Written by: Ryan K Lindsay
Art by: ADVANCE REVIEW: Negative Space #3
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Negative Space has received copious amounts of well deserved praise and has raised the bar for the depth of emotion and characterisation that can be achieved by a mini series. The story follows the exploits of Guy, a gay American Indian on the verge of suicide, as he is wound up in a war against a hidden race of beings that feed on negative emotions called the Evorah. Fellow We The Nerdy writer, Josh McCullough summed up the series brilliantly as, ‘a comic I haven’t been able to stop thinking about, despite only 2 issues having been released.’ If you haven’t been following this story so far I heartily recommend you try to at least track down a copy of the first issue, which I believe will stand as one of the best issues released for a long time.
Issue three begins with Guy and Beta having just successfully infiltrated the Evorah’s museum/ church dedicated to humanity’s low points. From there, the book mainly revolves around the two carrying out the plan to have Guy charge a bomb with his happiness (a hard task for someone in the midst of severe depression to say the least).
The first thing that struck me about this issue was the return of Guy’s inner monologue which was mostly absent in the second issue, and greatly missed. Guy’s thoughts and speech throughout the book are one of my favourite facets of this series. They bring real heart to a character that you are sure to identify with if you’ve ever doubted yourself and, just as importantly, do a fantastic job of showing a human perspective on an utterly alien environment and situation, highlighting how wrong certain things are. A line in particular stands out for me when I think of this and it’s Guy’s reaction to being ordered around by Beta, “Head down, do as I’m told, smile all the way down. This is the gig I’ve trained my whole life for.” It’s a very simple line and requires very insight to bring out the wealth of emotion that is there, and moments like that are the brilliance of Lindsay’s writing.
One thing I found lacking with issue two was the sudden change in pacing. Issue one was a slow set up which took its time with showing off Guy’s character while the following issue suddenly sped things up a few knots in order to get the plot rolling and dump some necessary exposition on us. It was, as I said at the time, a necessary evil and I wouldn’t have it any other way but the sudden change did make issue two, by itself, a less enjoyable read. This issue finds a happy medium between the two, giving time equally to furthering both Guy’s character arc and the plot, and almost every frame is absolutely vital to delivering the punch of emotion that I fell in love with this series for. This slower progression works brilliantly for the first half of the book when Guy and Beta are sneaking through the museum/ church as it brings an unearthly tense atmosphere, filled with dread, across to the reader that which, when coupled with Guy’s monologue, really shows off the sense of horror that this series is capable of producing.
The last thing I’d like to say about the writing of this book is Lindsay’s ability to subvert expectations, such as the resistance movement against the Evorah not knowing/ caring about Guy’s mental state and their military persistence on happiness that makes them more the polar opposite of the Evorah and not so much as black and white as ‘the good guys‘.
The writing of Negative Space is of top quality but it must be said that when it is combined with Owen Gieni’s art the finished product is greater than the sum of its parts. What makes Gieni’s art come to life for me can be summed up in three headings:
- framing and positioning of characters
- backgrounds and details
Plenty has already been said in previous reviews about what makes Gieni’s style so special. It is unique into and of itself, it does not glamorise or gloss over flaws that the human face or environments may have but rather shows them in an honest, if slightly cartoonish manner. The broad use of muted tones of colour do well to bring about a dreary setting and is capable of making even homely setting appear alien. Gieni’s character design goes beyond expectations in its variety and although it doesn’t come into play much in this issue, a new creature is shown whose description falls under the Lovecraftian category of ‘that which induced such a horror I cannot begin to recount’.
Framing and Positioning of Characters
With such a slow pace of progression, Gieni has his work cut out for him in order to make frames interesting to look at and not just read. Gieni carries this out through several methods from having scenes drawn from angles where the characters aren’t the main focus, drawing our eyes instead to patrolling Evorah or the bizarre structure that they are within, to having characters come out of the frame itself, which I’ve always felt brings a nice sense of variety and dynamic movement when used correctly. Another trope that can be seen frame to frame is characters obstructing the view of each other, which brings across a good sense of space but most notable is the frequent use of Beta’s tentacles for this as they can easily fill up what would otherwise have been a boring frame and frequently remind us of the obvious, that Beta is not human.
Backgrounds and Details
Gieni is capable of creating some awe-inspiring backdrops and this entire issue should be held up as a testament to this. The level of detail that goes into creating the Evorah’s museum/ church alone is mind boggling, with shelves and walls being deliberately not-quite-straight and made of a material I am utterly unsure of bringing about the otherworldly nature of the place brilliantly. Gieni uses pitch black backgrounds every so often, due to how deep underwater our characters are, but with scatterings of dark blue these don’t feel dull, they feel oppressive. Some items that are on display are quite amazing, with the issue opening of a shot of what I assume to be Van Gogh’s ear and a hidden nod to the Disney cartoon show, Gravity Falls.
I have contained most of my comments to the first two thirds of the book so as to avoid spoiling major plot points but the remainder is a continuation of the high quality i have described here. Negative Space issue three barrels out of the gate and with a dense atmosphere and memorable characterisation, immediately proves to me that Negative Space will be my top series of 2016 as it was 2015.