Cover to 'PanelxPanel' No. 1. Artwork from 'Beautiful Canvas' #1, by Sami Kivelä.

Cover to ‘PanelxPanel’ No. 1. Artwork from the cover to ‘Beautiful Canvas’ #1, by Sami Kivelä.

By Arpad OkayPanelxPanel embraces all aspects of comics. Their creation. Their existence in the temporary. Their effect on their readers. The debut issue is split in two, the first half focusing on a single comic, the side of comics that appears for a moment only to give way to anticipation of the next installment. The second half is a feature buffet. Aspects of importance, explored. Bound only by the authors’ interest. Acknowledging each page, once turned, lasts with us forever.

Everyone who creates has something to say about what they’re making. PanelxPanel assembles a framework that lets those stories, the stories’ stories, rise and bloom. Asking the right questions forms a skeleton and the answers wind around the trellises. PanelxPanelists know the craft, and are as passionate about it as the creators. The structures they build have a beauty even before the responses are heard. The front end’s focus on the featured book, the back half’s free-form freedom, both explore how the medium is constructed in different ways, highlighting different facets of the same bijou.

Beyond interviews, there’s cultural analysis, craft theory, capsule reviews. Fascinating takes by fascinating people, part pitch to get you to read, part love letter to the thing itself. Triona Farrell talking about the process, the emotional impact of palette selection. Aditya Bidikar speaks on lettering, the art of placement to elevate, on crafting visual onomatopoeia, how sometimes words exist outside the story entirely. Well plotted self-review and how their work fits into the comics oeuvre as a whole. What you, the reader of PanelxPanel, walk away with is a better understanding of how your favorite thing works.

The read is heavy with people getting technical about their process. “Comics is a game of real estate,” says Ryan Lindsay. What do you leave in? What do you leave out? The comics gestalt puzzles over how to control what you tell people, how to portion it, how what you see effects what you get. Beautiful Canvas, the first issue’s featured comic, is full of these points to mull over. Methods the writer employs to lead the artist to communicate characters’ inner turmoil. The process of the colorist vibing evil with swatches, selections to link to the future before it’s read.

PanelxPanel is the medical examiner’s inquest. A world encyclopedia cross-referencing connections to reveal the depth of the original work. The zealot showing you the evidence that comics do things no other medium is capable of. Skilled, informed, passionate, and clear. Like the criticism of John Berger, you don’t have to have seen the original for the read to blow your mind. But by the end, you damn sure want to.

As a whole it is well designed. Spare and pretty, never cluttered. Never boring, though often quite academic. Curated single panels punching up the pages. Gutters of varying width playing with the weight of the articles. It’s easy on the eyes. It is quiet. It trusts you to listen closely. Please do.


Edited by Hassan Ostmane-Elhaou.

Featured writers Triona Farrell, Laura Fagan, Deniz Camp, Aditya Bidikar, and Hassan Ostmane-Elhaou.

Contributions from Ryan Lindsay, Sami Kivela, Romain Brun, Julien Brun, Ollie Masters, Rob Williams, Ibrahim Moustafa, Claire Napier, Giaco Furino, Ram V, Oliver Sava, Sarah Horrocks, JP Jordan, Keiron Gillen, Tara Marie, and Declan Shalvey.