by Drew Baumgartner
This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!
This sentence has five words. Here are five more words. Five-word sentences are fine. But several together become monotonous. Listen to what is happening. The writing is getting boring. The sound of it drones. It’s like a stuck record. The ear demands some variety. Now listen. I vary the sentence length, and I create music. Music. The writing sings. It has a pleasant rhythm, a lilt, a harmony. I use short sentences. And I use sentences of medium length. And sometimes, when I am certain the reader is rested, I will engage him with a sentence of considerable length, a sentence that burns with energy and builds with all the impetus of a crescendo, the roll of the drums, the crash of the cymbals–sounds that say listen to this, it is important.
Pacing is the silent artistry of every medium, the kind of essential element that you only ever notice when it’s either poorly or remarkably well done. As such, pacing is not the kind of thing we always get to talk about around here — beyond the fact that the bulk are paced competently, comics pacing usually takes several pages to really sink in, so is a difficult point to illustrate in a short essay. But then there are comics that do it so well, they almost demand that effort. Cannibal 7 is one of those comics.
Typically, the pacing affect that makes me sit up straight and take notice is the restrained, deliberate use of the full page splash. And this issue definitely deploys its one splash beautifully, bringing its cast together at a true moment of climax:
Everything is working here. Writers Jennifer Young and Brian Buccellato have seeded the conflict perfectly over the past three issues, slowly giving every character (and the audience) information about Jolene and Danny’s status as cannibals, but it all comes to a head in this moment. More immediately effective, though, is the way artist Matías Bergara paces the lead-up to this moment, giving us page after page of four- or five-panel compositions. The effect is a real sense of release on this page, opening everything up to the possibilities of what is to come.
And that’s when the pacing becomes truly remarkable.
Bergara opens up the pacing a bit more after this moment, mixing three- and six-panel pages into his four- and five-panelers, utilizing space to alternatingly create both ambiguity and abruptness throughout the back half of the issue. This comes to a head once again on the final page, where Bergara breaks all of the precedence of the issue to cram ten tiny, overlapping panels onto the page.
Even without context for this page, you can feel all of the confusion and surprise. But, of course, the pacing and writing leading all build up to that moment, making this page truly shocking. It’s the rare use of pacing that draws attention to itself in a good way, forcing us to pay attention to just how effectively this moment lands.
The conversation doesn’t stop there. What do you wanna talk about from this issue?