Sketchbook Vol. 1 – Russell Mark Olson

5 out of 5

A 20-page collection shipped with my Kickstarter purchase of the Gateway City trade.

It goes without saying that a sketchbook of a particular artist will likely be better or worse depending on your opinion of that artist.  Olson, whose work crosses between Tyler Crook and Brian Hurtt to my eyes – but with a particular period vibe evident in the material on which he focuses – looks great to me, so I’m already bias.

Assuming your bias is similar, this ‘sketchbook’ is more than that, offering a four page, colored short from Dirty Rotten Comics, some full-color pages, and several fantastic duo-toned noir shots, as well as sketches.  The short looks amazing, and effectively compresses what could be a 3-part BBC mystery down into its few panels.  The duo-toned noir shots (also available as prints on Olson’s big cartel site) are truly, as listed, scenes from a non-existent noir.  They’re each packed with a sense of story, and you want to watch that noir.  But I think the coolest thing here is getting to peek at some sketches, because you can tell that Olson ‘gets’ comics.  The noir / period style he effects isn’t unique to him, of course, but there are so, so many artists who love to draw but who don’t necessarily embrace the medium too well.  Even in these raw states, you can seen Olson’s understanding of characterization and shadow to effect the larger-than-life sensibilities the format allows.

Yeah, lotta words for a freebie insert.

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