RKL Annotations – NEGATIVE SPACE #3
NEGATIVE SPACE #3 is late. There’s no two ways about it. It’s a new year and a whole month in and you are only just getting your mitts on this beast. We are all crazy proud of this issue so we thank you for holding on and dipping back into the waters with us.
Owen Gieni continues to drop serious A-levels of game and heat in this book so it’s an eyeball feast, and Ryan Ferrier is the letter we need AND the one we deserve.
This is a process post where I try to open up how we broke the eggs for this omelette but it usually devolves into my just gushing about Owen’s work. I hope my weepy collaborator love helps you somehow, let’s dive in.
Love the fact this is so crucial to the issue/story and yet doesn’t really exactly spoil what’s going on.
Also love the crazy violence peppered throughout the whole thing. We went from one very central image for #1, to a smattering of subtle word things for #2, and now this is just a visual buffet the more you dive into it.
There’s a joke on this page, you see it, right?
It’s not even that good a joke but I really just wanted to keep it because it’s beyond absurd and so it’s a hint to the whole tone of this thing. Even when it’s serious, and bad, there is time for this moment to occur.
It’s also totally a SAGA style opening splash, no bones about it. Complete swipe.
Beta makes with some serious James Remar info-dumping to open the issue. Womp.
Poor Guy, so sad, so committed to talking out loud to himself to keep us all on track.
The way Owen handles Guy’s expression completely sells this whole ‘using a tentacle on a mask to mimic putting a hand up to someone’s mouth to shut them up’ moment.
Pretty much just every way Owen handles this weird landscape and the Evorah in it proves he’s worth more to this book than I ever was or could be. He’s playing with a lot of pieces and he’s making it all work like crazy.
I’m worried this sequence is plodding but I’m realising it’s just metered tone when taken as part of the whole story. This is my ebb before we get to some serious flow right into the finale of this issue.
All of this is set up for what happens ahead and so I’m glad I took my time here.
Also, look at Beta turn nasty and almost burnt in her blackness in that middle panel. That’s some colour as storytelling stuff going on right there.
You should get a sense of just how pig-headed and stupid and doomed Guy is from this page and how he handles himself here.
The way this random Evorah shuffles into the room but then doesn’t quite see Guy yet is so superbly well placed and handled by Owen. This sequence was hard to write, and I thought I might’ve blown it, but he really brings it all home. That transition between the final two panels really sells the split second moment Guy has before he’s completely screwed.
Also, that child’s skeleton on the table is totally all Owen. Blame. Him.
Pretty certain that first panel of Guy wrapped up by some tentacles is completely all Owen and it’s so damn effective. Makes it look like he’s been stitched up, but then you see it’s a showdown…and he’s being saved by Beta. The way she holds him down and leans right over the table is just pure perfect Gieni body language. This is masterful in every sense of the term.
Also, take in them Ryan Ferrier scribble balloons. So ace.
Beta is so confident, so forward, and she’s literally dragging Guy into it all. And there’s no small metaphor that he’s being taken into and down an unknown black whole.
And that bottom panel of Guy swimming forward to this unknown is one of my favourite panels of this book. If ever there was a Depressionaut, this is he.
Guy is lost, Beta is too quick, and we all quickly see just where this is all taking place and that the unknown is a scary and ridiculous place.
It’s also so cool to know that when you ask Owen for bioluminescent bubbles then it is exactly what you are going to get. This is an example of writing right into the strength of the artist.
This is the false beat before the real BOOM.
Wish I could’ve tweaked the dialogue some more on this page, it just doesn’t pop as much as the others.
This, man, THIS is just far too much fun. Owen obviously throws himself headlong into every square inch of this book and this is wild proof right here. Look at this thing? I had an idea, linked to a YouTube clip, I gave some suggestions, but this right here is beyond my brain. Look into those eyes and despair. Owen Gieni just drained your soul.
This turning point for Guy was one of those sad gags I had to throw at him. The fact he’s about to die and instead one of these giants is going to just suck on him like an emotional everlasting gobstopper and could you imagine anything worse in your life? This is why my characters would gang up and mutilate me if they ever gained independent sentience, I’m no good for them at all.
Owen took that Evorah hugging panel and just gave it everything, didn’t he? This one panel is just pure high art right in the middle of the page. And if you look closer, you’ll see Beta struggling to open it up and her body language is again on point.
PAGES 12 + 13
Double page spread klaxoooon.
An emotional vista, and I wasn’t sure it’d work, but then Owen just comes along and slays it like it ain’t no thing. It’s almost like a picture book for just a moment, a dark, haunting, terrible book for kids about why life sucks. From top left to the promise of life to the bottom right and the ‘real’ promise of life, the only promise it can offer, that it ends, and this page actually gets to me a little.
Though I didn’t realise how well this spread would go down. The reviews loved the shit out of this and I thank them for it.
There’s even this weird little colour scheme thing going on that makes me think/feel INSIDE OUT a little and that’s just too damn fine.
I’m also quietly proud of the device at the bottom where we see the happiness bomb charge and it’s exposition but silent. You still have to piece all of this together, keep thinking, keep up.
The layout on this page is nuts, the colours, the way we move through the motions. Guy smiling is weird enough but this cropped image of him makes it even more ghastly, a rictus of depression.
I love Guy’s body language as he tears into this beast, he’s so victorious. And the colour draining from the Evorah as they change emotion is something Owen just completely nails.
As for the echo of lines in this page from the last, where I flip the meaning, yeah, you know I’m quietly proud of that – though not silent, I’m still gonna tell you.
This is a page of complex human emotions. I want you to still hold them, feel them, and yet still not fully understand. Because who actually understands human emotions, we are insane, erratic, flippant. That’s what makes us so beautiful sometimes, and it’s really something I want to try and write.
“This is how angels must feel.” is one of those lines I wasn’t sure would get through but I knew I’d fight for it, though this was completely unnecessary. It stayed through every draft, never questioned, and I’m still really glad with how simply it sums up Guy’s feelings as he essentially annihilates a bunch of creatures.
And how good does that annihilation look against that green? Bloody ripper.
War is hell and we all lose. Guy’s boot hitting that dead Evorah shell kinda says it all for me. And that Ferrier SFX in there is perfect to make you feel the split second moment.
Beta’s dialogue is so much fun to write, but even more fun against the droll sensibility of Guy. He never reacts or gives anything away and tone doesn’t play on the page against a back and forth so you need to bring a lot to it but if you do, and you get it right, then these two are so fun against each other. Beta never seems to pic up on Guy’s feelings, which is hilarious for an emotionally charged species. I guess happiness drowns and blinds you – which is completely true, btw.
Owen’s layout on this coda page for the battle just makes me smile. It’s all a pause, a breath, and it leads into that final beat of the issue. These pages are important because you get interplay, you get set up, and you get to slingshot into what comes next.
Because of course Rick is a mansplainer. And these two are just as much fun to write as the Beta/Guy pairing and that’s been really fun in this book, figuring out how to pair characters up to bring out the best in them all.
This page is filler, kinda, but it’s insight, and it’s also a pause, but it works because we gave Guy/Beta the pause so now Rick/Briggs get one too right before the end. I like getting these pages when I can, to let the characters play and shine. You can’t always show them within the action so you find the beats.
It was Owen who brought the sight gag of Briggs trying to pry Rick off the tablet, which I think plays well to show how absurd this all is. It’s weighted, it’s dark, it all means something, but it’s also batguano absurd, which you have to be fine with.
It was important for me to have Guy stand up to Rick, and Kindred, verbally first. This isn’t a sneak attack, this is him really stepping up and doing what he is doing. Cutting Rick off came as a happy accident because I couldn’t think of a good Bond villain entrance for him but then realised Guy wouldn’t stand for it anyway, he’s got to do what’s coming.
And here comes the realisation for us all, the reason Guy survived down there was because the thought of dying just filled him with such goddamn happiness. There was glee in the thought he was so close to the end. It kinda backfired when it killed the creature that would kill him and so then he’s actually not going to die, but it’s what awakens in him the knowledge of how all this emotional malarkey works, and he’s going to go out with a bang, and that kind of agency is important in a suicidal person. It certainly is in Guy.
It was always really important to me that even at this stage of the tale we have Guy still be suicidal. He’s not cured, this isn’t him fixed. And then we have him use this weird happiness over his own death emotional whirlpool to attack Kindred. This is where his arc is going.
This is just a page to behold. I was initially going to hold it over until the next issue but Chabon convinced me to have it here and he’s so right, it’s a killer ending. Because – and I cough out some clickbait – you won’t believe what happens next. We still have one full issue to make all of this count, and count it all certainly does.
But, again, look at this page. Just…thank you Messers Gieni+Ferrier.
And this is where the final chickens come home to roost for everyone. One. Issue. To. Go.
Thank you for getting down on this issue. I hope you dug it. Though if you’re reading this I doubt you’re the kind to go this far into hate-reading a comic. I guess.
Indie comics live and die on readers caring, so thank you for taking the time. It means the world to all of us at NEGATIVE SPACE HQ. Stick around, see what drops next month to wrap all of these shenanigans up, which I guarantee you is a worthy and gut-kicking finale to the whole mess.
And remember: if you are suffering from depression, please hit THIS LINK to see the access you have to support. No one has to suffer alone. We are here to help you.