In Cell by Cell, I look deeply into the panels of an issue, appreciating and analyzing the story and artistic composition.
Central to the image is Meiko bound with her hands behind her back. She is barefoot, turned away from front, looking back over her shoulder with her face set in determined defiance. The posture suggests the metaphorical “looking back” that happens in this issue through flashback. The binding isn’t a particular moment we see in the comic issue, though it could be an unshown moment of incarceration adjacent to what is depicted, most likely the end when she makes a play against her guard-rapist, landing her a transfer to Bitch Planet.
The background image is a blueprint, bringing in the plot machination of Meiko and her father designing the Fathers’ fancy space ship. There is a rip in the blueprint to suggest the “breaking” of Meiko, her transformation from seemingly compliant to murderous. To the left stand three men, seemingly white, definitely suited, suggesting the business men who flex their power over subordinates and women, and in particular her father’s boss who attempts to marry Meiko. Behind the men are repeated circles with stylized outlines shaped like angular violins–which play as both a mask of compliance and the source of her weapon. To her right is Meiko’s head in the expression of vocal outrage. She will not be silent or passive. That’s what we love about her. The announcement that she’s an “Extraordinary Machine” is no hyperbole, but it does play ambiguously: machines are objects, but also do their jobs without emotional distraction.
A final layer places concentric circles over Meiko and the men. This design suggests chaos, especially mental. Though Meiko has seemed one of the sanest women at the ACO, the tension and weight of her decision to murder a man to save her father cannot be discounted, and it creates much of the suspense of the issue.
For the analysis of the first two pages of the comic, click through to the full article on PopOptiq.com.