ETHER: The Disappearance of Violet Bell #3 advanced review
Writer: Matt Kindt
Artist, Colors & Letters: David Rubín
Flats: Kike J. Diaz
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Release date: November 27th 2019
This is an advanced review of issue 3 so please be aware there may be some spoilers!
Boone Dias has travelled the Ether for most of his adult life. He’s sacrificed his career, his family and his health to uncover its most esoteric mysteries, battle its greatest villains and explain its pure magic.
Now, Ubel’s taken the role of Golden Blaze beyond its bounds. He’s unravelling reality and crushing everything good and beautiful about the Ether under his malignant rule.
And Violet Bell’s missing.
The People We Leave Behind
Boone’s personal history is no secret. Kindt and Rubín covered his failings as a father and partner extensively in the first two volumes of “Ether,” and this Jules Verne-ian hero’s had to tangle with his personal failures more than once. The tragedies of his past have largely occurred offscreen, however, and this time he has a chance to intervene and save someone he cares for.
Too bad he’s the same Boone he always was.
Boone’s a complex hero, and while we’re supposed to be dazzled and delighted by his unwavering commitment to pulling the curtain back on the unexplained, we’re also supposed to understand that someone who’s driven by a singular purpose isn’t necessarily the best partner or friend, and that there are consequences for this brand of brilliance. Kindt makes space in “Ether” for Boone to confront his shortcomings without shoving him into a state of premature acceptance or change, and Rubín adds a lot of subtlety to Boone’s body language and facial expressions to carry this home. Boone is single-minded (read: stubborn) and the tension between his better nature and moments of emotional honesty and his free-wheeling, often disastrous adventures makes “Ether” a compelling read. He’s not perfect, nor is he likely to learn and grow at a rate that suits readerly expectations outside of the needs of the larger story.
Issue #3 sees Boone and Glum tracking a supernatural assassin back to a very holy place. They sail with some pirates and experience a few nautical wonders along the way, and by the end of the issue Boone’s neck-deep in his usual mishandling of cosmic situations. Kindt and Rubín go for more world-building in this issue and keep some of Boone’s grimness out of the picture, but Glum’s decision not to continue on after Boone nearly gets them killed a few more times speaks volumes. Boone might be on the right track when it comes to trying to save a friend, but he’s still loathe to understand that his actions have consequences.
Big, angry pirate crew and god consequences, specifically.
We’ll need another emotional touchstone soon to keep us focused on Violet and the overall drama, but so far so good.
Another Wonder Around the Corner
The battle sarcophagus scene is a perfect example of why Rubín’s work is such a joy. In the midst of high emotional stakes, Kindt and Rubín take time to break down one of the many wonders of the “Ether” through Boone’s eyes. As Boone flips and flops across the page in the quick and dirty battle, he breaks down the anatomy, powers, weaponry and weaknesses of the sarcophagus. Rubín uses circular cut-out panels with bright yellow backgrounds as a nice structural scaffold for Boone’s analytical point of view. Paired then with fuchsia inset panels to zoom in at an X-ray level of muscle, sinew and wiring. Rubín orients us to these additions with tails between for clarity, and keeps Boone’s narration and reasoning very simple in borderless narrative boxes that straddle narrow vertical panels. Add in Glum and Boone popping in and out of panels – and sometimes across the gutters – and we have a very complex action scene to digest.
Yet, it all works. Rubín foregrounds of the villain as it dances across the page toward its escape, and the small spotlights help slow the action enough to provide an interesting anatomy lesson and an enjoyable comics experience. The creature leaps out the window on the page turn in one smooth motion, trailing broken glass and one of Rubín’s excellent sound effects in its wake. The transition panel is done in a palette that blends all of the previous pages’ colors as a punctuation point on the chaos, and the rest of the page relaxes back into more traditional panel structure and scripted action.
This fight is just one example of many complex scenes in “Ether,” and Rubín’s imagination commitment to crisp lines and grotesque physiques continue to make this book an absolute feast for the eyes. The color palette is wild and varied but never unmoored or casual, and the lettering is a part of the page in a way it can really only be when it’s done by one person with exceptional skill. Rubín often plays with splaying balloons across gutters when there are insets or cut-outs, but the choice to keep the balloons borderless goes a long way to keep those moments integrated and visually interesting.
Hats off to Diaz’s flatting, because “Ether” is an incredibly complex book. Using a flatter means an artist can focus on other aspects of the book, and with Rubín drawing, coloring and lettering the whole project, time is most likely precious. Diaz’s work on the team means we can get those lovely gradients, textures and incredible layouts picked out with precision and style and no cut corners. It’s a nice change to see Diaz’s work credited, as well.
How to Make Friends and Influence People
Kindt and Rubín are delivering the goods in “Ether,” again. There’s a lot on the line for Boone, and not just because there are only a few people in the world who can tolerate him for more than a day at a time. The very essence of the place he loves more than anything is at stake, and Violet’s life is in his hands. We’re taking time to explore the vast mysterious and joys of Ether, as we always do, but with two volumes under our belt, Kindt and Rubín up the ante nicely.
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