From Under Mountains is a series that demands the reader's attention at every layer of story and design. When I first read through From Under Mountains #2, my general reaction was, "okay, uh, what happened, exactly? Like, who was that and, what happened?" The simple answer to that question, most often, is "Purple. Purple happened," but reading From Under Mountains--and I mean really, actually, sitting the fuck down and reading it--is a much more involved process that you are likely to experience from many other comics this, or any other week.
After my first read through, I read through again and, much like my multiple reads of #1, I started discovering intensely clever layouts and transitions deployed by Leong. This is a comic where night and day themselves mean something, and the give and take between the two in the narrative is palpable, from what's happening in the story, down to what the colors of that particular time of day are conveying to the reader. Color itself, in fact, is pulling a massive storytelling load in this comic, so much so that it helped guide me to where I needed to go back to the first issue in order to understand some features of this two issue arc of the story.
Because here's the thing: when reading comics, I have time. If I'm watching a movie and I have to rewind to figure out what's going on, those creators have failed me as a viewer. Yes I can pick up more when I re-watch the film; but, each time I consume a movie, it's constitutive of the fact that it's a movie that I view it in a certain temporal sequence. It's not meant to be started and stopped and rewound and turned upside down.
In comics, I can very easily put down my copy of From Under Mountains #2, wander through my house trying to find exactly which stack of comics I left #1 in, open it, read the beginning, and immediately have both my narrative and aesthetic experience of the ending of #2 enhanced.
Because I. Have. Time.
A certain brand of comics author at the top of the Corporate Comics heap will drill it into your head that the hallmark of creating a comics page is clarity from moment to moment. While it's true that no visual story should be obfuscatory unless it has a damn good narrative reason to do so, an obsession with depicting events with maximum clarity leads to boring, tunnel-vision comics where you go in one end of the narrative and come out the other with some pretty anatomy work on white guys in tights beating the piss out of each other. It amounts to 17 minutes of reading that you probably replicate every other week.
There were some things that happened in this issue where I'm not exactly sure what it was that occurred. The initial, fairly ambiguous sequence that opened the series came full circle in this issue, however, which says to me that these creators aren't interested in pandering. This creative team is out to create a rich visual world where the overall story unfolds at a steady pace across issues, yet where the reader's enjoyment of the narrative unfolding is itself dictated only by the reader's level of engagement with how thoughtfully this story is being presented on the printed page.
I know that everyone doesn't read comics like me. Some people are way more into the tunnel-vision sort of narrative aspects than they are into cool layouts or fun fuckery with colors. But none of that changes the fact that From Under Mountains asks the reader to play close attention to what's happening in the comic while rising to meet that scrutiny with artistic choices that both stand on their own and further enhance earlier (and later) artistic choices as well.
From Under Mountains #2 Writer: Claire Gibson and Marian Churchland Artist: Sloane Leong Publisher: Image Comics Price: $2.99 Release Date: 10/28/15 Format: Ongoing, Print/Digital