Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Black Feather Falls Book 2

Written and Line Art by Ellen Lindner
Color Art by Ellen Lindner with Elliot Baggott and Chris Gomez
Published by Soaring Penguin Press

Tina Swift and Ms. McInteer take their investigation of a possible murder into the northern islands of Scotland where the truth of a brutal war comes out. Meanwhile, Swift's past catches up to her as this second installment of a mini-comic mystery continues the strong storytelling and vibrant art of the first.

Awhile back, I wrote about how much I liked the first issue, and I was pleased to be able to read the next part of the story. Opening with a dream sequence and quickly moving to establish just how different Swift and McInteer are from each other, the two work together to unravel the mystery of the dead man.

It's not easy, and made worse by the fact that Swift is completely out of her element. If she was a fish out of water to some degree in London, in rural Scotland she's Aquaman on that cover where he's dying in the desert. On the other hand, McInteer easily navigates the insular nature of the people and gets them the information that they need.

Lindner does a great job of showing both the dynamic between the pair of women and the world in which they find themselves. It's a tricky balance, because there's a mystery to unravel as well, but unless she gives us the flavor of the area, taking them to such a remote spot isn't all that useful. The contrast between the idyllic landscape (if you like jagged rocks and almost no people) and the horrors of World War I make a very effective contrast, not unlike Swift and McInteer themselves.

But the big change in this part of the story is the focus back to Swift's past. There's no real clue yet how this is going to play into the overall plot, but somehow, it doesn't seem like a coincidence, and Lindner gives it too much attention to just be a distraction.

As with Book 1, Lindner's visuals really nail this story that fits nicely in a time period and concept that reminds me strongly of Agatha Christie. Swift, who was distinctive enough in London, really stands out here, all awash in colors. It's an effect she even uses to try and get information, breaking all rules of UK propriety, as we'd expect a liberated American woman to do. On the other hand, McInteer's neutrals and modest dress help the reader understand just how much at home she is out here in the wilds, where her solitaire-playing, needle-buying self fit with those around her.

The best part of this series, however,  is always its layouts. Whether it's changing the angles slightly in a series of conversational panels, showing Swift's misadventures in small, comedic montages, or using gulls to frame a landscape, Lindner's pages make the reader linger over their construction. Perhaps the best example of this is when Swift narrows her eyes at the reader, taking up a thin band going across the center of the page, and announces her hatred for the man who hurt her. It's positively chilling.

There are plenty of moments like that. Lindner's characters themselves may be a bit on the stiff side, but they're always positioned in such a way that disguises some of the limitations of her artwork. Two people walking is ordinary. Showing their disparate mindsets with a subtle visual of two escalators going in different directions makes the panel extraordinary. Combined with facial expressions that give clear emotions to the dialogue and the coloring that alternates between blending and contrasting as suits Lindner's needs, this is a mini-comic that rises above the usual fair. It takes pains to make everything work in harmony and doesn't allow its genre to overcome its style.

Black Feather Falls Book 2 has just as much to recommend itself as the first, and I've no doubt Book 3, whenever it arrives, will also be a must-read for fans of period comics and mysteries alike.

For more information and to order a copy, you can go to Soaring Penguin Press's website.

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