Best Use of Color, 2011: Rico Renzi (Loose Ends)

January 30th, 2012 by | Tags: , ,

Colors can make or break a comic book. Great colorists–Matthew Wilson, Dave Stewart, June Chung, Matt Hollingsworth, Laura Allred, Frazer Irving, Laura Martin, Dave McCaig, and more–are as essential to a comic book as the writer and artist. Colors can set the mood in subtle ways, heighten or lessen the horror of a scene, or help turn an abstract idea into a concrete one. Great comics don’t have bad colors. It simply doesn’t work. Colors, including black and white, are too essential, too vital to the format, to be something that you can phone in. Colors count.

Rico Renzi’s colors in Loose Ends, published by 12 Gauge Comics, are fantastic. To be honest, the entire book clicks on every cylinder. Jason Latour’s story is on point, a crime tale that unfolds slowly, but in an entertaining and surprising way. Chris Brunner’s art is great, no matter whether he’s drawing slumping fellas, tired women, great sound effects, or faded flashbacks. Renzi’s colors are great, though. It may be an overused term, but his colors “pop.” Neon signs draw your eye, just like they do in real life. The gloom of a late night crawls across the page. He eschews sepia tone for flashbacks, choosing instead to render one of them with a greenish-blue and purple screentone overly.

The first issue is dominated by reds. The bar where most of the action takes place is open late and nearly empty, but that doesn’t stop things from going down. What should have been an easy night turns into a violent and horrible one, and an appropriately bloody shade of red begins to dominate the pages in spikes and bursts. When things quiet down, the red gives way to a cool blue and eventually black. The transition is an impressive one, and isn’t the type of thing that you’ll consciously notice on your first read.

Renzi makes a number of brave color choices over the course of the series. He’s not going for realism, not really. Realism in crime comics generally means lots of browns, blues, and blacks; rainy days and dark alleys. Renzi’s palette is more like something from a summer blockbuster or cape comic, but adjusted for the subject matter. The bright colors practically blast off the page, doubly so when they’re hidden in an otherwise flat flashback.

He uses a lot of unnatural colors, too, like Kool-Aid blue (the same blue I associate with that magical octopus/squid Kool-Aid introduced in the ’90s, remember that?) for sparks or lights and a sickly green for cash money. As a result, Loose Ends doesn’t look hardly anything else you’ll find on the shelves. It’s a crime comic that looks like it’s been lit by bioluminescence, and the finished product is beautiful. Rico Renzi knows exactly what he’s doing. It’s obvious from simply flipping through Loose Ends. After you read it the first time, take some time to just flip through the book and look at the art. Glance at how the colors shift as the book goes on. You won’t regret it. I like Loose Ends enough to follow these guys wherever they go.

(I’m editing this weeks after I first wrote this and I just realized what these colors remind me of: Jean-Luc Godard’s Pierrot Le Fou, starring my main man Jean-Paul Belmondo and Anna Karina, the girl of my dreams. It’s a fairly dark story, at least in summary, but the palette and storytelling is like something out of a fairy tale or cartoon. It makes for a very strange film, and it’s one of my favorite movies.)

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One comment to “Best Use of Color, 2011: Rico Renzi (Loose Ends)”

  1. Oh man this looks great. If it weren’t for my new years resolution of not buying any more books I would order this so hard.

    So many people go for realism while there’s an entire spectrum of colours to choose from. I’m a big supporter of expressionistic colours. Have you read Supermarket by Bryan Wood and Kristian Donaldson?