"Beautiful Canvas #1" Comic Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Black Mask Studio
Written by Ryan K. Lindsay
Illustrated by Sami Kivela
Colored by Triona Farrell
2017, 32 Pages, $3.99
Comic released on June 28th, 2017
The idea of a hitman or a thief pulling one last job is one we’ve seen repeatedly in fiction for decades. It’s a compelling one, as this person is ready to move on, breaking away from the bonds of their previous life to start anew. It’s what they’ve been working towards for years. Of course, it never goes that way. Beautiful Canvas takes this idea and puts an entirely new spin on it. You might think you know where it’s going, but you are so incredibly wrong.
Beautiful Canvas follows Lon Eisley, a hitwoman ready to leave her profession after getting her latest assignment. She’s been hired to kill a small child. This isn't sitting well with her at the moment as she just found out her girlfriend is pregnant. After she gets into the location, she has a change of heart and decides to save the kid. Now she’s on the run.
Again, this is where it starts. There’s a hard twist coming that I am not going to reveal here. It’s best to go into this cold. That was my experience and it was very satisfying as a result. It happened with one page and there was some initial confusion. Then my eyes widened as I realized the ramifications. Writer Ryan K. Lindsay deftly reframes the story with each page turn.
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Aiding and amplifying this is Sami Kivela’s artwork, which is nothing short of fantastic. It’s not just the great details and exquisite imagery. It’s the specific sections that he chooses to highlight. This is an effect I love in comics and it’s used very well here. You’ll see a close-up of an open gym bag filled with cash with a gun on top or a discarded child’s toy next to an in-progress board game. These little tidbits serve to tell you so much about a scene, speaking volumes about the setting. If this was a prose novel, those shots would make up pages and pages of description. Here, we learn a great deal with just these panels.
As effective as they are in static scenes, they’re even better in action sequences. There’s one page in particular as Lon prepares for a kill, standing across the room from her target. The layout doesn’t change much in three panels as the two people stand opposite one another. The action is packed into the smaller interior panels showing close up details such as the gun, the bullet traveling through the air, or blood splattering against the wall. This is some brilliant art direction.
While Lindsay definitely creates some relatable characters, it’s Kivela’s artwork that makes them real. You can tell so much from Lon’s face. You’re instantly drawn to her and want to see her make it out of this mess alive. She deserves a happily ever after. Although her job is killing people, Lon goes through the same doubts and issues that all of us do.
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I can’t believe I made it this far without mentioning Triona Farrell’s colors. She brings a cool noir tone to Beautiful Canvas. The colors set the mood well, going from darker hues in the more dire scenes to those full of life when just a glimmer of hope shines through. And the blood! Oh, how the blood flies off the page. It stands out in such a way that makes you feel uncomfortable. You know that when you see it, something bad is going on. I mean, I guess you can say that any time you see blood, but we tend to be desensitized to it in the horror genre. This book gives it gravitas.
Speaking of horror, you might be wondering what’s scary about Beautiful Canvas. It sounds like an action thriller. You’re right, to an extent. Of course, there is that aforementioned twist. There’s also a diabolical villain introduced with some rather disturbing methods of torture. You might never look at flower pots the same way again.
Beautiful Canvas is a book that will surprise you. It’s a testament to a creative team that works well together, bringing out the best in one another. This is a great mix of crime, action, and drama with compelling characters and jaw-dropping artwork. Buy this book.