I came to the work of Bastien Vivès through the current adventure series Last Man, in which he and two other collaborators blend Japanese and European influences to thrilling effect. I wrote about Last Man in this newsletter a few months ago.
Vivès' understated solo graphic novel Polina focuses on the gradual artistic development of a Russian ballet dancer. We first see Polina at the age of six, and through vignettes of her life we watch as she grows from a girl into a woman, and from a fledgling ballerina into an artist with vision of her own.
In Polina, Vivès uses thin pen lines and thick brushstrokes to evoke minimalist emotion and graceful movement. The entire book is in black and white with a single graytone. It's beautiful to look at, and his drawing style allows the reader to linger on compositions when appropriate and fly through faster moments.
His graphic novel A Taste of Chlorine is vibrantly colored, and it looks like the initial line art was mostly done in pencil and a bit of ink. Almost the entire minimalist story takes place in a swimming pool, and Vivès' technique for differentiating between above and below the water by using dark colors and no line art underwater is especially effective. If I do a color comic that involves a body of water, I'll look to A Taste of Chlorine for advice, so to speak.
In both works, Vivès deftly communicates behavior, gesture, fluid movement, and body language. (The Last Man series showcases these skills as well.) I'm eager to read the rest of the Last Man series and whatever comics Vivès does after that.
The Longest Day of the Future is a dialogue-free sci-fi graphic novel by Argentine cartoonist Lucas Varela. The subdued but full-feeling color palette reminds me of Chris Ware's work (as well as books published by Nobrow, and European comics in general).
The linework also reminds me of Ware, though Varela's more exaggerated with his figures. The clean lines leave no room for mistakes, and I didn't notice any — Varela's stroke is smooth and confident.
His frequent use of an eight panel grid (two across, four down — sometimes pages will combine panel areas without breaking this underlying structure) keeps the rhythm tight, which helps with the fluidity of action bits and in his deadpan delivery of dark humor. His pantomime skill is impressive, with his use of body language again reminding me of Ware, plus Norwegian cartoonist Jason.
And Varela's satirical content, illustrating a world in which two dueling corporations run absolutely everything, is a timely bit of social commentary as we struggle under the weight of capitalist oppressors and "us vs. them" binary thinking. But don't get me started on that..!
My own sci-fi comic, Flesh Machine, continues sneaking social commentary into a romantic war story in black, white, and grays this week at michaelavolio.com. There you can read the whole comic so far.
And! You can support my comics work with a monthly pledge at Patreon. The more money I make making comics, the more comics I can make!
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