Lon Eisley’s life is in a transition period. Up until recently, she was a successful hitwoman. Now she’s on the run with her girlfriend and a little kid / former target who can control fire. Meanwhile, a maniacal gangster is looking to put an end to them all and perhaps the whole city. Fortunately, Lon has space-age armor and a hoverbike to help her out, seemingly from out of nowhere.
Beautiful Canvas from Black Mask Studios has become a challenge to me over time. I think this is because the rules of this world haven’t been properly defined. The first issue was stunning and established Lon as a hitwoman tortured by her past with a big reveal that this little boy could shoot fire from his hands. OK. Got it. Then we’re suddenly in a sci-fi kind of space with the aforementioned armor, hoverbikes, and now a big robot and a handful of other things. I feel like I missed a chapter along the way that would have connected some of these dots.
The narrative is a little disjointed as we bounce between Lon, her girlfriend Asia, the kid, the gangster, Milla, this other guy Eric, and some sleeper agents. It’s like one of those mid-2000s era movies like Shoot ‘Em Up or Smokin’ Aces where things are moving from plot point to plot point at a frenetic pace, but I don’t see how all the pieces are connected.
Beautiful Canvas can almost stand on its own without dialogue. It’s a showcase for Sami Kivela’s incredible artwork. Coupled with Triona Farrell’s colors, this is hands down one of the most gorgeously illustrated comics I’ve seen all year. It has an unmistakable energy and emotion through every single panel.
This is especially true with Lon. She has this broken look to her that’s emphasized by her furrowed brow and freckled face. She’s been so sure of her path in life up until this point. Now she’s in uncharted waters.
Kivela’s art direction is fantastic. He zeroes in on specific pieces of a panel, adding some extra weight to details of a larger panel. This makes Beautiful Canvas feel twice as large, like you’re getting a ton of extra pages for your four dollars. Each page is filled to the brim.
The coup de grace comes near the end of the issue where the fire kid (I feel weird calling him this, but I honestly can’t find his name) is losing control. Fire billows all around the child, but is confined within his panel on the page. Asia approaches him from outside of the panel, essentially from the gutters and then steps inside. It’s a beautiful use of the medium that is incredibly powerful. It shows the lengths a parent or guardian would go for a child in danger.
Beautiful Canvas is a visual tour de force of a comic. Unfortunately, the story doesn’t add up and feels like it’s trying so very hard to be too cool for school, like an awkward kid writing strange poetry. It’s not quite sure what it wants to be. Is it an action movie? A family drama? A sci-fi adventure? A neo-noir? A crime series? There are elements of all of those things, but together, it falls short. I have faith in writer Ryan K. Lindsay, however I think this series is a miss for me.
Beautiful Canvas #3 is currently available at your local comic book shop.