The structure of a comic book is one of its most important features. Along with clear storytelling and compelling artwork, a proper structure and page layout helps explain the story to the reader. This week’s episode of Strip Panel Naked, the YoutTbe mini-masterclass hosted by Hass Otsmane-Elhaou, focuses on dissecting the various mind-bending layers and intricate structure (and lack thereof) of Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s The Multiversity: Pax Americana. One page of the comic, in particular, feels as though it’s beginning to bust at the seams, structurally, until it strategically rights itself in the end. Otsmane-Elhaou recommends this video as more of a companion piece to reading the actual comic, instead of the series' usual standalone video essay format, so it’s recommended readers hunt down the issue on shelves or read it digitally on online distributor site, Comixology.
“There’s this page right at the end of Pax Americana which completely disrupts everything you’ve seen before,” explains Otsmane-Elhaou. A major character in the comic sits on a bench looking at his father’s tombstone, and “the layout of the book starts to devolve.” On a large, beautifully rendered two-page spread, panels begin to multiply—always divisible by eight—and layer on top of each other, and their rigid lines begin to wobble. It looks as though the whole comic is about to implode on itself, as the character faces down a major, earth-shattering revelation.
“This single page of Pax Americana contains a lot to unpack,” says Otsmane-Elhaou, “but from a storytelling viewpoint it’s actually very simple. It shows the effect that panel composition, panel framing choices, and order versus a more chaotic placement have on the minds of your reader.”
Watch the full video to see how storytelling masters play with structure to enhance their stories: