Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #165 by Drew Barth

The Longest Step

In comics, silence is a tool. The lingering moments between characters, the uncluttered panels, the ability to let the art simply be—all of these help the comic to establish a sense of peace or dramatic tension. But silence in comics can be difficult to wield. As a medium that relies on the interplay between words and images, meaning can be easily lost when those words are absent. But when done properly—when the image conveys the story perfectly—it can create a comic that swells with story in its quiet spaces, like in Step by Bloody Step by Si Suprrier, Matías Bergara, and Matheus Lopes.

All we have from the first page is an unnamed girl, an unnamed suit of armor, and the snow-swept landscape they’re wandering through. The armor cradles the girl and is heading in a direction. Toward what, we don’t know. All we know is that they are on their way somewhere and nothing will stop the armor from delivering the girl. Across landscapes that border on the outright magical to desert wastelands to fields of flowers, the pair keep traveling without saying a single word to one another as neither of them know how to speak. Or, at least, to each other. It is in this silence between the two that we see, through the weeks and months, their relationship develop. Almost sisterly, the girl plays as the armor protects all the while a pair of men seek them out.

But the thing that stands out most in this story is the effective use of mise en scéne by Bergara throughout. These establishing shots and expansive vistas envisioned every few pages gives us both a sense of scale and mood. We have these moments of the girl playing in the foreground while the armor fights off something horrifying in the background that demonstrate their place in this world. But it is in these vast, quiet pages that we really see the scale of them both. The girl is tiny enough to fit in the hands of the armor, but they’re both still dwarfed by the sheet scale of the world they’re traveling through. We never really know where they’re traveling to, but we know immediately how long it will be until they get there: a long goddamn time. But then we’re happy for that, as it means we get to experience more of Bergara’s art.

Not since Bad Island have I felt a silence as resonant as Step by Bloody Step. Spurrier, Bergara, and Lopes have created something that warrants the hours required to absorb every detail in these pages.  Step by Bloody Step is already one of the best comics of the year and I only wish I could experience it with fresh eyes again.

Get excited. Get stepping.

Drew Barth at Miami Book Fair in 2019.

Drew Barth (Episode 331, 485, & 510) resides in Winter Park, FL. He received his MFA from the University of Central Florida. Right now, he’s worrying about his cat.