As Julia finds herself unexpectedly caught up in another case, Ben’s quest for the truth leads him down a dangerous path—and to the one lead he never thought he’d follow.
Matt Stone and Trey Parker, the creators and head writers of South Park, have an excellent structure for telling active, compelling stories. In a video that follows the duo giving a guest lecture at NYU, the creators explained, “We found out this straightforward rule… We can take these beats… of your outline, and if the words ‘and then’ belong between those beats, you’re fucked. You’ve got something pretty boring. What should happen between every beat you’ve written down is the word ‘therefore’ or ‘but.'”
The quote came to mind thanks to this week’s NO/ONE, as the book moves away from its place setting and begins to explore the repercussions of the vigilante’s presence in Pittsburgh. At its core, the idea is that a good story results from cause and effect, with every beat either being a reaction to the previous. It’s a simple but effective way to ensure that a story is always moving forward and that the progression feels natural as it either accepts or refutes the previous beat.’‘
NO/ONE #3 – written by Kyle Higgins and Brian Buccellato with art from Geraldo Borges, colors by Mark Englert, and lettering from Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou – starts to heat the NO/ONE investigation after Ben Kern announces his retirement at the end of the previous issue. New suspicion is thrown onto him by the Pittsburgh police as tension rises in the department. At the same time, on the journalist side, Julia is being pressured to start naming possible NO/ONE suspects on the podcast. NO/ONE is revealed to have access to footage from inside the police station and watches as Major Crimes continues their crusade against the vigilante.
As Julia continues digging into the more significant Accountability movement, Kenny Chbosky, who was cleared of killing Chris O’Neil due to a self-defense claim, starts to stalk Julia and demands she platforms him on the NO/ONE podcast, which she refuses. This leads Kenny to attempt to attack Julia late one night after she meets a source from the Pittsburgh Police, and the actual NO/ONE steps in to defend her. It’s a quick, one-sided fight, and NO/ONE reveals they want Julia to hold them accountable for everything the mission has done.
This issue starts to narrow its focus after establishing all of the moving parts across Pittsburgh, keying into Julia and Ben as the main leads of the series. That split focus gives a more pointed perspective as the two dig deeper into the mystery around the vigilante from separate worlds with their processes. There are hints of two possible suspects of NO/ONE in this issue that feel like they could be 50-50 hiding in plain sight or red herrings to divert suspicion. Higgins and Buccellato doll out information with a strong, controlled hand, which keeps the audience engaged while ensuring the pace of the mystery doesn’t spin out too fast.
It would be easy for the mystery to arise from a general confusion at the profound lore and expansive cast. Still, Higgins and Buccellato instead take the opportunity to create a rich tapestry of a fleshed-out world that feels wide but interconnected in just the right way. Nothing in the issue feels contrived or coincidental for the plot’s sake, and every moment feels organic to the story unfolding. Whether it be Julia’s deepening investigation and connections to the Police, the college sports team (the focus of the last issue), or the Kenny attack, each thread ties into an intricate web that feels like a solid case of cause and effect. Scripting is also a remarkable case of creating compelling, distinct characters in a series that requires a complete cast list, proving that good writing can make dense writing digestible.
Much of that is enhanced thanks to the backmatter and accompanying podcast, which both provide additional context that feels rewarding but not essential to understanding the larger story. This issue’s backmatter is a Wikipedia entry for NO/ONE and recaps more information about the vigilante. It feels relevant as both investigative parties are pressured to assign an identity to them. This issue’s companion podcast episode allows Julia to process the events of the problem and gives a literal voice to the character that is carried over when reading. The podcast feels like a natural profession for each issue, setting up leads for the next issue and, in turn, the next podcast episode.
Englert’s coloring feeds this sense of progression, utilizing separate palettes for each scene of the issue to create solid visual distinctions that move steadily. The book opens with a neutral cream color of the police station, giving a bland, mundane feeling to the questioning Ben. It quickly shifts to a warmer tone when Julia heads to the Ledger’s offices, creating a less stoic atmosphere even as the tensions build between her and the Ledger’s owner, arguing about the direction of the podcast. That palette continues into Julia’s home but sharply contrasts the deep purples of Kenny’s apartment (seen above). The approach gives the man an unhinged, sinister atmosphere, and telegraphs his outburst and attempt to attack Julia later in the issue.
The sharper coloring also occurs in the later Kenny sequence, as the deep blue of the winter evening provides a dynamic backdrop for NO/ONE’s fight with the killer. When a gun is fired in the sequence, it creates an explosive flash of red and orange, breaking up the fight and making an exclamation to Kenny. It’s a robust panel that sells NO/ONE’s ruthless competency, and Borges’s art matches that energy. It’s a sharp action sequence that plays with composition and shadow to showcase how effective NO/ONE is in a fight, disarming and curb-stomping Kenny in two pages.
This moment feels natural after the extended dialogue sequences that played up the verbal and emotional tensions, exploding into an act of physical violence. After Borges uses compelling, tighter panels throughout the various conversations, the fight opens up with more comprehensive, larger panels that ensure the action is explicit. There’s never any doubt that NO/ONE is in control, dismantling Kenny’s entitled anger and breaking down the weaponized rhetoric that the attacker tries to capitalize on.
NO/ONE #3 is a compelling escalation of the simmering tensions established in the first two issues, with the writing, art, and colors all showing a clear progression of the story. As the investigations into NO/ONE continue, Julia and Ben take their respective roles as opposing lead investigators. The duo each has their reasons for digging into the story, but it's clear one of the two will reach the bottom of the mystery sooner than later.
Borges’s art and Englert's colors emphasize the progression of the story through their contrast between the dialogue lead sequences and the action when NO/ONE strikes. By the end of this issue, and its accompanying podcast, parts of the picture come into focus, while others remain just out of sight. It’s a compelling balance that ensures NO/ONE continues to enthrall readers and cross mediums to great effect.
NO/ONE #3: Ripples Upon Ripples
- Writing - 10/1010/10
- Storyline - 10/1010/10
- Art - 10/1010/10
- Color - 10/1010/10
- Cover Art - 10/1010/10
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