Beautiful Canvas #1 (Black Mask Comics)

From the opening blood soaked page which sees hit woman Lon getting life advice from her most recent victim (who has a particularly large bullet hole in his head), then you know you are in for a bloody, violent and gritty crime tale with Beautiful Canvas, courtesy of the team behind Deer Editor and Chum and it definitely doesn’t disappoint!.

Publisher: Black Mask Studios
Writer: Ryan K Lindsay
Artist: Sami Kivela, Triona Farell
Price: TBC

After broadening his range with all ages adventures EIR and recent Kickstarter offering Ink Island, writer Ryan k Lindsay is back in super gritty crime territory with Beautiful Canvas. The story sees female assassin Lon pick up a new junior sidekick after a hit on a particularly nasty target. It’s a fairly familiar tale on the surface, but it is the action on the sidelines which makes this story work so well. Whether it’s Lon’s relationship with her partner, the particularly gruesome woman who sent her on the mission in the first place, or the eclectic team of super mercs sent to track her down, it fleshes out what could otherwise be a fairly trad tale and gives the whole story a really interesting and compelling diversity that makes you want to carry on reading. (Plus it’s great to see women leading the way and being as tough and dastardly and damaged as the men!)

There are shades of Greg Rucka’s Lazarus in the way it focuses on a kick ass female character, and blends crime and sci-fi without diluting either element. And as is always the case with Lindsay’s crime work the shadow of Ed Brubaker runs long, but not in the sense that he is copying his or Rucka’s style, rather that his approach to crime comic story telling is fast approaching the level of those two and deserves to be regarded in a similar breath. There’s also hints of Mark Millar’s Wanted with the super villain contingent being seamlessly integrated into the story. And there’s nothing about that combination which is bad in our books!

Lindsay is helped out on his upward trajectory by long time collaborator Sami Kivela. After the slightly underwhelming  work on Chum, this is career best work from Kivela who has all the personality of Sean Philips and the detail of Michael Lark to create this perfect look for Lindsay’s world. He even manages to perfectly manage the introduction of a group of super villain mutant mercs halfway through, which in the hands of a lesser artists would have looked completely out of place, but he manages it perfectly.

We always knew Sami had the chops in terms of line work (just revisit Deer Editor if you don’t believe us) but his work is taken to a new level by colourist Triona Farrell whose use of pinks and blues gives the whole thing a neon quality to it that makes it stand out from the crowd, and reminds us a lot of Casper Wjingaards work on the criminally underrated Limbo.

If you’ve been a fan of Lindsay and Kivela for any time then you know they have been on the cusp of greatness for a while now and this more than delivers. However if this is your first exposure to them then you will not regret it, as Beautiful Canvas is crime comics perfection!