by Ryan Desaulniers
This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!
The first words uttered in Beautiful Canvas 1, “You’re overthinking it”, are spoken to the main character, Lon Eisley, but I might be in the same boat. I can’t seem to make heads or tails of this number one. On the surface the story is simple: an assassin, Lon, botches a hit for sadistic billionaire Milla Albuquerque, and we watch how things fall apart for Eisley. However, there are so many elements in this title which seem arbitrary or haphazard.
For example, twice in this issue writer Ryan K. Lindsay and artist Sami Kivela give us title cards:
I can’t find too many other clues in the issue as to why it would be important to give a cinematic quality to that beat, or how it fits into the issue’s general ethos, and thus the title card here feels very affected and external instead of being part of the issue’s structure or commentary.
Looking at that page, you can tell that Sami Kivela’s art comes across as lovingly drawn and comfortable with taking risks, but the timeline in this issue makes his great pencils and colorist Triona Farrell’s work tough for me to enjoy to their fullest. The chronology in that page, within the four panels, works like a classic ABAB rhyme scheme, with the two “present day” panels taking up slightly more space on the page while the flashback panels give the audience a look at Lon’s psychological underpinnings, but couple that page with a following scene which begins with “five minutes and eight seconds later”, and I’m really wondering how all of these interesting choices the creative team makes fit together.
As the title may suggest, the idea of art plays a large role in this issue, particularly in regards to Milla, who seems like she’ll make a captivating antagonist. Her idea of gardening, for example, is to lop body parts off of some poor sap strung up, then arrange those missing limbs and digits in a manner which she finds aesthetically pleasing. We see her lounging on a chair made out of the skull of an elephant, turning her penthouse suite into a literal “ivory tower.” These are ideas executed well as the audience learns that the hits she puts out are casually referred to as “her work” as if it were her medium of artistic preference. But for every detail like this we get, we also see the introduction of an animal/human hybrid hit troupe, which — in fairness — Kivela’s pencils bring a lot of charm into, but makes for a very sudden means of telling the audience that there are superpowers of some nature in this universe
Maybe I am overthinking it. Perhaps clarity will come with some clearer world-building in the next issue, or I should just embrace the (I hate to say it) Tarantino-esque narrative structure and trust that there’s a method at work here. Beautiful Canvas 1 is queer, bold, and bloody, but I can’t tell whether this is art or madness quite yet.
The conversation doesn’t stop there. What do you wanna talk about from this issue?