Writer: Ram V
Illustrator: Anand RK
WHAT IS IT?
A struggling jazz player searches for both his identity as a washed-up musician and the answers to a mystery in this horror/crime original graphic novel.
Think Black Swan meets the psychological beatdown of the jazz drummer in Whiplash.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
Erik Dieter, a once-promising jazz musician who fell into music writing and Sunday school teaching, returns home to attend his mother's funeral. After the service, Erik reconnects with former lover and present art curator, Vera Carter, at his deceased mother's home. While mulling about his former childhood house and contemplating the successful future he never achieved, Erik encounters an ethereal demonic figure clutching a photograph.
Erik later inspects the photograph of the late jazz musician his mother had stored away. Haunted by the periphery of greatness as a musician, his diminishing self-worth, and the demon he keeps witnessing, Erik hunts for musical perfection and the identity of the man in the photograph. In his endeavor for success, Erik grapples with maintaining relationships with his sister, Dinah, and his old flame, Vera.
Will Erik's quest for "greatness" spiral him into an inescapable obsession? Why is the sixties jazz man picture so important? Will Erik be remembered for his talents, or for his mania?
Ram V shuffles multiple plot threads together that read like varying tempos in an improvised piece of music. Since V wrote the dialogue after receiving RK's artwork, the thematic and literal improvisation of this graphic novel is truly impressive.
Anand RK's art conjures a haphazard atmosphere where the world of Blue In Green is swathed with bold brushstrokes and crosshatching lines.
John Pearson alternates between strong noir-themed coloring and more muted, saturated tones that seem to pulsate on the page. Pearson's colors elicit pure horror, especially when readers see an eerie red glow leaking out through exterior shots of buildings, then panning in to reveal Erik bathed in the same blood-like hue.
Aditya Bidikar handles Ram V's massive amount of dialogue and prose with stellar lettering choices. Bidikar's close-knit letters rest in the frames of jagged-edged speech bubbles that often overlap a panel's grid lines that serve as a parallel to Erik's frenetic internal monologue.
Like the time progression in the eponymously titled "Blue In Green" jazz song, Ram V's Blue In Green is complication. The pacing is unpredictable and unsteady, highlighting the crescendos and diminuendos of both a jazz composition and Erik's persistent obsessions.
The "suffering artist" narrative motif may feel commonplace, but RK's artistry and panel structure embolden the theme. RK and Pearson use splash pages with fractured imagery and swirling colors that reach through the page and submerge readers into Erik's filtered perception of his goals.
RK's unconventional art style morphs with Erik's downfall, as images become less lucid when Erik's reality morphs into an all-consuming obsession he can't control.
I adore the visual depiction of concentric circles, like the framing of Erik walking down a spiral staircase, that coincide with the overarching visual image of a musical record.
Dialogue boxes contain Bidikar's left-align lettering that can make readers feel like they are fighting along with Erik to overcome the pull of complacency he is obsessed with defeating.
Ram V excellently enforces that trauma and regret can equate with overbearing noise echoing inside a person's head. RK and Pearson's artistic cinema explodes like cacophonous notes off the page. Erik's incapacity to hold these mentally crippling thoughts within him is presented through the artistic renderings of his musical journey.
A particularly magnificent two-fold splash page is where Erik plays his saxophone with his goal of personal reinvention in mind. The spread uses the 11 panels bathed in euphonious earth tones to visually read like a treble clef on a piece of sheet music, the panels themselves representing the ascending and descending notes.
Another kinetic splash page coalesces all the themes of the narrative – the pursuit of greatness through jazz, the murder mystery, tenuous relationships, death – with the backdrop of newspaper headlines. A pair of entirely realistic glasses stands out, lying in the upper right-hand corner of the image, blending together all the elements of realism and fiction evident in Erik's life.
V's narrative structure is cohesive, but also cleverly non-linear, merging and diverging in the same way a jazz musician improvises notes.
WHAT DOESN’T WORK?
Blue In Green is full of dialogue throughout. Whether its a prose piece in the form of a flashback, Erik's constant interior dialogue, or general conversations, some comic readers may be turned off by the sheer volume of words contained in this graphic novel.
The only artistic choice I didn't like was the look of the demon. The creature is horrifying, no doubt, but the face is drawn in a distended way that appears almost comical.
