Oct 11, 2015

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 229: Alpha Flight v.1 #6, January 1984


Today's issue of Alpha Flight was chilling, and not just because much of it was set during a blizzard. As I write this post, I look out my window onto the park behind the house, and the trees are bare. Just last week they were a beautiful, golden yellow, but the winds from the mountains and the winds from the prairies have done their Autumn job, and the leaves cover the ground now. Snow isn't too far off, and living in Calgary, one comes to fear the Winter, just a little. It's not necessarily that the weather is bad, but it lasts for a long, long time, often until mid-May, by which time one is ready to pick up and move somewhere where it will never snow again.

And then, for some reason, we stay.

A large portion of this comic plays on that old joke where you show someone a canvas you've painted all white, or an empty sheet of paper that you've ostensibly claimed as artwork, and when someone looks at you questioningly, you tell them it's a polar bear in a snowstorm. About 6 pages of this issue are nothing but whiteness enclosed by panel borders. Voices issue from the depths of the blank, caption boxes tell us what's going on behind the snow. I'd almost think it was lazy storytelling, until I realized that the shapes of the panels, the specific places within those panels that voices issue from, these are demonstrating, through that spatio-topic mechanism that Groensteen talks about, the way that action can be communicated by the comics page. I've seen examples of "silent" comics, in that one tells the story without words, relying on the visual language of the form. This is one of the few times that I've see the visual art removed from the page, so that the story has to rely on the verbal and technical aspects of the form.

It's actually quite brilliant, and I think it may well be a comic worth some real critical attention, as far as our formal criticism goes.

Okay, John Byrne. I haven't quite forgiven you for Doom Patrol, but I'll grant you this: you're pretty good at what you do.

Caught up! It was nice to have a couple of days off from blogging, but I did feel guilty, and I'm glad to be back to it now. See you tomorrow!

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