As the world's most ubiquitous sequential art form, comic books are masters of the set-up and pay-off. A fist pulled back for a punch, WHAM, and a body flying; these are the hallmarks of a classic action comic. But in this week's episode of Strip Panel Naked, the mini-comics masterclass devoted to uncovering all the cool stuff that goes into making comics, host Hass Otsmane-Elhaou takes a look at a comic that continually subverts those expectations to surprise and mislead the reader. With a focus on Hawkeye #4 by Kelly Thompson, Leonardo Romero, Jordie Bellaire, and Joe Sabino, this week's video essay breaks down the incredible subversion, panel by panel.
"Comedy can often be about distraction and the element of surprise, but so too can fear," Otsmane-Elhaou explains in the video. "It's about taking something you expect to happen and flipping in on its head. And the latest volume of Hawkeye… fully understands that approach. The book is laden with pages and visuals that set you up for one thing, and then hits you with something else."
The first example the video touches on is the opening page of the book. Hawkeye's head floats against a black background, and she casually, teasingly chats with someone off-panel. Otsmane-Elhaou comments on how there's "nothing else to see here beyond the face and the black background. Each of those faces is really interesting too, because even without the words you could get a sense of the mood." When we turn the page, it's a shock when we're presented with a perilous moment. "The team is able to add this additional emphasis of fear, and power, and villainy, that may have been otherwise lost in the obvious take on this kind of scene."
To see full examples of reader misdirection in action, watch the full video below:
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