Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Bryan Moss' Outer Heaven #1

Outer Heaven #1 is by Bryan Moss, a painter and cartoonist with a wild imagination. Dipping into the same sort of stylized, dystopian, and city-centric art style as a Jamie Hewlett, what sets Moss apart is his wry sense of humor and close attention to detail. Moss' style wouldn't be out of place with the Meathaus cartoonists of the 2000s: thick lines, looping and distorted character design, minimal use of negative space (indeed, there's a maximalist feel in every panel), and incorporating influences from manga and things like Heavy Metal. It's all there, but Moss quickly transcends those influences and turns it into something more interesting. 

Moss begins the comic with a series of pages featuring photocomics collages. In her introduction to the comic, Dr. Rachel Miller notes that much of this comic was done in a transitory period where lots of video tapes and other ephemera was consumed in a time of uncertainty. That low-fi video culture that carried a strong underground element is present here as well. 

The main story concerns an assassin named Broken Nose Betty who prefers what she calls "pacifist kills." She generally only goes after people trying to kill her or dangers to society, but she tricks them into getting themselves killed. The plot concerns a group of dangerous slugs masquerading as people, but Betty is on the case. She edits her Wikipedia entry and trolls her target on Reddit to manipulate him into getting taken out by his own boss. She then tricks a slug assassin into drinking a margarita...with a rim lined with salt. 

Moss's character design is sharp, creating interesting panel compositions by bleeding the colors of his characters into the rest of the panel. His panels are busy and bold but never difficult to parse, thanks to the precision of his use of color. He goes for broke in that regard: bold purples, oranges, sickly greens, and yellows assault the reader, yet every color is perfectly balanced. If there's a color clash, it's intentional. While his actual cartooning is the spine of the comic and gives it its structure, his painterly understanding of color is what gives Outer Heaven its sense of style. It's clear there are a lot more stories to be told in Broken Nose Betty's Void City. 

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