Beautiful Execution: BEAUTIFUL CANVAS #3 Review
Writer: Ryan K. Lindsay
Artist: Sami Kivela
Colorist: Triona Farrell
Letterer: Ryan Ferrier
Editor: Dan Hill
Publisher: Black Mask Studios
Contract Killer / Killer Contract
The opening page or sequence of most comic books is a contract a writer makes with the reader. A skilled writer uses this page real estate to tell the readers exactly what they’re in for if they continue turning pages.
This was absolutely the case in issue one of Beautiful Canvas, at the beginning of which we met Lon, a contract killer who’s just killed a child. A reader knows right then—from the confused and quietly numb look on Lon’s face—that it’s an introspective story about how the things we do makes who we become.
This isn’t a literary device you usually see in issue threes of a given series, but Ryan K. Lindsay and Sami Kivela buck that trend. As a result, Beautiful Canvas #3 is a powerful, beautifully drawn exploration of character.
A Narrative Unfurls
Much like the excellent The Dregs, also from Black Mask Studios, Beautiful Canvas isn’t afraid adding layers with intertextuality. On the opening page of Beautiful Canvas #3, you’re met with melancholic narration—read from a novelization of Bird with the Crystal Plumage—that tells you exactly what this issue is about:
“—and so her wings unfurled like mighty sails. To cover, to protect, to strangle – no one knew.”
The plot of the issue is not all that complicated—it’s essentially a long action sequence—and a very cool one at that. It picks up right where the previous one left off—with Alex speeding toward the ground.
Almost instinctually, Lon dives after him. It’s immediately apparent that this is Lon’s cover-and-protect moment. Despite being an agent of death, she can be a protective force.
But Lindsay’s script moves Lon from protector to strangler, jerking Lon and the reader back and forth emotionally as it goes. What started with a heroic dive out of a window ends with yet another child watching a bullet from Lon’s gun speed toward his face.
Both actions are sure, but contradictory, suggesting Lon could go either way. Lon still doesn’t know who she is becoming—the protector or the strangler. This is character work of the highest caliber.
Then, there’s the other end of the spectrum. The cliché says that a story is only as good as its villain, and if there’s one place where Beautiful Canvas feels weak, it’s with its villain.
Milla Albuquerque is certainly a unique villain—a billionaire nut job who gets off on making art films about death and torture. But after three issues, Milla is still a dull spot in what’s otherwise a vibrant character tapestry.
Art of Becoming
Kivela’s art, as has been the case with this book and in his other collaborations with Lindsay, is solid. Better than solid, even. Lindsay’s script has no shortage of stuff for Kivela to draw (helicopters, car explosions, fire fights, and even a horse-plant hybrid creature) and he nails almost all of it. This issue is bursting at the seams with kinetic, gorgeous artwork.
The only real criticism of the Kivela’s art is that it’s sometimes very busy. Granted there’s a ton of action in this issue, but some pages feel a bit claustrophobic as a result.
Still, the pages, especially the layouts, are something to behold. And when you add the colors from Triona Farrell, the cluttered bits of the art are easily forgiven.
In spite of the gorgeous visuals, Kivela’s true talent lies in the quietest parts of his art—the faces. Beautiful Canvas, at its core, is a story about the characters, not the wild world or the events of the book. It’s never that Lon is shooting the gun. It’s why she’s shooting the gun and what she’s feeling as she does that tells this story, and Kivela’s characters bleed emotion.
The Bottom Line
At this point in the series, it’s clear that Beautiful Canvas is a story preoccupied with change. Who are we? What will we become in spite of our best efforts? These pressing questions seep out of every line of dialogue and every expression the characters of Beautiful Canvas deliver.
The titular Beautiful Canvas seems to be a metaphor for becoming. Life is a painting, and every action a person takes is a brush stroke. The finished art—what the character eventually becomes—is the sum total of the life they’ve lead. Lon exemplifies this idea while Milla could use a bit more depth.
As the book heads into its final chapter, the road ahead is unclear. What this story will ultimately become is a mystery, and the same is true for its core cast, but everything is all the more exciting because of that.
Beautiful Canvas #3 is in shops today.
Frank Gogol is a comic book writer who dabbles in reviewing as a way to learn his craft. His approach to reviewing comics is equal parts critique and analysis. For more from Frank, follow him @frankgogol on Twitter.