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Ruby Falls Issue 1 Comic Book Review

Ruby Falls Issue 1

Writer: Ann Nocenti
Artist: Flavia Biondi
Colours: Lee Loughridge
Letters: Sal Cipriano
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics


Ruby Falls

Ruby Falls is a quiet town with deep roots and dark secrets. A jumbled story of a murder from a relative’s childhood sends the impulsive Lana down a road she might not entirely be prepared to travel.

Memory and Magic

Memory’s a tricky thing – as Lana’s grandmother says, the moment you commit a memory to the page you’re shaping it into something else. Nocenti drops us into the middle of Lana’s unfinished life and sets about crafting a young, impulsive and relatable character. No small feat. Ripe with potential to some and squandering everything to others. Lana moves through her life and her relationships with wry humour and flashes of impulsiveness. We hear about more from others than see in this first issue. She quite literally does not look before she leaps in the opening pages. We see that impulsiveness take a backseat to fleshing out the rest of the cast. Alongside their particular relationships with our protagonist. Lana’s father is cheerful and fast with witticisms. Whilst her mother’s dialogue carries more heat and sarcasm to mirror her condemnation of Lana’s visits with her grandmother.

Comprehensive dialogue 

Blair’s dialogue is straightforward and honest, and Lana’s grandmother’s musings are heartbreakingly crafted to run the gamut from sharp to muddled as she struggles to sort through her memories and frustration. Lana appears to have more agency with Raymond, whose fascination with Betty Gallagher and Lana herself allows for a notable shift in the power dynamic of the book, and reveals a manipulative, if gentle, aspect of Lana’s character.
It’s difficult to seed plot details in conversation, especially with a rotating cast, but it sure does pay off. This kind of storytelling is not the norm in mainstream comics right now, but it’s sorely missed. Nocenti’s dialogue is natural and easy on the eyeballs, which leaves us more time to absorb Biondi’s incredible flair for detail. This understated and conversational quality means Nocenti can slip some sensational stuff into the narrative and have it land pretty well because Biondi’s visuals do the job, and then some. Curious about what that means? No spoilers, folks. Pick up the first issue and find out for
yourselves.

Biondi’s branches look like barren vines, and the photos and memories a smattering of dead leaves clinging by a thread.

 

The Style and Subtlety of Ruby Falls

Biondi’s art is beautiful. The minimal line that makes Lana and the other characters feel like they’ve been blown into existence like the most delicate glass. Ruby Falls is a town on the precipice of something dangerous and explosive. However, Biondi captures that fragility while adding a unique style to each character. Lana’s face, clothes and mannerisms are at times lean and squared off. Compared to Blair’s powerful, physical femininity comes through in the graceful swoops of her hair and body on the silks and the trapeze. Lana’s grandmother is almost physically dwarfed by the cheerful patterns of her wallpaper and her pyjamas, but her mannerisms on video make her feel like she’s constantly in motion and still very much in possession of her personality and
personhood.

 

Ruby Falls is full of style 

Small towns have as much spirit as they do secrets. Biondi’s architectural and background details matter quite a bit. Loughridge’s colour palette enhances and perfects these details. There’s a resonance to Lana’s father appearing outside in the daylight. Compared to her mother, holding ramrod court in the interior gloom of the bar with just a hint of the dying sun to brighten her face. Just as there’s resonance in the golden warmth of the first page and the noir purples, blues and blacks of the final explosive cliffhanger. Loughridge is an expert at blending interior and exterior schemes. As Nocenti and Biondi incorporate a lot of location shifts in this first issue. That expertise shines.

Cipriano’s lettering skills are top-notch, and the font in this book is a perfect complement to Biondi’s graceful curves and angles. It slashes across the balloons with just a bit of order around the edges to keep things in line. Wonderfully echoing the precarious themes of the book. Cipriano goes with a razor-thin and slightly uneven stroke on the balloons and fat little tails to add just a bit of cartoonishness to Lana’s everyday adventures. Although unsteadiness remains and is a gentle visual reminder that not all is well in Ruby Falls. Far from it, in fact.

Composition and colour perfection.

 

Noir and Mystery Fans, Rejoice!

Nocenti’s flair for natural dialogue, Biondi’s stellar art, Loughridge’s excellent colours and
Cipriano’s expert lettering all add up to a very successful and compelling first issue. We’ve left Lana in some serious danger. Moreover, there’s surely more to come in addition to all the drama and tension of a fractured town family. I’m a sucker for good intrigue. Give me all the Venetian-blind shadow realness I can get in a noir or crime comic. So I’m very excited to see where this book goes.


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