December 6, 2013

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It Will All Hurt #1

Written and Illustrated by Farel Dalrymple
Study Group

Part fantasy, part science fiction, and entirely created in gorgeous watercolors, It Will All Hurt #1 is a series of stories that feature intriguing characters whose links are as of yet a mystery in this first collection of the webcomic that appears on the Study Group page.

I know a lot of people who are big fans of Farel Dalrymple's art, and after getting a chance to spend time with his work in a printed form, it's easy to see why. Using  thin, sketchy linework that he sometimes allows to flow outside the panel borders, Dalrymple creates characters who range from looking frail and human to unreal projections that come from a deep well of dark fantasy.

He also draws a cat, who is one of the narrators of the tale, always a bonus in my book.

Once those lines are down, each panel is given the watercolor treatment, creating coloring that is muted because of the watery nature of the paint. Reds are a bit dulled, greens are drab, and when we do see a brighter shade, such as the orange of a fire, it pops, calling attention to itself. The watercolors also run outside the lines from time to time, showing that there is more to this story that just what is contained within the artificial borders of a comic book. I'm extremely impressed with how well Dalrymple is able to use multiple colors next to each other without them blending together--unless that's the intention.

The overall effect of the art is to keep the reader just a bit off-balance, showing exacting precision yet not feeling like it was over-processed or overworked. Even when the pictures are slightly obscured or blurred due to the lines or painting, it's clear that Dalrymple is doing it on purpose. When combined with the ever-shifting cast of characters, you get a story that's designed to leave the reader wondering what is going on, but in the best possible way. The questions arise not from unclear storytelling or art, but because there's a link to all that we've seen, if only we can figure it out.

Because the story is a mystery at this point, it's a bit harder to talk about the plot. We have a girl lost in a wasteland, an alien spaceman attacked, a young boy and an old man whose world seems to morph and shift, desperate fighters, a man with an eye in his hand, and of course, the cat. Each of them see some page time, as the story shifts from one point of view to the other, with brief narrative clues that aren't quite enough to put the pieces together yet.

Each of their stories is extremely interesting to me, and one of the things that I like best about this comic is that despite having so many balls in the air, it never feels like there's too much going on. I know they'll come together somehow, and seeing that process is part of what's going to make this comic so interesting to read.

If you want a straightforward narrative, It Will All Hurt isn't going to be for you. On the other hand, if you like longform storytelling with art that gives you a reason to linger over the pages, this should be right up your alley. Anyone who likes a comic that obscures as much as it reveals or fantastic elements ala Saga should definitely pick this one up, or read it online at Study Group.