Monday, March 15, 2010

Art Discussion Month 2010: Global Frequency #5 by Jon J Muth

[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 #5 ("Big Sky"). Written by Warren Ellis. Drawn by Jon J Muth. Coloured by David Baron.

Does Jon J Muth even pencil his stuff? I remember reading somewhere (I don't remember where exactly) that he just goes straight to inks and that's what it looks like here. Drawn with brushes. Maybe pens. Thin brushes along with thick ones? Christ, I'm over my head with this. I'm going to stick with brushes of varying sizes and a whole lot of ink.

In this issue, a small Norwegian town's populace has all gone a little crazy after everyone saw an angel when the town's church burnt down. Miranda Zero and a team of three go there and try to figure out what happened. There's a parapsychologist and a magician in the group. It's a smaller, quieter story.

Muth's art is somewhat ambient, somewhat mythic. This is a story of science and magic and religion and the human mind. You don't need someone who's tied to realism too much, though Muth does operate within a semi-realist style. People look like people, etc. etc. etc.

Because Muth is using such heavy inks, there's an automatic feeling of darkness, of the world being a little bit darker, a little bit not right. That's not to say that the art is dark, because it isn't (aside from the scenes that take place at night), there's just an extra amount of black ink with Muth's thicker lines.

Panels don't flow in the same way, standing alone a bit more. In some spots, he tries to overcome that by overlapping panels slightly, having them lead to the next more directly, but there's a very cinematic look to the way his panels don't flow. In one case, a page of three panels where Miranda Zero walks through the snow, some trees about, eventually winding up in the remains of the burnt church. It looks like three series of shots rather than three panels. In each panel, you can picture her walking before the camera changes to a different shot. Odd.

That painterly quality of his heavy brushstrokes conveys the environment, that barrenness... the page where we see the angel is stunning because it doesn't look right. It doesn't look great and holy, it looks unnatural.

He really excels in the two pages showing the aftermath of seeing the 'angel' on people as they look... broken. There's a certain despair in their body language and faces. A certain feeling of unease.

David Baron uses a lot more solid colours here, working in blocks a bit more. Drab colours often, even ones that could be bright are muted and dark. He gets the colour of snow right, too. Lots of texture and subtle differences in his work on the snow. Great looking.

Muth... his figures are almost like sketches. His people look distinct and individual. The magician, Alan Crowe, is lean and somewhat spooky... his people don't always look the exact same. There's some shifting of their features and hair a bit. They're stiff, too... but, this sounds weird, it works. Sometimes, what's normally a 'bad' thing works. Just the way it is.

Tomorrow: David Lloyd and Global Frequency #6.