Originally, when I started this feature, I intended to write about a thousand words a week about a single panel. But sometimes a single panel doesn’t get the point across, because comics are a sequential medium and the most important job of the artist is to tell the story.
On Green Lantern fansites, I’ve seen some bashing of Patrick Gleason’s art, and I don’t understand that. His people are stylized, which is fitting for a book that is mostly casted by aliens. The art itself is fluid, and moves the story. There really isn’t much more action in Green Lantern Corps than most other books, but it seems quite a bit faster and more exciting because of Gleason’s artwork. Take, for example, this single page from Green Lantern Corps #3. (Click on the thumbnail to enlarge the image.)
We’re going to look at the entire page this week rather than the specific panels. (For this, bear in mind that write Dave Gibbons may have had more to do with the layout than Patrick Gleason, but it is Gleason’s energetic style that makes the page work.) Let’s look at the action itself first. We’ll go through it like each panel is a pause during a movie. Pay attention to the perspective, which character is facing the same way we are.
Ragnar (the pink male armored alien) draws and activates his sword as Soranik (the red female Lantern) powers her ring. He makes sure to position his weapon away from her. Perspective is closest to Soranik’s. Pause for first panel.
With his right hand, he grasps Soranik’s right hand by the wrist and pushes her against the wall. Draws his sword back to swing at her. He gains control of the situation, the panel shows his viewpoint. Pause for second panel.
Ragnar has drawn his sword far enough back to unbalance himself. Soranik takes advantage of this. She takes her left hand and knocks the sword out of his left hand. She twists her right hand in his grip and grabs at his wrist, slipping her wrist free of his fingers and twisting his right arm by the wrist (This is the closest arm to us in the third panel). As she does this, our perspective turns from his side to hers, but not completely. At the exact same time she pushes down on his arms with all of her weight and jumps off of the ground, kicking him in the nose. Pause for third panel, in mid-air, doing all of this at once.
Before you start going off about the realism of this maneuver, please remember four things: 1) She is an alien, 2) They are on another planet that likely has different gravity, 3) She has a ring can heal her, enhance her strength, and allow her to fly, and 4) It looks really, really cool.
Moving along, we see that Soranik has released his arms. He’s moving down, she’s moving up. She continues somersaulting on the boost she took on his arms, and lands at the same time he does. From the force of the kick and being pushed down, Ragnar has landed on his head, which is exactly where Soranik’s foot has landed. Pause for fourth panel, her foot on his head.
Notice that Soranik is turning her body as she lands. Also notice that she is still in midair and off-balance, so she is slightly vulnerable and not in control, though Ragnar certainly doesn’t have control. Perspective goes topsy turvey, we neither follow his gaze nor hers.
He’s subdued, but she still pins him on the ground (Not taking into account weird alien pressure points, his legs should be weighted down also to correctly control him — but that’s a minor nitpick) by sitting over his torso and placing her hand on a pressure point. Out perspective matches hers. Pause for fifth panel, final one on the page.
Did you notice what I noticed?
Well, look at the action from another point of view. Soranik and Ragnar start in one corner, the upper left as we view it. Ragnar pulls away as he draws his sword, moving to our right (the right side of the page). He then grabs Soranik and pushes her against her wall, to our left, the left part of the page. Soranik pulls free, pushing Ragnar away from the wall, moving to right the side of the page. She starts to flip and turn to regain control of the situation (notice the third panel perspective shift?), and our eyes follow her body’s motion as she flips heels over head. She lands in the lower-left corner of the page, leading with her foot, the foot that leads our eyes in exactly that direction as the heel lands. The foot is the most prominent part of the panel, we naturally fixate on it and follow the toe to the next panel. Perspective shifts again as ‘Nik plants her feet firmly on the ground and sits on his butt. Those final three panels are like a somersault in the way they direct your attention. The entire page goes Right-Left-Right-Down Left-Right just as the combatants move
We watch the fight play out in the layout of the page, and that, ladies and gentlemen, is one hell of a visual storytelling technique.