Step By Bloody Step reads almost like a visual epic poem, with its twist on the comedic formula redefining what’s done visually in the medium.
WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Step By Bloody Step #1
A solemn black-tinged Titan plods through a wintry wasteland in the debut issue of Si Spurrier, Matías Bergara and Matheus Lopes. bloody step. This article already contains many more words than the entire first issue of the new Image Comics book, which has seven speech bubbles. None of these contain intelligible language. In a strong twist for the genre, bloody step reads almost like a visual epic poem, with its twist on the comedic formula redefining what’s done visually in the medium.
A Frigid Wasteland is a sensory experience without words
The first panel of number 1 presents a child, naked and curled up in a fetal position. It rests in the massive, ominous hand of a gargantuan creature clad in armor. From this panel, the fear and vulnerability of the unnamed main character is never clearer, even when monsters emerge from the world around him. This danger and fear could be made clearer with storytelling, but it doesn’t have to be.
Also, the reader has to interpret the comic more for themselves. The unnamed main character doesn’t need to specify that the black giant’s metal is cold. One can just imagine the icy sensation of cold metal on the side of their body as the main character feels. The main character then seems to turn over in the hands of the giant, rubbing his eyes and completely at ease. The reader must have the intuition that the main character feels safe, rather than being informed directly.
The childlike wonderment of playing with his own icy breath contrasts sharply with the black giant slaying a creature bent on murdering the two protagonists. Cool blacks, whites and blues give way to shocking oranges and reds. The main character screams and holds the black giant. A lack of words makes the sudden, sharp colors and shapes more brilliant and shocking than the storytelling could convey, as the images and predation are not presented as intended or part of the narrative. They are raw and visceral. They feel bad in a completely intentional way.
Time passes and relationships are built without a word
As the two travel, we discover the curiosity of the child and the indulgent pragmatism of the black giant come into focus. The child, after putting on clothes for the first time, tries to look into the black giant’s armor, only to be rejected. However, the black giant satisfies the child’s curiosity at other times, picking a flower from him and engaging him in a very short snowball fight. Even this short event passes without a word, but the hilarity of the black giant’s disproportionate response of throwing an entire branch of snow at the child is as laughable as any joke, yet completely silent.
Eventually, the white wasteland gives way to a bright, magical world. This is where Bergara’s art really shines, as the white world gives way to the shapes and colors of life and joy. Only one panel shows the young girl staring at her reflection in the water, her aging revealed to her for the first time, even as readers have known for a while.
Even here, however, monsters abound. The child, still curious even after her hair tells readers that several months have passed since they first met, begins to pick up a small object. The black giant pulls her aside and kills another monster that feels so out of place in the world of wonder.
Pain and trauma are conveyed through heartbreaking images
This last monster spits fire and melts the black giant’s helm. He somehow manages to scratch the girl, and the black giant appears to be crying even the tiniest drop of blood. The giant buries the drop in the ground next to the crops of the community he encounters.
This community, though the art becomes placid and gentle with their introduction, proves equally dangerous to the black giant. A bowl of soup is knocked out of the hands of a helpful villager before the girl can get it. A child attempts to give the girl a stuffed animal, but the girl creates a barrier by accident, ultimately separating her from the rest of humanity both emotionally and physically.
This action separates the helm from the black giant’s body. Below appears another child, broken and saddened by the damage done to the world. The young girl, agreeing, follows the black giant over hill and dale, step by step, to the last panels.
All of these twists, the strange creatures and the betrayal, are conveyed without words. The world seems and seems alien, both to the reader and to the girl. At the end of issue #1, a chase begins and danger only grows in the silent but worried world of bloody step.
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