In this issue of Ms. Marvel, the creators, G. Willow Wilson, Takesha Miyazawa, and Adrian Alphona, have used a number of elements to indicate that a flashback is occurring. The first element are the words spray-painted on the wall “ Bruno and Mike Meet Cute!”, which is what Gerard Genette calls a paratext. Paratexts are elements that surround a text and present it.
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Specifically, this is a peritext, which is a paratext located within a text, for instance a chapter title, which is essentially what these words are. This peritext indicates a change to the reader, as it is the only such internal title. Additionally, in the context of the character’s conversation , the discussion of when Bruno and Mike became a couple, the reader can easily recognize this peritext as an indicator of a flashback. Looking at the context of the conversation is an example of the multimodal reading of this section. As Dale Jacobs explains, comic books are read in multiple modes, readers make meaning through multiple modes of conveying information, verbal, visual, gestural, ect. In this case, the conversation that gives context is verbal information, and important information is also gained visually, through the change in clothing. Bruno, while in the same location, is wearing significantly different clothing, indicating a shift in time. Additional visual information is gained through the peritext, via Groensteen’s idea of braiding. The peritext is surrounded by elements that are taken from the previous run of Ms. Marvel, for instance, the simplified cartoon Kamala and the sloth with wings. These are arthorlogical connections to the previous run, connections that the reader can braid together and understand that the following sequence is a flashback. In essence, it can be recognized as happening before the current run. The most obvious indicator of a flashback is also visual, and it is the change in art style and page layout. The style changes from a fairly clean line to a sketchier style, the large clean gutters with distinct panel lines become rough edges with small gutters and panels that often overlap, the art stops being contained and breaks out of the panel. This style is the style of the previous run, and in fact the entire flashback sequence was drawn by the previous run’s artist (Adrian Alphona). All these call backs to the previous run depend on the reader’s resources for design, on whether or not they read the previous run. If they did, they can use braiding to connect all these elements and easily recognize the flashback. For readers who did not read the previous run, it is still recognizable as a flashback because the shift in style and clothes is distinct, and the peritext is clear enough. The creators used the available affordances of comics to make the flashback clear to first time readers, and also to reward readers who have been reading since the beginning.