Like improvised jazz, there's a lot of overlaying themes occurring simultaneously and the story can sometimes be difficult to follow.
As I mentioned before, the "suffering artist" idea and protagonists externalizing their own demons isn't an entirely original concept. Regardless of complete originality, Blue In Green is a study in craft and has a lot of merits that usurp any downfalls.
I saw one, self-described elderly Amazon reviewer say this a while ago and feel like it is worth mentioning: The art style can be difficult to discern for those with impaired vision.
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
Blue In Green is a story about ambition, obsession, and really, identity. Who doesn't struggle with regret and feelings of self-pity over the immovable past? Blue In Green takes jazz music and a relatable, self-deprecating protagonist and tells the – unfortunately – common tale about how the journey for perfection can destroy one's life.
If you're a musician, you'll easily recognize and analyze the musical connotations layered into these pages. Even if you know nothing at all about music, Blue In Green sings its frenetic jazz song to you like an ekphrastic poem. The lettering, art, and dialogue can be likened to both music and the typographical visuals of concrete poetry for readers to parse in comic form.
Blue In Green triumphantly evokes the nostalgic melancholy that Bill Evans' "Blue In Green" song lyrics describe. The graphic novel transforms art into music on the page. You'll figuratively traverse the notes on sheet music staffs with Erik through Blue In Green's transcendent artistry and pensive horror diegesis.
"Blue In Green" by Bill Evans/Miles Davis
"Hues of blues and greens surround me / Knowing you have found another love / Has turned me world to sorrow
Green with envy for another / Fearing she may be the one to soar / Through life with you, can't lose these"
WHAT DO I READ NEXT?
If you like the writing:
These Savage Shores by Ram V & Sumit Kumar
Paradiso by Ram V & Devmalya Pramanik
Chasin' the Bird by Dave Chisholm
If you like the art:
Grafity's Wall by Ram V & Anand Radhakrishnan
The Plot by Tim Daniel, Michael Moreci, & Joshua Hixson
Shanghai Red by Christopher Sebela & Joshua Hixson
ABOUT THE CREATORS
Ram V – Writer (@therightram)
Name Recognition: Ram V is quickly becoming one of the most well-recognized names in both indie comics, and even DC Comics. He has written for Marvel and Image as well. He is most well known for his original titles, Paradiso, These Savage Shores, and Green and Blue, as well as his recent Catwoman (2018) and Swamp Thing (2021) runs at DC.
He is part of a group of London comic book writers and artists called the White Noise Collective.
Outlander: Originally from Mumbai, India, he currently resides in London.
Anand RK – Illustrator (@an_anandrk)
Outlander: Anand is a freelance illustrator from Mumbai, India. His art can be viewed on his Behance page.
Dream Team: Anand illustrated Ram V's graphic novel, Grafity's Wall and is the illustrator for the recently announced Vault Comics series, Radio Apocalypse, written by Ram V.
John Pearson– Colorist (@JohnJPearson)
John is an illustrator and comic book artist whose work appears in Image Comics, Titan Comics, 2000 AD, Heavy Metal Magazine, to name a few.
Award Winner: He is a British Comic Award shortlisted illustrator.
Outlander: He is based in Leeds, UK.
Aditya Bidikar – Letterer (@adityab)
Dream Team: Aditya is a talented comic book letterer, as well as both a comic book and prose writer. He has lettered for comics like White Trees, Little Bird, and Bloodborne, as well as Ram V's These Savage Shores.
Multitalented: Additionally, he co-hosts a comics podcast with fellow letterer Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou, called Letters & Lines. He also writes a wonderfully informative newsletter called "Strange Animals."
Outlander: Aditya currently lives in Pune, India, and uses he/they pronouns.
HOW DO I BUY IT?
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The image(s) used in this article are from a comic strip, webcomic or the cover or interior of a comic book. The copyright for this image(s) is likely owned by either the publisher of the comic, the writer(s) and/or artist(s) who produced the comic. It is believed that the use of this image(s) qualifies as fair use under the United States copyright law. The image is used in a limited fashion in an educational manner in order to illustrate the points of the author and not for the purpose of entertainment or substituting the original work. It is believed the use of this image has had no impact on the market value of the original work.
All Blue In Green characters and the distinctive likeness(es) thereof are trademarks of and copyright Ramnarayan Venkatesan and Anand Radhakrishnan or their respective owners. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED