mapping comics round 001

This is a incredibly successful page of comics. Career-best work from David Aja; understated and clean, with a smooth integration of multiple disparate influences, from old-school 2D brawlers to Chris "Building Stories" Ware. But most worthy of initial examination is the fact that Aja sticks to the basic rules of pictorial composition notably explicated by Frank Santoro in his Layout Workbook and ComicsComics posts (roll your mouse over the page above to see).

Aja's figures and iconograms align to the live areas of the near 1:1½ ratio rectangle, with the two overlapping circles of the vesica piscis in almost perfect tension with each other. Aligning your layout to the page harmonics is just one thing though, and Aja seems to have long integrated the instinct towards the natural live areas on the page into his own layout style.

The more interesting and impressive feat to me is that the rules of composition are well-stuck-to while Aja also deftly recalls Streets of Rage, Turtles in Time, X-Men the arcade game and more, and very clearly getting his little moment of Ware in there as well. 

It is a strange juxtaposition indeed, Ware and The Brawler. The two connected here by an unseen, in-your-head-only moment of lightning-fast action. We're taken from the play-acting-violence of video-game-childhood to a cold, quiet, reflective state of adulthood separated by a never-ending yet-still-so-very-brief moment of stunning pain.

What a fuckin' page. 

Aja codes so much into this thing, that you could go super-deep into the examination of just about every element present here. The broken perspective in the middle tier to evoke the brawler, the vast slowing of the rhythm at the end of the page, the character-select-like headshots at the top, which through their very design imply the usual henchman advantage of numbers. You could talk at length about the numerous ways Aja manages to make the natural page geometry work to his advantage, you could talk about exactly how and why the broken perspective and lack of flat blacks in the middle tier recalls not only brawlers but Chris Ware's own diagrammatic approach to image-making. 

There's even something to be said for Aja's particular stylistic approach; his own more realistically rendered style seen elsewhere in the series would outright break the effect, here. He knows when and how to pare it back.

A great goddamn page of super-comics.

Would that they were all so good.

written with many thanks to David Aja and
with many apologies to Frank Santoro

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