I shouldn’t be at a loss for words about this issue. With writer Jeff Lemire, artist Andrea Sorrentino, colorist Dave Stewart, and letterer Steve Wands manning the ship, frankly, I should be expecting this level of excellence. Yet, Image Comics’ Primordial #4 somehow manages to be even more beautiful than all the issues before it. This creative team knows that sometimes the simplest things are also the most meaningful.
Lemire’s script for Primordial #4 is led almost entirely by our three animal characters: Able, Mrs. Baker, and Laika. While they’re still undergoing the changes spurred on by previous issues, they are able to communicate in basic, if powerful, terms. They use words like “good,” “bad,” and “home.” But in giving these animals such a basic script, Lemire connects us to some of our most primal feelings. We want to be good. We want to be home. And when we see that these animals do too, that’s all that matters. Lemire doesn’t get distracted by the complexities of his story, and neither do we as readers. Those things, though interesting, get pushed to the margins. It’s the little critters that are navigating these complexities that we hone in on. In putting the story on their backs, Lemire makes this issue so moving, yet still easy to digest and understand.
Sorrentino’s imagery is also a big part of what keeps us focused in this issue. He chooses all the right details to give us the feeling of every scene. When things begin to go wrong for our animals, we don’t see big images of them running or cowering. We see a panel of Mrs. Baker’s eyes peeking out from between her fingers. Or we see Able’s hands, desperately grasping at the side of a rock. And yet these images are often panels found in pages with wild layouts. Sorrentino will scatter panels across a page, like glass shards falling to the ground. That way, these small, intimate, emotional moments, tied together by the chaos of the panels on the page, make for deeply moving scenes.
There are massive sections in this issue that don’t have much color in them. Stewart first shows us Able, Mrs. Baker, and Laika walking through scenes that are grey and white. The scenes feel quite matter-of-fact. We’re left worrying, for a second, that in gaining a higher intellect, these animals have traded away their joy. But then color splashes onto the page. It’s a joyous and beautiful return to emotions. And once Stewart has brought us back, he doubles down. When the animals are in danger, the page is covered in neon yellows and bright oranges. By stripping away the color for a while, Stewart gets us on the edge of our seats, our faces buried in the page. And that’s where Stewart wows us with dazzling colors and fills us with potent emotions.
The most interesting aspect of Wands’ lettering comes through in how the animals talks. We see Able and Laika talking in broken sentences. Their word balloons have wavy borders and their font is small and tidy. It all feels quite refined. But when Mrs. Baker – who still communicates in “Eee eee!” noises – speaks, her word balloon is simple and her font is bold and slightly messy. Later, we see Laika panic. She talks about what’s wrong, but she barks too. And when she barks, Wands abandons the wavy borders and tidy font. We see Laika’s animal instincts rise back up into her throat. It’s a fantastic way for Wands to show us the emotion of that moment.
Image Comics’ Primordial somehow gets more beautiful with each issue. This creative team communicates in the simplest terms, to navigate us through a complex story. It’s stunning and moving. Pick up Primordial #4, out from Image Comics December 15th, at a comic shop near you!