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Resonant #2 review: danger is lurking

When anyone could be acting on their worst impulses, trust no one.

All through the world, another wave just hit.  We don’t really know what this means, but we saw what it does to people.  Many live their lives in fear, kill others to survive, and only trust those they’re absolutely comfortable with. In Resonant, there are careful preparation measures taken to ensures safety.  Cicadas, now called chirpers, serve as warning signs.  People need to be tied down to prevent hurting themselves or others.  David Andry, Alejandro Aragon, Jason Wordie, and Deron Bennett have given us a world always on edge.  There’s always the anxiety that the dark, inner voices we keep within will escape and only lead to destruction and chaos.  Paxton has survived the wave and leaves a chirper for the man he had to knock out. The entire scene is portrayed through a position of power, dominance, and experience.

We open on Paxton simply standing above the wanderer.  Very few words are spoken, but the message is clear.  Paxton is a man who does what he has to do to survive and isn’t afraid in any capacity.  He is willing to help those who need it, and does by giving the wander a Cicada, but also realizes that this is a cold, ruthless world and leaves the man unconscious and alone.  Whatever it takes to survive, even if it means sacrificing compassion.

Meanwhile, back at home, signs point to a crisis.  Everyone’s safe and sound, but time is running out in terms of how long they’ll be able to make it on their own. Bec, who is already hampered due to her disability, now has bloody arms.  Why? “I thought about my arms without skin. I wondered what they’d look like. And I started scratching — started peeling.”  This is the result of succumbing to a wave. This is what it means to have any impulse or thought be inescapable.  Any stray concept that pops into your mind immediately inspires action, no matter how horrifying. What a dangerous world in Resonant #2.

Aragon brings this world to life with a variety of textures.  The dotted texture adds depth, flare, and intensity.  The more it’s used, the more dangerous, sad, or concerning the panel feels.  Facial expressions evoke more emotion, locations and backgrounds draw more attention, either way your eyes linger.  Other times we have a sharp and dynamic texture seemingly done in marker.  It adds an explosiveness to each panel and also visualizes the constant state of anxiety that exists within this world.  Each panel contains thoughts of worry.  Bec looks through the slot.  What will she find? She finds the crowbar. Will something happen? Bec cracks open the door and Ty falls. Is he hurt? As they discuss their feelings, Ty and Bec sharply turn away with concern, guilt and regret.  It’s the sketched lines done in marker that added these emotions to the page. Finally we have Aragon’s watercolor-like texture, which is heavily enhanced by Wordie’s colors.  During scenes where the characters take precedent over the world and setting, the background shifts from the house or forest to a watercolor palette centered around one color.  Usually a warm color. Yellow often points to an emotional beat centered around softer emotions such as guilt, regret, sadness, or playfulness (there are a lot more negative emotions than positive ones in this book).  Red typically points to sharper, more intense emotional beats such as an immediate discovery, anger, or pain.  This book wears its emotions on its proverbial sleeve by echoing every feeling in the artwork, and only the talented combination of Aragon and Wordie could pull this off.  The wave’s over, right?  Everything’s fine…except it’s not. The knife was found.  The house was discovered. Danger.

The most prominent scene of the issue begins shrouded in Wordie’s cooler, blue palette.  Whereas most books may project calm and comfort through warm colors, Resonant projects tranquility under the cover of night.  Even then, however, Paxton has has to tie himself down in a tall tree for his own safety. The progression of overlapping panels shows Paxton’s procedural and methodical thinking in a world riddled with danger.  He ties himself in, wishes his kids well, and gets ready to go to sleep, but something stirs.  A wounded dog is nearby, so Paxton unties himself, slowly climbs down, serves the dog with compassion, fixing its wounded leg and deciding to keep it. In this world, animals are easier to trust than people. The waves aren’t just a danger in the moment — their very presence has allowed some of the worst parts of humanity to surface on a more permanent basis.  A cult that worships a figure called Maw leads a pack of literally blind followers (their eyes are cut out), out of town.  It’s immediately after witnessing this that Paxton reveals his true opinions.  “Avoid people if you can. Nothing good comes from them.”  Truer words have never been spoken in the world of Resonant.

Paxton arrives into town where uncertainty and danger lie ahead, and the panel layout and colors telegraph this remarkably well.  This entire time, we’ve seen the world through Paxton’s eyes.  He’s always looking ahead, planning ahead, and thinking about what’s next, and as the reader, you are too.  Paxton’s thoughts are born out of a need to survive, ours our born from suspense.  Unfortunately, Paxton slips up and loses the upper hand.  His fate may not have been shown until the end of the scene, but it was shown panels before when he meets Mary.  The first time we see her, it’s at an upward angle as she’s sitting in a cage. She throws a treat to the dog, and it is in that moment that Paxton’s fate it sealed.  The angles and perspectives for the rest of the scene shift from a forward mentality, centered around looking ahead and planning, to a downward spiral projected outward onto the reader.  Mary looks down at Paxton.  The panels get taller and narrower pointing down into the earth.  Mary’s grappling hook even bleeds into the bottom of the page.  This is Paxton’s descent.

The color choices may not seem off, but look a little closer.  The fiery orange-red background as the dog catches Mary’s treat is a sudden, fierce warning that this person is dangerous.  Then, the background resets to a softer goldenrod as Mary climbs down.  She’s wearing clothes that are pitch black.  We haven’t really seen pitch black so far in this comic, have we?  That can’t be good.  As Mary lead’s Paxton towards her home, she looks up at the reader with a classic horror movie smile and says, “Mary’ll get you where you need to go.”  The colors have already built back up to a burnt orange and Mary’s house is almost screaming “DANGER!” but Paxton misses his kids too much to notice.  Inside, the panels are almost all black with flashes of red.  Uh oh.  This can’t be good.  It isn’t.  This is clearly the base of a cold and ruthless operation, and Paxton’s world goes dark very quickly with two brilliant “WHACKS” from Deron Bennett.  Andry, Aragon, Wordie, and Bennett have created a brilliant visual experience that drives forward the narrative just as much as, if not more than, the words on the page.

As Paxton’s world goes dark, his children’s is set ablaze in the final two pages of the issues.  Before you’ve even had the chance to catch your breath from the shock of the previous scene, you’re transported back to the house that’s now shrouded in a red-orange glow.  It’s almost as though the forest outside is on fire, and it might as well be.  The kid from issue one has found the knife.  He’s found the house.  Ty goes outside to take care of it.  “It’s fine,” he says.  Meanwhile, they stare each other down as the world around them is full of fiery reds and oranges.  All three major textures combine to show how explosive and game-changing this moment is.  If the last issue’s final splash radiated horror, this one radiates something entirely different: dread.

With Resonant #1, Andry, Aragon, Wordie, and Bennett made you care.  Now, with Resonant #2, they’ve brought you into their world and set it on fire.

Resonant #2
Is it good?
Resonant #2 shows what a firestorm truly is and can be as the creative team continues to use raw visual and written emotion to pump the reader full of all the anxiety, trepidation, and dread you could want from the survival horror genre.
Deron Bennett's effects stand out visually while seamlessly blending in on an emotional level.
Wordie's colors can almost serve as a hot/cold meter for danger. An integral part of the visual storytelling on display here.
Aragon continues to capitalize on using patterns and textures for different purposes to bring the world beyond just two dimensions.
Even though Paxton is given a brief moment of peace, the reader's worry never ceases.
10
Fantastic
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