Graphic Novel: Kingdom Come The graphic novel I chose to write about is Kingdom Come #1 by Alex Ross and Mark Waid. The story is loosely about an apocalyptic future that involves groups of superhumans fighting each other for control and power over the universe. I chose a double page spread from the middle of the novel where the storyline is still developing out.
On the first page, we see that it is divided into three fairly equal horizontal frames. There are an overall variety of colors, but blacks and greys are most prevalent on the page, giving it a dark tone and quality. In the 1st frame on top, we see a man. He appears to elderly because of his wrinkles, loose skin and thinning grey hair. A machine-like skeletal brace wraps around his neck and shoulders suggesting he had an injury or some type of disability. Other than that, he appears pretty healthy and virile for his age, he has a confident demeanor and stature, and straight posture.
The camera position is slightly to his right and one to two feet below his eye level. This position adds to the feeling of importance and dominance, as we the viewers must look up to him. The cropping of the frame below his breastline along with his posture suggest he is seated at a table, looking across it. The old man (who happens to be Bruce Wayne) wears a very serious expression: eyebrows arched, eyes squinting, lips slightly curled at the end. He leans forward in a secretive manner. Overhead lighting further enhances this secretive feeling by casting dramatic, foreboding shadows on his face and body that make it hard to see the man's eyes. He is dressed in a grey businesslike suit but with a futuristic styled dress shirt under. This clue tells us that he is no ordinary businessman and also gives us a hint along with the robotic brace that this might be taking place in the future. The word bubble directly above him indicates his importance, as he is the only one talking. To his left is another elderly man with a balding head. He has a goatee and is also dressed in a grey suit with an unusually styled dress shirt. He is leaning back, causing less dramatic shadows on his face and allowing it to be lit more. He also has a stern expression; arched eyebrows, squinting eyes, and tightly closed mouth, focusing all his attention across from him. His body is half cropped by the right edge of the frame, telling us he is not as important and is a secondary character to the first old man. Behind them about five to ten feet is a group of about thirteen superhero-type characters. They stand behind them far enough to not be in the direct light and cast in the shadows. Each of them has a unique look or costume that is consistent with superheroes from comic books. This along with the different sizes and shapes give a sense of what each one's individual powers might be. One character looks like a cat; another has white eyes, while another has a green glow, etc. The way they are composed in the frame, with their close proximity to one another and muted dark colors make them all mesh together into a single unified group, like a wall. All their expressions are similar in their businesslike serious manner and all have watching-over type of posture. The only character that stands out of the group is the green woman who irradiates a green glow. She is placed right over the main character's shoulder forming a close triangle between her and the two men, keeping the focal point on the old man. Further in the back, behind their heads we see a blue map or graph that appears to be on a wall due to its angle and height. This informs us that they are in some type of strategic control center.
In the second frame, which is equal in size to the first one, we see three men. The camera position is to their left about one to two feet below them, also giving them an important look. They are also cropped below the breastline, across their arms, telling us they are also seated at a table. These clues along with the similar light source from above indicate these men are across the table from the men in the first frame. This is supported by the word bubble that leads off to the left of the frame, tying them together. The camera is seated between these two groups; the old man and company seated on our left and the three men on our right. The first man closest to us is an important character in the frame. The word bubble tells us he is the only we can see talking in this frame. He is a young man, well groomed wearing a three piece, grey business type suit. He has a serious look on his face; eyebrows arched, eyes squinting. He is focused across the table, and the light from above casts shadows over his eyes, giving him a mysterious, shifty look. Sitting on his right is an older, chubby bald man. He is dressed in a very corporate black pinstripe suit with a red power tie. He is leaning to one side as if reacting to the first man's statements. He is very sinister looking with a furrowed brow and a half smirk on his face. The shadows cast on his face are even more dramatic; darkening his beady eyes and casting long pointy shadows under his nose and chin. He is a strong secondary character. If the first man was not as big an element in the composition, this bald man would be the main focal point. He looks and acts more important than the first man, and the fact that the third man stands directly behind him suggest his importance as well. The third man is a young man with stereotypical All-american good looks; strong chin, black hair, erect pose. He is the third point of the triangular composition. He exudes confidence with his stern expression and posture and hovers behind the bald man with arms folded like a bodyguard. Mystery surrounds this man who is dressed in a black tuxedo in the shadows. The camera's perspective give an extreme angle to his face and body that make him seem like he towers over us. Also, his solitude is in direct contrast to the army of superheroes in the first frame suggesting he has secret powers of his own. Behind him are more maps and graphs on the wall further supporting that they are in a type of control center.
