BEAUTIFUL CANVAS Review: Best as a Whole
Artist: Sami Kivela
Writer: Ryan K Lindsay
Colorist: Triona Farrell
Letterer: Ryan Ferrier
Editor: Dan Hill
Publisher: Black Mask Studios
Last year, Black Mask Studios’ Beautiful Canvas—from creators Sami Kivela, Ryan K Lindsay, Triona Farrell, and Ryan Ferrier—became one of the more refreshing comics to be published. Still, the book flew surprisingly under that radar.
Today, the Beautiful Canvas trade paperback hits comic shops and bookstores, giving readers a second chance to enjoy this excellent series. Moreover, this collected edition offers new readers an accessible and, more importantly, complete point of entry.
As a general rule, creator-owned comics are written-for-the-trade and trade paperbacks tend to be incredibly accessible in terms of story. Conversely, single issues of creator-owned series can be inaccessible or downright impenetrable to new readers. In this way, and like so many other series, Beautiful Canvas self-sabotaged itself in single issues.
Kivela and Lindsay steered away from spoon-feeding their audience issue recaps and overwrought and redundant exposition. Instead, they wanted to create a complex narrative that challenged readers to keep up and pay attention. And they were largely successful, but at a cost.
Each new issue of the series created a barrier for new readers if they didn’t have access to the previous issues. This is not a problem unique to Beautiful Canvas as a series, but it was a problem. Essentially, if readers couldn’t come by issue 1, it would have been impossible for them to jump on board the story.
Still, those lucky enough to have grabbed the whole run of Beautiful Canvas in single issues read an exceptional, emotional, and…beautiful story. Now, readers who missed out the first time around can enjoy this excellent story in an all-in-one edition, free of barriers.
Beautiful Canvas, Now a Beautiful Whole
Little about Beautiful Canvas’ quality has changed in its transition from single issue comics to trade paperback. As discussed elsewhere, Kivela’s art remains strong, sharp, and beautiful. Lindsay’s writing is crisp, his characters are nuanced, and his story is powerfully emotional.
The true benefit of this collected edition is that the story is collected in a single spot and presented, probably, as the creators had envisioned—more as a novel to be read in chapters in a sitting than as single issues across a span of months. Covers have been removed and replaced with chapter pages, additional design pages have been added, and the book reads more smoothly and clearly as a unit.
In terms of extras, Beautiful Canvas is lean, but not without. There’s an essay by Lindsay that was included in issue #4, a covers gallery, and a few process pages, including script excerpts and the various art stages for those excerpts. Considering Lindsay’s reputation as a process guy, this offering, unfortunately, comes off a bit thin.
The Bottom Line
Last year, as it was coming out in single issues, I wanted to turn everyone on to Beautiful Canvas, but I could not wholeheartedly recommend it to readers who wouldn’t have had access to the series in its entirety.
With the release of this collected edition, though, I can give the series the full recommendation I had wanted to. It’s a gorgeous book with a special story that weighs-in a bit thin on backmatter, but overall it’s a book worthy of any reader’s personal bookshelf.
Beautiful Canvas is in comic shops now.
Frank Gogol is a comic book writer who dabbles in reviewing and interviewing as a way to learn his craft. His approach is equal parts critique and analysis. For more from Frank, follow him @frankgogol on Twitter.