From page 1, you know that shit’s going to go down in Newburn #3. Or, more accurately, shit has already gone down. Writer Chip Zdarsky, and artist, colorist, and letterer Jacob Phillips open this issue on three dead bodies, lying in pools of their own blood. Image Comics’ Newburn has thus far been no stranger to death. But this issue, in particular, takes a turn for the gruesome and macabre. It’s disturbingly interesting.
Zdarsky makes an interesting shift in this issue. For once, Newburn is facing something unlike anything he’s ever seen before. Zdarsky isn’t showing us the Columbo-esque confidence of someone who has figured out everything on page one. He’s showing us the step by step process of Newburn figuring something out from the ground up. We see Newburn talk more than usual. We see him listen more carefully. As such, there’s plenty of text in Newburn #3. Perhaps a bit more than in his first two outings. But Zdarsky brilliantly counteracts this by pulling back on the dialogue altogether near the end. Once Newburn has figured everything out, the pages become wordless. The silence rings in the air as you lean forward in your seat. Zdarsky creates a fantastic rhythm in his script, pulling you in for the big, satisfying finale.
Once again, Phillips shows us what makes Newburn so different from everyone. In a world of snarls, grimaces, and the occasional smile, Newburn is a constant stoic. He’s a man who is always in control. And even Phillips’ page layouts show us this. They’re your typical, straight-edged, neatly placed panels. They echo the ordered, tidy life that Newburn lives. He may deal with all kinds of crazy people, but he won’t let their way of life effect his. Until, in the last couple pages of this issue, the layouts change. In place of all of the right angles, we see gutters that slant and cut through the air. Newburn is finally facing someone who’s just as chaotic as he is orderly. Phillips heightens this moment of the script by making these pages unlike anything we’ve seen yet.
Phillips’ coloring is always a highlight in this series. Every scene feels like it has a specific hue to it. The first scene, out in the cold morning light, is cast in a soft blue tone. The scenes in the Black Castle have a menacing red glow to them. And one scene, set in a morgue, is shown in with a green tint to it. Each coloring choice adds to the ambience of every setting. But it also works to match the feeling of each beat of the narrative. Phillips choices are both stunning to the eye and thematically engaging, as usual.
There’s a specificity to the size of Phillips’ lettering. As Newburn #3 reaches its big crescendo, the font of the dialogue gets bigger. Soon, the bolded and italicized lettering has these characters yelling at one another. Then, on the next page, Newburn is whispering to himself in a smaller font than usual. You can hear each character change their volume for emphasis. Phillips wants you to do more than just read this comic. He wants you to hear it.
Image Comics’ Newburn #3 is a gruesome good time. Zdarsky and Phillips are creating a brilliant series that has incredible range. In one issue, they can dive into the complexities of the human spirit. In the next, they’re talking serial killers and knife fights. I can’t wait to see what they’ve cooked up for us next. Newburn #3 is out from Image Comics at a comic shop near you!