The third frame is slightly smaller vertically than the others are. This enhances its horizontal, landscape proportion giving us a wider scope of the scenario. In this frame, the camera moves one to two feet above eye level, and pulls back, giving us an overhead view. We see a crowded room with a large lighted circular table with two men talking to each other in the foreground. An assortment of characters sit around the table and stand in the background. The man on the right, old Bruce Wayne from the first frame is facing the bald man from the second frame (who happens to be Lex Luthor). They are both standing up near the table. Bruce is facing directly at the bald man and his right hand is still touching the table hinting that he just got up from his chair. The bald man, however is facing to the right of the frame, slightly turned to Bruce, as if he was cut off by him. The way the word bubble play back and forth in the space between them support the idea of a serious dialogue between them. We also see a slight change in the lighting. They are now lit on one side with the light source coming from the upper left table area. This creates hatchet type lighting where the characters are half lit and half in darkness supporting their mysterious look and feel. The confident bodyguard from the second frame is now in the fore ground and forms a third point of the composition formed by the three men. He is facing away from the camera, and does not provide us any information except for the fact that he is facing the same direction as the bald man. It appears to be a dual composition with the triangle overlapping the circle from the table and the characters surrounding it. This composition is interesting in that it gives us so much to look at. In the background is a mixture of humans and superhumans, wearing costumes and business suits, seated or standing around the table. This gives us a clue that the topic they were discussing was broad and would affect a wide variety of people.
On the second page, it is divided up into nine frames. Four equal vertical frames on top, four on the bottom, and one horizontal panel in the middle. The overall tone and color of the page is dark and muted. There are not too many vibrant colors and few areas of high contrast. Much of the sequence seems to take place in the shadows, setting us for a shifty situation. In the first frame, we see Bruce Wayne talking to a middle aged man. The camera is less than ten feet away about one foot over head. The light source from above casts even darker shadows on their faces and clothes, surrounding them in darkness. The middle-aged man is wearing a tie and trench coat, typical garb associated with detectives. His posture and expression make him look tired and stressed. Many lines wrinkle up on his forehead. The word bubble directly below him surrounded by blue communicates that he is probably whispering to Bruce. Bruce is standing straight, facing away from us, toward the man with one hand on his shoulder as if to console or congratulate him. There is nothing around them except a cup of coffee in the lower left-hand corner. This forms another triangular composition between the two men and the cup.
In the next frame, the camera moves into a close-up side view of the coffee cup, so that the cup fills the width of the frame. A hand reaches from the upper left of the frame, but passes through it. The hands blurred edges give it a ghostlike quality telling us this is no ordinary human. His fingers however, do cast shadows on the cup, further adding to the mystery. The word bubble leading off to the right indicates that Bruce is telling him some sort of advice or is responding to the hand's actions. This composition is interesting in the way the white areas formed by the cup on the table is separated from the dark shadows by this brown-beige hand intersecting through creating an visually interesting contrast between three colors and shapes.
In the third frame, the colors become more muted. The camera moves in close to eye level of the same two men, about one foot to the side. This tight shot along with the vertical format create a claustrophobic composition. In this frame, Bruce picks up the coffee cup and holds it to the other man's lips. The other man tries to sip from the cup, which illustrates some sort of kinship or friendship between the two. Due to their stark expressions, they are talking about something serious. Both men's eyes are focused like hawks; wrinkles are exposed in their foreheads from worry or concentration. The light source comes from the right side allowing only half their faces to be seen. Bruce although further in the background is slightly more illuminated, making him stand out more. This added with the word bubbles, tell us he is the main character in the frame. Another triangular composition is formed by the two men's heads and the hand on the bottom, creating a frame around the cup of coffee.
