Beautiful Canvas #1
Writer: Ryan K. Lindsay
Artist: Sami Kivela
Colorist: Triona Farrel
Letterer: Ryan Ferrier
Publisher: Black Mask Studios
A review by Kylee Sills
“You’re overthinking it.” Is a bold statement coming from someone whose brain matter drips from the wall behind his head while Lon stares straight-forward, daring readers to do anything else when confronted with such a graphic and neon scene. Take that advice to heart when reading through Beautiful Canvas #1, a wildly creative, unabashedly violent, and unapologetically weird new series from Black Mask.
Lon is a hitwoman who does the bidding of her rich boss, indiscriminately fulfilling her duties until there’s one job where she doesn’t. Juggling the recent news of her girlfriend’s pregnancy and a loose end, Lon shows plenty of signs of being Not Okay™. Add in some guilt, hallucinations, and one massive twist to the bad guys that makes things infinitely more interesting and you’ve got the makings of a ferris wheel full of dead bodies. At first glance, it might be fun, but once you get closer, everything gets a little more horrifying.
Writer Ryan K Lindsay built up two very different femme fatales, both complex and more interesting as the issue unfolds. Lon approaches everything with a painful honesty. When asked if someone is good, she simply says, “You tell me.” and later cautions against giving vague half-answers to questions. She’s clearly struggling with the choices she’s made and what they mean for her future work as a hitwoman and a mother.
Conversely, her boss, Milla, speaks mainly in metaphor as she commits acts more heinous than Lon’s. Her blatant disregard for the people around her and mindset that money will get her everything she wants work as her driving force. Others fill in like set pieces around them, contributing to their abilities to work as both a destroyer and creator – Lon with her job and loose end, Milla with her orders and arguably her “gardening.”
Sami Kivela’s art works to further differentiate the two women, as Lon is kept physically separate from not only her boss, but most people throughout the issue. At one point, the reader’s point of view has her literally boxed in by Milla. Lindsay’s timeline of events might be more jarring if not for Kivela’s ability to transition panels and nest them within each other. As it stands, the issue builds upon itself with greater emotional stakes as Lindsay and Kivela work in tandem. Without spoiling anything, I will say that Kivela has the unique opportunity to do some very interesting character work in future issues and what I’ve seen so far I’ve loved.
Colorist Triona Farrell deserves plenty of credit for her work on the issue as well, starting with the decision to make the blood throughout a stark, neon pink. There are times when she chooses to cast Lon in light or in shadow, to further enhance the dichotomy her life is quickly becoming. With the outside world cast in soft pinks and oranges, most of Lon’s world is cooler blue tones, which also makes the blood and violence she’s surrounded by pop.
The end of the issue is filled with extras from the creative team. Lindsay expands upon what drove him to delve into the story told in Beautiful Canvas #1 specifically, before fielding a round of questions with his editor, Dan Hill, mostly focused on the Philip K. Dick slant on the series. A mock newspaper front page gives more insight into some of the minor characters introduced in this issue and don’t skip over it like I almost did. It’s an informative read with a few easter eggs already.
Buy It! With more than a few surprises, Beautiful Canvas #1 should not be missed. It’s a self-assured work from the creative team that seamlessly builds the theme of creator/destroyer through words, art, and colors working in tandem perfectly. It’s not a book about morality as much as it’s about being responsible for others, which is infinitely more terrifying even before the Philip K. Dick paranoia elements are thrown in. This book is for anyone who has ever questioned themselves and the choices they make. Plus, there may or may not be super powers.