Beautiful Canvas from Black Mask is out this week–a unique blend of a assassins, talking dead people, mutants and a road trip. Hitwoman Lon Eisley is taking a job from a very rich client who doesn’t take no for an answer or accept excuses. As Lon struggles with both her conscience and her mission, there are domestic issues to worry about too, with her girlfriend, Asia. There’s violence and intrigue galore in the first issue. Is it good?
Writer: Ryan K. Lindsay
Artist: Sami Kivela
Publisher: Black Mask Studios
If you want to deconstruct it for easier explanation, the first issue of Beautiful Canvas is noirish thriller about a hitwoman taking a job and making a fateful decision when she reaches her target. Little background is given about Lon, though she’s definitely not a newcomer to the business. Billionaire Milla Albuquerque is the one paying for the job and it’s obvious that she’s no-nonsense and fully aware of the power her money affords her. During the book we learn Milla has some ulterior motives for the things she does. She has some violent interests, such as hiring the photographer, Moore, to take pictures of the hit’s outcome, which she considers art.
She’s not the only strange character in the book, as there is a brief interlude with a man named Eric who seeks revenge against her for some unknown reason. Also, he may not even be present in our reality. Not to mention a group of mutant thugs that appear, ranging from a squid-like lady to a woman that looks like a member of the evil “Josie and the Pussycats” who rides around in a car Batman would be proud of. Their conversation lends a bit of humor to the book, which is otherwise serious throughout.
I didn’t quite know what to think of the first issue at first. Lon is an interesting character, full of moral ambiguity that may or may not be able to talk to ghosts. We’re not sure of her status, whether she’s semi-retired or just simply feeling the effects of the work she does, but it’s certain she’s having second thoughts about her actions. Writer Ryan K. Lindsay does a good job showing this without relying on too much exposition, and made her story curious enough to make me want to know more in future issues.
However, Milla was a bit of a contrast, as she seems pretty firmly established as a ruthless and violent character. With a Tarantino-worthy manner of speaking, which was quite a tonal shift from the more subdued Lon, it became a bit distracting as she chewed the scenery in the panels she was featured in. Of course, there is so little known about anyone at this point it’s hard to make a judgement call until more of the story has played out.
That may be my biggest concern, as the entire issue was jam-packed, introducing new characters and intriguing situations that didn’t seem to necessarily pertain to the core of the narrative in the issue. I quickly found myself rereading it when I was done to keep everything straight and make sure I didn’t miss anything. That’s not a problem in and of itself, as I’d rather be interested and have to work at a good story than have it laid out for me. But, like the example I gave with Milla and the humorous hit-mutants in their pseudo-Batmobile, many of the situations seemed to be running at a different pace, which made it a little disjointed in the first reading, as I couldn’t nail down the tone.
The book looks fine, with artist Sami Kivela doing the art and colorist Triona Farell doing the inks. Kivela, who is also the co-creator along with Lindsey, captures expression nicely, especially on Lon when we see her reacting close up. Though not all of the book has a realistic tone, like the mutants, Kivela didn’t miss a beat and made both seem they occupied the same reality. Farell used a lot of dark colors, blues and blacks, which fit the atmosphere of the first issue and Lon’s state of mind. Farell does throw in some pops of color, such as the light of the sky behind the ferris wheel scene, but overall the coloring is muted and pastel rather than bright and vibrant.
Is It Good?
I could probably revisit this issue further down the line when more of the story has been laid out, and I have a better understanding of what is going on in the Beautiful Canvas universe, and give you a completely different take. As I said before, parts of the book shifted tone quickly, but what may seem disjointed now may be coming from ignorance of the narrative as a whole. I liked what I read and found myself wanting to know more about the many different situations that were briefly touched on. Or maybe they’re not different at all? Introducing you and making you want to come back is what a first issue is all about and that’s where I think Beautiful Canvas succeeds.