Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Art Discussion Month 2010: Global Frequency #6 by David Lloyd

[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 #6 ("The Run"). Written by Warren Ellis. Drawn by David Lloyd. Coloured by David Baron.

Global Frequency 6 is all laid out in my head: should have the script out to David Lloyd in a week or so. It's a chase story, in London. A hungover 22-year-old Pakistani girl in Soho is the only Global Frequency agent close enough to stop a particularly nasty bomb going off on the Embankment. And she can't drive, and she's unarmed. All she can do is run. And half the city's closed off due to a Royal appearance. It's fun. And I've been going through David's earlier work to look for the tricks he uses to denote speed. There's a wonderful little thing he does in V for Vendetta. The batard Almond has a gun on V. He fires, but the gun's defective. And V goes at him with a knife. And in that panel, David tips the angle, so that V is at the top of the panel on the right, and Almond is in the lower left, so that V absolutely surges towards him, sudden vertiginous motion. It's simple and subtle, but it works amazingly.

That's from Warren Ellis's August 10, 2002 Bad Signal. It serves two purposes: tells you the plot and introduces a bit about David Lloyd's art here. What Ellis doesn't mention is that Sita, the Pakistani girl, practices parkour, which is how she runs through London: through and over buildings, using the environment to push her forward. This issue relies on the art quite a bit.

One way that Lloyd communicates motion and speed is through the shadows on buildings and surfaces surrounding Sita. They're not solid shadows, they're done with thin lines, sometimes meeting in a solid spot, but mostly just parallel thin lines. Not quite motion lines, but not far off either. They work as shadows and as speed lines. Nice little trick.

Lloyd's line work is thicker than you'd expect for a speed-heavy issue, but there it is. Sita, often depicted at a bit of a distance, so we can see her in her environment, is drawn in heavy blacks. Thick lines, giving her a sense of force and weight, communicating how hard this is. While she's thin and in shape, what she's doing is leaping off buildings and over cars and running like hell, and, fuck, that's almost certainly one of the most physically taxing things you could do. By depicting her and her environment with thicker lines, that sense of the physicality of it comes through. She's not floating through the air like a light nothing.

Wisely, most of the time, Sita is running left to right. She's running with the direction we read, but she's also running from page to page, throughout the comic. If she were going the other way, it wouldn't work. We need to go with her as she takes us with her.

Near the end of the issue, Sita arrives the Eye of London where the person with the bomb is and has to climb the fucking thing. Lovely moment where there's a little girl with her family, of Indian or Pakistani descent, and she says "DADDY, LOOK. / SPIDERMAN'S A GIRL. AND SHE'S JUST LIKE US. / COOL." Lloyd does this scene very well, aided ably by David Baron, with five panels laid atop a backdrop of the Eye. In the first panel, Sita is on her way up and, in the background, we see the girl in the crowded pod, standing out because of her red clothes. In the second panel, we get a full-body shot of the girl where she speaks the above dialogue. Then, we switch perspective so we're behind the girl and just at the top of the panel, over her shoulder, we barely see Sita. In the fourth panel, we close in on Sita as she winks at the little girl. Lovely little moment.

The final scene where she breaks into the pod with the bomber is a flurry of action as she breaks the window with this little glass-breaking hammer, hitting it over and over again. Eventually, she breaks the glass, is forced to kill the guy, drenches the biological bomb with some liquid and has to dive into the fucking Thames to put enough pressure on the case to keep the biological agent from escaping. Lloyd stays pretty close to Sita throughout this, except when she dives off the Eye and, then, he pulls back, showing us how crazy this is.

What makes the art work so well in this issue is how Lloyd moves us forward while also doing everything he can to show how insane and tiring this is for Sita. Capturing both of those things is quite difficult and, honestly, is not something most artists would do.

Tomorrow, it's Global Frequency #7 and Simon Bisley.