Out this week is the second issue of Image Comics Murder Falcon. An outlandish, Heavy Metal influenced fantasy adventure with a surprising emotional punch.
What would you do if you found out you were destined to defeat an invasion of demons from another dimension by playing heavy metal on your magic guitar which, in turn, provides the fighting power for a crazed, half robot, half falcon demon slayer?
Put your original band back together, obviously!
And so begins Jakes quest. Struggling to overcome his own personal demons, he must also fight to survive against the real demons walking his world; make up with his ex-bassist: and learn to play his guitar better so that Murder Falcon will have the power to make a stand against evil.
Murder Falcon #2 picks up where number 1 left off with Jake and MF in training, trying to synchronise their abilities. The first panel of the first page tells you everything you need to know about this comic; if you don’t like that first image it might be worth giving up now. There is a lot going on but it is all linked from the ‘Nah nah’ of the guitar to the ‘Whap Whap’ of MF’s fists, all kept in check by the ‘toc toc’ of the metronome.
There are three separate elements working as one; just like the script, the art and the lettering of this comic. No matter how crazy the story gets, how out there it seems to be, the narrative remains rooted because of the excellent interplay of art, script and lettering. As one element of the story needs to be highlighted, the composition of the Art takes centre stage, just as the script takes over when explanations are in order. Each page and each panel knows it’s function in the larger scheme of the comic. Not a single bit of space is wasted.
Daniel Warren Johnson has created a cast of individual characters who wear their lives upon their faces. Johnson is able to bring a range of emotions to each page through his cast’s acting. However, additional emphasis is brought to bear through his use of backgrounds, or in one particular moving moment, the lack of backgrounds. The final panel of the second page illustrates Johnson’s craft perfectly. In a comic which is brimming with over the top, laugh out loud craziness, this single panel is the most effective; relaying a deep sadness and regret. The emotion is so strong, so raw, that you have to wonder if Nate is a reflection of some part of Johnson himself?
After this, the poignant moments of deep reflection are squeezed between outlandish action sequences and even more over the top fantasy elements. And yet it all seems to work. The Heavy Metal references, the fantasy tropes, the 80’s macho fight sequences; all of these scenes are given the same respect by Johnson and his team, Mike Spicer the colourist and Rus Wooton the letterer. Nothing is taken for granted and no single element is given a pedestal to ride on. The emotional breakdown of the central character is as important as the quest for a magical Bass guitar.
Mike Spicer’s colouring works hard to help relay the emotional story. Colour coding between characters, objects and emotions create a simple language for the reader to follow. Simple aspects such as the orange worn by both Jake and MR constantly remind the reader that the characters are linked in a number of different ways. There are also some beautiful contrasting processes on show as Spicer uses his colours for emotional emphasis.
What can be said about the lettering? Whoever has integrated all of those sound effects seamlessly into the artwork has more than earned his pay on this comic. The massive amounts of sound effects are superbly handled from one page to the next. However, the lettering of the speech balloons themselves are also a wonderful example of creating a style to fit the narrative. The hand drawn effect on the balloons give the comic a rough and ready feel, a suitable reflection of the heavy metal influence. Large amounts of text are snuggly laid out in bustling balloons while an economy of text is used in certain balloons to create emotional weight. Again, you only need to look at the final panel on page 2 to see how beautifully the lettering is handled. The simple three words “Are you okay?” is given so much context and emotion by its placing within the balloon but also by the very long tail which stretches half way across the page to an unseen speaker. The lack of back ground and the length of that tail distance Nate away from his surroundings, his friends, and creates a panel with a heavy emotional punch.
Murder Falcon #2 is an enjoyable read with hidden and unexpected depths. The story and every aspect of the Art works exceptionally well together. This comic is like This is Spinal Tap because the more ridiculous it gets the more it draws you in, and the more surprizing the emotional punches are.
Darryll Robson is a Contributor to ComiConverse. He has a much underused Twitter account: @DarryllRobson, and his own website comiccutdown.com where he writes more about comics.