Hello / Cosmic

June 11th, 2021

Dan McDaid – DEGA (self-published, 2021)


First up, the snappy review!  Our very own Botswana Beast has already provided a handy back-cover blurb (“Beautiful… Valerian meets RONIN”), and I won’t pretend that I can disagree or top it because the Lynn Varley 1985 feel of the colours was definitely what kept my eye working through these pages at first.   These colours step out beyond the literal in a way that is alien to many Western genre comics in 2021, creating an emotional palette that operates in tandem with the other narrative elements on the page without ever quite feeling like it’s totally determined by them.  This colour scheme is established in the transition between the loveless blue-greys of space on the first page, and the spark-lit orange glow of the second.  Where colour occurs in the rest of the story, this contrast is played out again and again, always in a slightly different configuration.   This description makes every sound overdetermined, with the harshness of the environment DEGA plays out on being illuminated by the sparse scraps of technology our protagonist has about them, but you generally get the sense that McDaid is more willing to go with what feels right in the moment.

The resulting approach is subtle and varied, finding alien intelligence in the pale tones…

…and unfathomable danger in the warm ones:

Abhay has already talked about the way the colour comes in and out of the story, an “awkward” element which he nevertheless flags up as being a big part of the fun of the book.  I think I can relate – as you might already have guessed, my stupid, structure-obsessed brain definitely spent its first reading focusing on what resonances came out of where and when colour was used in the book.  This wasn’t entirely fruitless – those colours never stop echoing the shifting tone of the first couple of pages – but in the end I think the approach Abhay takes is the more rewarding one.  Sometimes it’s fun to be given the opportunity to question what you’re reacting to and why even when you’re still in the process of reacting, you know?

McDaid’s line has always had a robust edge to it, and there’s a reason that his art lends itself so handily to drawing big lads with chins built for action – wherever they come from, whatever era or milieu they inhabit, his characters tend look like they’ve been summoned into existence to scrap it out with the blank space on the page.    There’s another quality to his images in DEGA though.  Everything McDaid draws here feels like it’s mere seconds from flying apart, and while this effect is given dramatic expression in the coloured pages, the effect is no less striking when it’s conveyed in by the variation in the thickness of the line on the black and white sections:

Either one of these approaches would be magnificent.  Having both of them playing out in front of you at the same time is sublime, and adds to the sense of this book as a journey where all your certainties are slowly blasted away.

It’s a genuinely beautiful book, DEGA.  “Valerian meets Ronin” they’re saying, and they’re right.  It might make you feel like you’re just about to die on your arse in space, but without that feeling it’s not much of an adventure, right?

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