In the fourth frame, the camera swings to their right and pulls back about fifteen feet, revealing two mystery characters we did not see before. We are still at eye level with Bruce and his friend, but an old man and a cloaked figure are in the immediate foreground. These two new characters are faced away from us and are focused on the other two men. Bruce and his friend are muted down in to the background while the old man and the cloaked figure form a V-like frame surrounding them. The two onlookers are illuminated, but with a glow rather than from an outside light source, indicating they are some sort of spirits or they are invisible, since Bruce and friend pay no attention to them. The light glow only appears on their hair or skin, but not on their clothes. Also the cloaked figure's word bubble has a green torn edge surrounding it giving it a spectral quality and feel.
In the fifth and middle frame, the camera has moved up and is a few feet overhead. It has slightly tilted to the right about ten degrees giving an interesting and new perspective. The two spirit-like characters have now moved in close next to Bruce and his friend. We see the cloaked with his arm stretched out, reaching over Bruce and pulling a fabric up over his friend's head. This reveals a green alien-like creature in place of the middle-aged man. He is wearing a grey cloak with a red X underneath similar in costume to the superhumans of previous frames. Bruce and his friend have similar expressions the frames before and have not reaction to what is taking place, suggesting he doesn't not see this happening or he is already aware of the man's secret identity. A triangular frame is formed by the old man's head leading us to the cloaked figure, with its arm leading us to the alien. All three together frame Bruce Wayne in the middle. They are all surrounded by darkness with only the cloaked spirit talking.
In the sixth frame, the camera moves in close over the left shoulder of Bruce Wayne. It captures the left side of his face and focuses mainly on his friend who is in human form. He is in deep concentration and looks down in sadness. The colors are still muted down, which lessens the contrast that is created by the lighting source. This allows the characters to blend together in and form one mass. The tightness of the composition and cropping puts all the emphasis on the character's expressions and reactions.
In the seventh frame, the camera moves slightly left between the two friends, pulls back about five feet, and lowers to about waist level. Both characters stand back as if reacting to something happening behind the camera. Bruce looks sternly to his left in suspicion while grasping the other man's hand to support him. His friend is startled in surprise with an open mouth and his right hand out in resistance. He grabs Bruce's arm as he leans back. We can tell that Bruce is the calmer and more collected of the two. There is nothing around them but darkness, and their reaction to something off camera introduces a new situation or circumstance that will arise. Their two heads and bodies together form a U-like structure around the darkness.
In the eighth frame, the camera moves to the other side to the left of Bruce's friend's ear. We are very close-up, catching only the silhouette of the left side of his face, and focusing directly on Bruce's face. The light is coming from the right side illuminating the left side of his face which color is no longer muted down. This provides a dark contrast between both sides of his face. The two faces take up most of the frame allowing only a crack of grey to come in between. The combination of black, white and grey vertical masses create and visually interesting composition.
In the last and ninth frame, the camera moves behind Bruce about five feet. He is turned away from the camera, and his friend is exiting toward the right. The man's head is tilted downwards, solemnly walking away. The frame is mostly grey with very subtle color and only a few hints of light appearing on the left side. Bruce, who is looking to the right at his friend, is slightly lit on the left side of his head. The mysterious old man from previous frames is also slightly lit in the far background looking on. He is the third point of yet another triangular composition formed by the three characters, which leads you around the composition and eventually to the right where they are all looking. In all four bottom frames, the word bubble act as framing devices for the action that takes place in the center.
In closing, I found this graphic novel to be enjoyable in its visual communication as well as a good story line and characters. The creators were successful in setting up compositions that communicated the right moods and feelings at the right time. Their various repeated techniques of lighting, camera angles, contrast, detail, and character expression make a very unique and interesting style that supports the story successfully.