From the first panel I ever saw of Jessi Sheron's, I thought she had a great eye for angles. By the end of the first page of her's I read, I felt the same way about her layouts. Her artwork really takes its time to set the mood of a scene, and often uses subtle, imaginative symbolism, but never feels as if it's extraneously padding the book for length.
Am I seeing things, or do the shadows cast by those columns look like teeth inside a gaping mouth?
Jessi Sheron's The Evil Queen is no exception. It's a moody fantasy that's similar enough to Maleficent that Disney fans will enjoy it, but distinct enough to stand on its own, with plenty of suspense and sorcery in the mix.
The story follows Laviana, a queen once adored for her beauty, who is losing popularity as she ages. Wanting to reclaim the lost laurels of her youth, Laviana teaches herself witchcraft in an attempt to make herself as beautiful as she was before, but when she finds that a bounty has been put on her life, she discovers she may have to use her powers for more than just the cosmetic.
The plot see our heroine grappling between staying loyal to her family and serving her own interests. Laviana is a sympathetic but flawed character, and could easily be the villain from another character's perspective. In keeping with this, the comic is book-ended with sections narrated by no particular character in caption boxes, in the style of fairy tales, as if these were stories told by bards about the events of the comic from an outsider's perspective.
The first 'fairy tale' establishes who we should root for, then the comic drops the caption boxes in favour of showing events as they are, and at the end, without giving away the plot, we return to another fairy tale, although this time the concept has been turned on its head, as we are reading it informed of what really happened.
This is something I personally appreciate because I much prefer my fictional morality be ambiguous. I really gravitate towards protagonists who can make me root for them whilst still entertaining dark thoughts, doing questionable things, and have believable flaws, without it seeming forced for shock value's sake. To that end, Laviana succeeds in this, as her story unfolds her development as a character seems perfectly natural.
One thing I find difficult when illustrating my own comics is keeping the background busy enough to make the settings appear authentic without cluttering the page. But the way Sheron frames the backgrounds in her worlds makes them feel complete even when they're objectively very minimalist.
I love this panel. Not a dot's worth of waste.
The Evil Queen makes you feel as if you're seeing everything unfold in a grand castle even when you're only really seeing a small corner of it, by using the kind of seemingly effortless visual subtext that I'm jealous of.
Colouring is another area that the book shines. The pallets are often high contrast, with two main colours helping each other to pop off the page. It's a surreal and atmospheric style which enhances the magical milieu of the book.
One part I thought was particularly clever was a scene in which two conflicted characters are shown coloured in red for one, and white for the other, which immediately reminded me of opposing chess pieces on a red and white board. Sheron's attention to detail is meticulous enough that I'm fairly certain this was intentional symbolism, especially because both of the characters are royals.
Now that I think about it, off the top of my head, I can't think of another artist who uses effective symbolism as consistently as Sheron does.
So if you like your fantasy and Disney movies a little bit dark, give The Evil Queen a look. It recently made its way to Comixology, you can check it out there.
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