"Green Valley" #1 - #2
(Warning: Spoilers for the first issue...)
The first half of the first issue of "Green Valley" showed so much promise! It was a light and frothy book about a group of knights who defended their small town against any and all comers. Their wits were as sharp as their swords and arrows.
They were, perhaps, too good at their jobs for the sake of telling any kind of dramatic story.
And so it was that they slipped up once and their town and everyone they loved -- particularly the women and children -- in it had to be destroyed in the second half of the issue.
Personally, I'd love a spin-off book with the stories of these Knights of Kelodia having adventures before the events of "Green Valley" #1. Maybe an Annual? They're so cool and work so well together, that I bet it would be a lot of fun. It would also be considerably less dark, which is always a good thing.
The second issue picks up a year later, with the Knights living just outside the burned out husk of the town that fell under their watch. They're miserable, without purpose or direction. Things are getting testy, and a new opportunity for an adventure calls them. They have to decide whether to pick themselves up and get back to work, or to wallow in their own misery.
Hint: There's a third issue coming, so they're not going to sit still.
Max Landis' story might still go in any direction, which I know is part of his intent with this book. He wants something that's unpredictable. He's built up some interesting characters, so he's got the cornerstone right. Right now, this looks like a story that can fall into either redemption or vengeance, filled with lots of internal debate over what it should be.
I'm looking forward to seeing where it goes, even with my initial misgivings in that first issue. After all, I can't review a book based on what I wished the author would write. I need to review the book I'm given. Accepting that, Landis' story is still entertaining. His banter between the Knights is great, and the built-in dramatic tension between them all in the wake of that great disaster is palpable.
There's lots of good material for the series already here after just two issues. I want to see where it goes.
It Looks Good, Too
A big part of the comic's success, of course, falls on the artistic team. In this case, we have Giuseppe Camuncoli on art, with Cliff Rathburn inking, Jean-Francois Beaulieu on colors, and Pat Brousseau taking care of the letters.
The overall look and feel of the book is cinematic. Camuncoli doesn't go with too many dramatically extreme angles. He's not distorting perspective or using fish-eye or forced perspective shots here. Everything he draws feels like something that a standard movie camera would take a medium shot with at eye level.
I like that he keeps his panels rectangular without any fancy effects to distract from the storytelling. No round panels or jagged edges. The fanciest he gets is the occasional layout where a panel is inset at the edge of a much larger panel. That minor bit of overlapping works fine.
There's a lot of dialogue scenes in these two issues, and Camuncoli's restraint with them is enormous. It reminds me a bit of Kevin Maguire's work from the "Justice League" Days. Comedy demands those medium shots and strong facial expressions. Camuncoli isn't anywhere near Maguire on the faces (who is?), but the overall expressions and body language are on point.
Rathburn's inks match what I imagine the art must look like underneath. There's no real feathering or crosshatching at play here. There's a lot of thin lines with a minimal amount of variation in the line weight, usually most obvious in the outlines of characters. But he can go in and do amazing detail like around someone's chain mail when the art calls for it.
Beaulieu's color palette is inviting. Even when he's drawing the gloomy days of the second issue, the color scheme doesn't overwhelm or hide the art. He provides plenty of textures and shadows without muddying anything up. It's a nice technique, and one I wish more colorists would learn.
It's much more subdued than what you might be used to seeing from him on the "Oz" or "Fairyland" books with Skottie Young. That's appropriate to this more grounded comic.
However, he does tend to hold almost every black line, which isn't my favorite style. It works in the backgrounds, because it helps push those elements back further. But nothing in the foreground is black, either, except for the stray cheek bone or eyebrow. I love that look for backgrounds, but in the foreground it just makes the art look softer where it should be the strongest. It helps to give the whole book a more "painterly" feel, but I don't think it needs it quite so much.
(Check out the amount of ink work Rathburn had to put into this relatively simple panel. Then see Beaulieu's soft backgrounds and simple shading work on the beard. It's a scanning issue that the lines look as black as they do, but most of the lines on his face are not black at all. Just the eyes and cheek bones, it looks like.)
Finally, Pat Brousseau's lettering (not Rus Wooton's, who does so many other Skybound books...) gives a great John Workman-esque touch to the series. Those perfect circular balloons and the near-monospaced letterforms look great on the page. It's very crisp work that sits just above and out of the way of the artwork, often clinging to the borders to do so.0comments
Between "Lake of Fire" and "Green Valley," 2016 has been a great year to be a fan of knights...