Detail from Tite Kubo’s Bleach, chapter 596. This is half a full page, which is in turn part of a designed two-page spread with six panels total. It’s read right-to-left.
I try to be careful about what I describe as cool, because cool is such a specific thing for so many people. I don’t have that troube with Bleach, though, because it’s probably the coolest comic out. It’s that specific style-is-substance approach Kubo has, where you never come away from a volume like “Man, that was profound and incredibly formally inventive!” Bleach has never been heart-warming to me. It’s charming, but you know, there’s not a lot of what you might call genuine emotional resonance, outside of some easy triggers in the cast.
But, with this arc of Bleach and the early arcs of Bleach, I come away from this comic with a head full of people saying amazing things while either doing or preparing to do irreparable harm to someone else. And I’m not talking about theoretically clever one-liners or dumb plays on words or catchphrases. This isn’t “Stick around” or “I’m the best there is at what I do.” I’m talking “Hey, you” from King of New York, Tom Hardy quietly wrapping up a hand in saran wrap in The Drop, Mel Gibson snatching a piercing off a dude in Payback, the elevator in The Departed, Takeshi Kitano with a gun to an unknowing bathing man’s head in Outrage. I’m talking about Denzel looking dead in Marc Anthony’s eyes and says “I’ll snatch the life right outta you, you understand?”
I’m talking about cool, and even though there are like thirty near-unreadable volumes, Bleach is cool.