Robot 6

Your Wednesday Sequence 22 | Eduardo Risso

Jonny Double #2 (1998), page 17 panels 1-5.  Eduardo Risso.

The fight scene is like a litmus test for cartoonists.  Of all the medium’s conventions, only the gag strip comes close to the sheer amount of depiction fighting has been given in comics.  Like the gag, most good artists can choreograph one effectively.  What’s much more difficult and much more rare is a fight that’s both blocked out well and unique looking.  Unlike gags, however, the fight scene is a very specific thing: impact shots of multiple human figures in motion, negotiating one another’s presence in physical space.  Again, just the number of times people fighting have been drawn into sequenced panels over the past century-plus of comics means it can be tough to find an acme for it that’s truly one’s own, completely untouched by anyone else.

So tough, in fact, that I don’t feel 100 percent comfortable declaring this Eduardo Risso sequence to be completely his own.  Though I’ve read my fair share of comics and never seen anything like it, the possibility always exists that somewhere in some moldering Toth back issue or barely-distributed Tim Vigil zine, the same exact route was taken into showing the same actions.  That said, it’s a great little piece of comics, and Risso bangs it out in a high style well worth examining regardless of its ultimate individuality.

Most notably, this is an action scene without any impact in the usual manner.  Though there are two satisfyingly violent shots banged out in quick succession, neither of them is particularly vicious.  In panel two, Risso freezes the frame right at the moment of impact, the tiny droplets of sprayed blood all that indicates the speed and force of the action depicted in the drawing.  Panel four is impact driven right up to the border of abstraction, a few spurts of black that give little to no clue as to their subject by themselves, driving readers right into the next panel to make sure what they think happened actually did.

Even though there’s not much typical Kirby/Ditko  action storytelling going on here, there’s still no shortage of advanced cartooning mechanics being thrown down.  Rather than illustrate his impacts with starbursts and speed lines and exaggerated figure posings, Risso goes much subtler.  It’s the transition between the first two panels that really nails down the action, the near 180-degree rotation of the head in its closely cropped frame, terminating in the perfectly captured grimace of a man whose nose has just been broken.  Similarly, the fingers slammed in the car door are accompanied by a shift all the way across the color wheel from a dominant blue to a dominant yellow, a flare-up so bright that it throws the digits into sharp relief, dropping thick slashes of shadow behind them.  It’s the same yellow that’s bled into the agonized face that provides a blaring exclamation point for the sequence in panel five, linking the two panels beautifully despite their lack of the same angle or size.

All these choices indicate a highly individual approach to this particular fight scene.  Rather than focusing on the action, Risso zeroes in on the pain, isolating the moments of greatest physical shock and blowing them up so deftly that they rival any more conventional punching shot.  His expert use of such an unwieldy prop, a parked car, as the instrument of violence is just icing on the cake.  As I said before, it’s impossible to erase out the thought that someone, somewhere might have done an action scene like this before Risso — but it’s just about certain that they didn’t do it this well.

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Comments

8 Comments

I love Risso’s work, and this is a perfect example why. The nuances of his work are a joy for me to read every time. Thanks for sharing this!

FlashPoint – Batman: Vengeance series is, I believe, the most shocking brute and sad Batman story in recent memory!
Do you think our dear 75 years old DC universe would “Flashed” before your eyes onto one of the DC Multi-verse forever?

Ooh, dirty swear words on the front page!

Also: you spelled “Wednesday” wrong

-B

The name “Risso” has overshadowed all my old favorites (Jim Lee, Bisley, Kelley Jones, Jae Lee) over the past few years. After the 100 Bullets epic which was as close to a life changing experience for me since I was reading Batman and Richie Rich as a kid, I back tracked his portfolio to Vampire Boy and found the same raw, silent (no speed lines / sound effects) action sequences and oddities. Logon, Broken City, Borderline, whatever Eduardo Risso touches is comic gold. He has been criticized as being a lazy artist in as much as he lacks detail. I find this the beauty of his work. Conveying a clear message with the minimal of line. More for the imagination, less hype, a comic artist out of the box!!!

Johnny Double is a great read. Picked it up years back when I started enjoyed 100 Bullets (and Azzarello’s Hellblazer).

Any fans of both should own this!

There was one scene opening an issue of 100 Bullets where Risso gave us a point of view from inside an ashtray looking out and up at the characters in the room. Definitely one of the coolest (and most memorable) ways of opening a scene. For some reason that’s what really made me sit up and pay attention to his artwork.

When you pull partial sequences out of context and then hyper-focus on them, I think you run the risk of seeing a lot less than Risso is putting into it. And Risso puts a lot into his pages.

“There’s not much typical Kirby/Ditko action storytelling” –Your unique semantics are always difficult to pin down… but I’ll venture to say there’s a lot of storytelling being expressed beyond pain and brutality. There’s a relentlessness expressed full scene when it’s read in full. For a bit of context, just look at the FULL page:

http://i1212.photobucket.com/albums/cc457/bmontclare/JD47.jpg

Johnny Double is ambushed. In your fragment: he’s given a moment’s breath, but before he can identify his attacker, he’s smashed. Then he gets another too-brief breather, again not enough to see who’s attacking him before his hand gets smashed. Hand and face in 1 and 3 blatantly telegraphing the impacts in 2 and 4 respectively. In the second half (aside from seeing a heavy handed layout that mirror the first half), you see the relentlessness broken. When a beat is added (panel 7) between the now established rythm of cause (panel 6) and effect (panel 8), Double is finally breaking the pattern, and as a result changing his immediate fortune. That kind of stuff is planned.

And credit where credit is due: the colorist is Grant Goleash.

Also: Risso is innovative and diligent—we all have our influences, but it’s odd that you go to great lengths to qualify that he just might be swiping… what’s up with that?

whatever dude

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