Northwest Alternative Comics: Cameron Cain

In his zine Abruption, Taylor Dow appears to focus on the uses of line, direction, size, and contrast to direct the reader’s experience. As the comic is only black ink on brown paper, there is no color, though there is value. In many visuals, all the reader sees is a wild mess of lines running generally in one direction, such as when the man approaches the tree to begin climbing; the lines run vertically. When we see the whole tree, and how tall it stands, the tree itself is used as a line in the upward direction, contrasted by the dark sky behind. It is also shown in its entirety to emphasize the disparity between the enormity of the tree and the smallness of the man.

Another notable employment of these elements comes at the drawn-out conclusion, where the man leaps across the abyss to meet the shadow man in the middle. Here, the emphasis is on contrast – the faces of either side of the chasm against the dark night sky beyond, and the position and movement of either man as they fly through the air.

I really like this sort of visual style – high contrast, and made with simple black lines and shapes. It is a sort of style wherein texture is created through the use of lines, rather than the use of gradation or shape. We can see the tree is rough, with a complex, uneven exterior that can be believably gripped by our protagonist, even though each individual line used to achieve this effect is smooth and curvy. To me, this visual style is good for unsettling and absurd imagery. The texture is personal, and the high contrast and simple lines are great for creating strange proportion in what are supposed to be more familiar images – such as the bloated man in the tree hollow and his long, snaking arms.

I also appreciate the time framing used in the ending, it almost makes the moment feel like it’s in slow-motion, each moment being experienced in its entirety before moving on to the next, near-identical moment. The progress is slow and deliberate, despite the apparent peril the two men face from the chasm below. We are forced into a suspense and left without resolution in the final frames.

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