The Dia De Los Muertos Mexican holiday is dedicated to remembering your lost loved ones. It is a remembrance day that is celebrated by gifts, altars, and masks in order to welcome the ghosts of the past, so that they can hear our thoughts and messages. This event is the focus of Riley Rossmo’s latest creator owned work, and is a collection of unique contained short stories. If you are familiar with his art from Dark Wolverine and, more recently, the fantastic Bedlam, then sparks of excitement should be flying. His emphatic and detailed style is perfect for a selection of ghost stories and anecdotes and it is suffice to say, we are not left disappointed. Over the three issues we are driven through the emotions of love, despair, longing, depression, fear and terror. To deliver as successfully with the art as Riley does takes great skill and adaptability. It is hard to know whether his artistic complement has been adapted to the tenets of Dia De Los Muertos or whether the Day of the Dead aesthetic is simply a great thematic match. We shall explore Riley’s attributes in more detail in this post.
Firstly this series had great scenes of classic decoration and dress from the festivals, and the traditional skull make up looks incredibly ominous and scary at the hand of Rossmo. His penmanship is edgy and outside of the lines allowing emphasis on facial features and expressions. It is also a glorious effect for the more elaborately designed clothes, giving added texture to the panels. This technique can then easily be exaggerated, to give the more terrifying stories imagination and life. The panels below show the fear and terror emanating from the page, but keeping it very much applied to the festival motifs. The border designs remain faithful to traditional colours and shapes whilst being part of an overall haunting image of a screaming skull.
We can also see the reactions of our leading fella, as he is taunted and dragged through this realm of the dead. The colours are loud and bright emphasizing the reds and yellows of the fires in hell. Rossmo subtly changes his inking style from story to story, and in this case, he uses more definite strikes to facial shapes and make up. This brings our attention to certain expressions such as the furrowed brow, timid/loud lips and widened eyes. It is an incredibly effective panel full of doom and anxiety, as our lost soul meanders towards his doom.
It is not all based around ghosts and ghouls, as some of the short stories are full of love and hope. Riley is very adept at creating beautiful personages and lovely relationships. Once again with the Dia De Los Muertos backdrop, this lends to interesting full page splashes. In the above panel the glorious traditional designs are in full effect and Riley’s irregular borders return, to provide such shape and substance. The central couple look incredible in their unique garb, and the lady in bright white looks stunning. The combination of her slender curvaceous figure, lovely deep red hair and humbling quaint smile, allow her to stand out in a scene of skeletons and ghosts. This is followed by the wonderful image below where we see our lovely pairing essentially summarising the theme of their short story. The gentlemen’s wilting eyes and despairing wrinkles are completely exposed, despite the full facial disguise. As he utters the question, she looks at him with enchanting wide aquamarine eyes, with an endearing glance and words of empathy. She provides the smallest amount of hope that fills the gulf of anguish and pain that emanates from our sad lonely figure. The colouring and shading are just perfect as he realises that he is not completely alone. Its so simple but yet so complex.
The Day of the Dead festival is a relatively new concept to me, but through these short stories I have gained a whole new appreciation for the celebration and remembrance of the festivities. Riley has a wonderful ability to bring out semblances of hope and flickers of romance, from the days of the dead. It has really drawn me towards Riley’s art more so than ever and I shall leave you with a haunting and disturbing panel. At first glance, it appears as a despairing old policeman and Rossmo naturally brings out our sympathetic side. He is drawn simply and neatly, but only in the small bottom right corner of the panel. This is done very purposefully to make the man look small, because in fact he feels like the tiniest man in the world. If you have read the upsetting panels before, then you will feel nothing for him. You will understand he is on his knees beginning for forgiveness for his sins, from his deceased former lover. There is no solace for this man, as Rossmo takes us full circle from joyous celebrations to unforgiving loneliness, all in one comic.