Moon Knight and Lore Olympus Use Similar Art to Tell Very Different Stories

Moon Knight and Lore Olympus both use contrast in their art in order to make points about what’s happening in the comic. Here’s how it’s done.

The art of comic books uses a great variety of tricks in order to enthral the viewer. From Marvel 1602‘s woodcut-inspired imagery to Batman: Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth‘s disjointed and disturbing unfinished brushstrokes, art styles help to evoke the intended perception of characters and situations.

One of the greatest elements of comic book art is that of contrast. Generally just an overlooked setting on photo editors, contrast is used in some comics to great effect. Whether this is contrast between dissimilar colors or are styles, brilliant examples of contrast in modern comic books can be found in Moon Knight and Lore Olympus. Though the two books tell very different stories, they are united in how they convey their characters’ importance through the subtle art of contrast.

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Lore Olympus Contrasts Saturated Colors To Show Relationships

Lore Olympus is a critically-acclaimed and world-renowned webcomic by Rachel Smythe that recounts the story of Persephone and Hades as a very different, modernized romance. Its first volume was recently published as a graphic novel, and this allowed for some of the contrast in the book to be emphasizing more brilliantly than in the past. The massive amount of white space in the text brings the eye in close to the art, and the darkness of certain panels brings to light the first major element of contrast: Persephone and Hades.

Persephone is a bright pink with pastel highlights, and she stands out starkly against the underworld and Hades. Where the blue god of the underworld blends in with the navy underworld, Persephone is a bright and brilliant contrast. Later, in the strip club visited by Zeus, Hades, and Poseidon, the dark pink of the background nearly make Zeus, famous for his infidelity, disappear. Hera initially appears as a dancer, her disguise dissolving from the purplish-pink of Zeus’ infidelity to her own golden yellow.

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Contrast tells the story of Hades and Persephone through Smythe’s masterful contrast. Discomfort makes characters stand out sometimes, but at other points, they blend into the background. When Persephone is being attacked by Apollo, the pages flash and fade from black to white. Panic and fear are evoked in the reader, echoing that of Persephone. The characters’ colors are held in-universe, making the contrasts not only true for readers, but for the characters themselves.

Moon Knight Uses Contrast to Appear Divine

Though Moon Knight has been acted on by many artists, the general rule for most of the last artists has been that, regardless of the world around him and its level of detail, Marc is going to be bright white and without shading. He stands out as a bright and brilliant black and white against any background, making the brilliant power of Khonshu shine through.

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Moon Knight (2021) #7 by Jed MacKay and Federico Sabbatini gives a brilliant example when Mr. Knight enters The Bar With No Name. A brown and red bar with patrons of various earthy colors is sharply contrasted with the bright, glowing Moon Knight. He enters the bar with a presence that he himself acknowledges and threatens the present supervillains before leaving, a thin halo of light following him all the way.

Alessandro Cappuccio’s art on the same run similarly uses direct contrast of black and white for shading rather than gray. The first page of Moon Knight (2021) #1 features Marc in front of many shades of gray, with greens and browns in the foreground. Even though the lamp on the table beside him glows faintly yellow, Marc’s source of light seems once again to be his own ethereal power, not a mere lamp beside him. This subtle storytelling keeps the intrigue of what, exactly, Moon Knight is at the forefront of the reader’s mind.

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These subtle details in the art of Moon Knight and Lore Olympus don’t necessarily serve to create some deeper meaning or to hurry along the story, though they certainly do that. Rather, this simple contrast serves to give characters an extra level. Both of these stories contain metaphysical peoples and their powers, so the deep contrast only serves to front their otherness. Marc is not just different because of what he is, but because of what Moon Knight represents and what he’s made of. Spring is in the very being of Persephone, and the blue of death is the entirety of Hades.

Comic books are ultimately storytelling media, and it’s often easy to miss the details for the broad strokes that they present. By looking at details as minor as contrast, though, readers can gain a new appreciation for the subtleties of the medium. Even when a story seems relatively straightforward, the art of the graphic novel can prove a level of complexity beyond the simple black and white.

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