the previous issue. His skin tones are paler, I think. I don't know why, but Dillon-drawn characters always seem to have a certain skin tone to them. Maybe that's me seeing something that's not there. But, since this issue is about characters and being able to see everything, Baron's colours are crisper than usual, particularly with regards to the characters. They're more defined and separated from the backgrounds.

Tomorrow: Roy Allan Martinez and Global Frequency #4.