By Drew Baumgartner
This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!
I remember someone once telling me that they mostly evaluate a comics artist based on the detail of their backgrounds. That always felt like an odd facet to fixate on (especially with so many others to factor in), but it’s hard to deny that richly detailed backgrounds are dazzling. It allows artists to flex not only their attention to detail, but their capacity for deep perspective, lending a sense of lived-in reality to their settings. But it’s also time consuming — even the most detail-prone artists will pick their moments, reserving sprawling cityscapes and the likes for big splash pages, and making choices that compress the depth of field elsewhere. Time is an understandable driver of level-of-detail, but it doesn’t always coincide with storytelling in a meaningful way. With The Hunt for Wolverine: Dead Ends 1, artist Ramon Rosanas finds a much more thematically resonant way to use his depth of field, lending Charles Soule’s villain reveal an unsettling otherworldliness.
From the very top of the issue, Rosanas clearly isn’t shying away from detail. Just take a look at the stunning opening page:
Gorgeous. But it’s not just the level of detail, it’s the choices to set these scenes in such deep perspective that really distinguish this sequence. He’s stretching out every shot into the page — an effect he exaggerates further in the last two panels, as our perspective is funneled into ever narrower passages.
And this is an aesthetic that Rosanas sticks with through most of the issue, allowing us to peer down city streets or through the corridors of the Jean Grey School. These sequences insist on the depth of field, giving us valuable details in the fore- middle- and backgrounds, subtly hinting that our perspective is valuable and complete. That’s an attitude Kitty Pryde herself seems to share in her presentation — she may not know exactly what Soteira is, but she’s confident the perspective from these various investigations will guide her. It’s fitting, then, that the deep perspective stays intact even as the School is mysteriously attacked. Answers will come so long as we keep that deep depth of field.
Only, Persephone cuts that depth of field short with her arrival. Her holographic presentation washes out the background, leaving only her obscured visage as the subject of the shot. That may feel like a subtle difference, but it becomes almost overwhelming when we get a reverse shot of the casts reactions, complete with the deep perspective they value so much:
Only, that perspective has all but disappeared by the time Persephone leaves. A thick evening fog now obscures the backgrounds, and the nighttime lighting now flattens our heroes to mere silhouettes against that fog:
It reflects how little these characters actually know, but also reinforces that message to us — we don’t know either, in spite of whatever confidence those early pages might have instilled in us. The effect is an issue that cuts our perspective short rather abruptly, using the third dimension to truly drive that point home. It’s an issue that leaves us with a lot of questions, leaving Soule lots of room to rebuild our perspective in Return of Wolverine.
The conversation doesn’t stop there. What do you wanna talk about from this issue?