“Behind enemy lines the fearless spy known as the Black iris will do whatever it takes to bring stolen planes for a secret Nazi weapon to the hands of the Allied Forces. But can she avoid falling into the monolithic clutches of the enemy?”
So reads the ‘blurb’ for The Black Iris and, honestly, there’s little more to read in this comic by Russell Mark Olson. I don’t mean that the book* isn’t worth reading, far from it, it’s just that this is a silent book – a book without speech. Sure there are sound effects and thought bubbles but the speech balloons, such as they are, just use images to move the story along. So, no text. Instead what we have here looks very much like the storyboards for a lost World War 2 movie starring Lauren Bacall as the protagonist.
Originally conceived back in 2018 as a daily, ink based drawing challenge in the month of October (back when we could call it Inktober, <sigh>) Russell finished the book in 2019 and it serves, in some ways, as a pre-cursor to his 2020 work, Ditch Angels.
If you’re only familiar with Russell’s work in his Gateway City style then this, and Ditch Angels, will be a revelation to you in term of just how different they are to each other. The challenge set with this book is twofold. First, as discussed, no text. Second, use those Winsor & Newton inks to do all the talking for you – in this book a picture really has to be worth a thousand words. Most of the images are full of action as the story races along. Making it clear what’s going on is not always easy in this water colour style – no hyper-realistic, fully detailed compositions here – nope, it’s broad brushstrokes all the way. Then again, this is a big, action-packed movie told in 30 pages – and there’s plenty to get your teeth into here I promise.
This is my favourite castle-filled-with-Nazis romp since Indiana Jones and the last crusade. What more could you want from a comic? Check it out now!
*I’m calling it a book as it’s not presented in the traditional US comic book format
To see all the books by Russell Olson, Check out their BuySmallPress store here https://buysmallpress.com/publisher/russell-mark-olson-comics-and-illustration/