Beautiful Canvas Issues #1-4 Review

Writer: Ryan K. Lindsay
Artist: Sami Kivela
Colorist: Triona Farrell
Color Flats: Lauren Perry & Richel Tagyamon
Letterer: Ryan Ferrier
Editor: Dan Hill
Publisher: Black Mask Studios

A review by Michael Hein

The first two issues of Beautiful Canvas have turned a lot of heads among comic readers and critics, and Issue #3 — out September 6th from Black Mask Studios  — will undoubtedly do the same. At Rogues Portal, we were lucky enough to get a sneak peek at issues #3 and #4, and it’s safe to say that fans of the series and new readers alike will be captivated by the conclusion.

In a growing culture of world-building, franchising, and tie-ins, co-creators Ryan K. Lindsay and Sami Kivela have offered us a narrower, more deliberately-framed view of their fictional universe, something that we may not have even realized we’ve been missing.

Though it’s clear that there’s a whole lot to see in this world of bounty hunters, super-powers, and billionaire psychopaths, this creative team carefully guides the eye of the reader, ignoring lots of expository conventions and trusting in their story to fill readers in as they go. They focus on characters, relationships, and conflicts that truly resonate, rather than spending a lot of time defining rules and boundaries.

The surreal, cinematic scope of Beautiful Canvas is highlighted through the use of title cards sprinkled throughout the series. Without giving anything away, the final issues continue to expand on this device, creating a neat form of narrative symmetry. In addition, the deft pacing of the story allows for  the unique feeling that by the time our protagonist, Lon Eisley, comes to understand what she wants, she already has the power to achieve it. The effect is to put the reader into her shoes, making the journey that much more real, and the stakes that much higher.

This is the sort of storytelling that reflects long hours of planning and outlining, though that doesn’t detract from the series’ power as a good ‘ole fashioned action-thriller-revenge fantasy. The heroes may be brooding and convoluted, but the villain is a villain, through-and-through. Lindsay manages to craft a simply evil character in Milla without ever making her predictable or cheesy.

The art shows as much planning and forethought as the storytelling, and Kivela’s style mirrors the splintered, frantic nature of the narrative. Beautiful Canvas makes particularly good use of panels within panels, giving us fight scenes blow by blow, laid out over a larger spread. This adds to the cinematic nature of the book, practically begging for a screen adaptation. In addition, these asides leave room for hints at the sci-fi gadgetry of this world, fitting a remarkable amount of scope into a four issue series.

Though it’s left unclear whether Lindsay and Kivela will be revisiting the world of Beautiful Canvas, there’s certainly plenty of room for more.

Buy it!
If you’re not already reading Beautiful Canvas, you’ll be lucky enough to read all three issues in one sitting. If you’re already a fan, you can look forward to an ending worthy of the series. Even in the thriving world of indie comics today, Beautiful Canvas stands out, and is sure to be remembered among the greats. Pick up issue #3 on Wednesday, September 6th, and watch out for the finale in October.

Mike Hein

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