More of My Favorite Things, by Elayne Riggs
The combination of my temporary unemployment and inclement weather has enabled me to catch up on my DC comp box reading, so I can finally pick up where I left off a few weeks back. Mind you, I was looking at October books at the time and since then the November box came in. Still, a couple of the same caveats apply as last time — I haven’t seen the comics from the last few weeks, which gives me a bit of a headache when Robin gets his Suicide Squad advance comps and the issue in question (#4, in stores now) cross-references an important plot point in a Checkmate issue I’ve yet to see. So a lot of these observations will be about the issue prior to the one most comic fans have already seen, but in most cases the artists are the same.
Also, as before, I won’t cover every artist who did a good or serviceable job, just the ones I considered my very favorites of this most recent batch. Any omissions are not to be taken as an assumption that I didn’t like other stuff. And yes, I’m still talking more about how the art affected me viscerally than using technical vocabulary, which makes these more overviews than reviews per se. I miss full-on reviewing, but I just don’t seem to have the time any more.
While I stopped at the letter "F" last time, I wanted to mention a couple books which hadn’t come out at the time. Onward, then:
Countdown Presents: Lord Havok and the Extremists #1 — Ah, Liam Sharp. Nobody makes ugly look so gorgeous. I think inker Rob Hunter loses a bit of the subtlety of Liam’s lines, but then I’m biased, I still think Liam inks himself best (with my husband, his former partner, a close second). Liam renders the heck out of just about everything he does, but it’s done with so much power and attention to detail that you can practically feel the different textures. Clothing drapes naturally, impossibly bulked up bodies pose surprisingly naturally, and goodness do those monsters look monstrous. Not for the faint of heart.
The Death of the New Gods #1, 2 — For my money, nobody does "cosmic" like Jim Starlin. You never lose the feeling you’re seeing realms outside of our terrestrial understanding. Starlin works well on a grand scale. Here I think his inker, Matt Banning, might lay the starfields on a bit thick — Starlin’s outer space is busy enough as it is — and I have to admit Jimmy Olson looks more like the Elongated Man in those panels with the Newsboy Legion, but the major stuff seems solid. Barda’s taller than Scott Free, "Kirby dots" are used correctly for the most part (attention artists: the black dots are supposed to define the negative space around the energy, not the energy itself!), both New Genesis and Apocalypse are well imagined, all of Darkseid’s minions look as they did under the master’s hand. Gorgeous Source Wall in the second issue as well.
Green Arrow/Black Canary #1 — Cliff Chiang’s pencils have a really delightful look — clean lines, expressive faces, good flow. Very easy on the eyes, which I appreciate. I see bits of Amanda Conner’s and Steve Rude’s styles here and there. A bit flat though, he might benefit from having someone else ink him, but overall very keen.
Metamorpho #1-3 — Here’s a good primer. Compare issues #1 and 2, where Jesse Delperdang does funishes over Dan Jurgens’ layouts, with #3 where Mike Norton is brought in as penciller and Delperdang scales back to inks. Personally, I think the first two issues have more dynamism, immediacy and wonder. Norton "prettifies" the characters a bit more, but I feel like there’s something missing in their faces, a solidity that Delperdang was able to get out of Jurgens’ layouts that wasn’t there with Norton. It’s a stylistic difference, there’s nothing "better" or "worse" about either, but my preference is always going to lie with Jurgens’ layouts.
Shadowpact #17 — Dougie Braithwaite blows me away with his art here as well as on the backup story for Flash #233. A lot more photorealistic than I’m used to seeing from Dougie; I figure it’s the Alex Ross influence.
Superman Confidential #8 — Cam Smith over Chris Batista. Very nice. I understand they’ll be teaming up again on Robin. I like Cam over just about anyone (check out his inks over Steve Kurth in Marvel’s adaptation of The Last of the Mohicans), his lines are so clean and polished, and he definitely brings out the best in Chris, another penciller I’ve followed for awhile who’s improved by leaps and bounds. I hope they have a long association together.
Tales of the Sinestro Corps: Superman Prime #1 — While Pete Woods is a fine penciller, it was Jerry Ordway’s inks that really made this stand out for me. (Well, that and the fact that I kept getting kicked out of the story every time I remembered that the title character is supposed to be Superboy Prime but DC can’t use that S-word since the decision in the lawsuit earlier this year; it didn’t help that Geoff Johns’ characters kept reminding the reader of that fact via not-so-subtle jabs and references.) I love Ordway’s shadows and feathering around faces, how he can delineate characters’ ages without making older people look unattractive or children look like miniature adults, how his lines carry forward both the action and the reader’s eye. It was pretty easy for me to tell which pages he inked here (3, 9-10, 15-18, 21-24) and which were full art by Woods. Again, a good lesson in what an inker can bring to the page.
Teen Titans #52 — Jamal Igle does a bangup job of delineating the present-day Titans from their future counterparts. Alas, the pages are uneven as they’re done by three different inkers. But the page compositions have nice variation, he knows what to emphasize and de-emphasize, and it’s clear to see why he’s one of DC’s rising stars.
The Trials of Shazam #9 — The only thing I didn’t like about Mauro Cascioli’s art here was his coloring, which I felt reproduced too darkly to actually see everything that was going on. It’s a tricky business, moving from pixels to print, and not enough painters dial up the brightness in anticipation of the saturation; thus the overuse of highlights. That said, I really like the definition and weight Cascioli gives to his bodies, as well as the choreography of his fight scenes.
Yes, I read stuff other than DC Universe books. Over at Vertigo, I live for Mark Buckingham’s and Steve Leialoha’s art on Fables; its sister book Jack of Fables has consistently good art but Mark and Steve really ground me in the Fables’ world. I love Sonny Liew’s work on Slave Labor’s Wonderland, it’s like a more accessible version of Sam Kieth’s art and its whimsy fits the Carroll original quite well. Every issue of Linda Medley’s Castle Waiting, currently being published by Fantagraphics, is pure delight; she gives each fanciful character motivation and inner life and someone that the readers care about. Jan Duursema is the main reason I pick up Star Wars comics now, even though she doesn’t do as many of them as I’d like. And there are probably tons of artists whose names I’m leaving out simply because there books aren’t currently in front of me or haven’t come out yet (*cough* Alan Davis and Mark Farmer on ClanDestine, Bryan Hitch and Paul Neary on Fantastic Four *cough*). In our comments section I’ve already remarked on my admiration for the work of Mike Grell and Mark Wheatley right here on ComicMix; the same can be said of other online comics which I read regularly, from David Malki’s reimaginings of Victorian-era art combined with pointed satire at Wondermark to Phil and Kaja Foglio’s rollicking steampunk/mad scientist adventure Girl Genius. It’s not hard to find art you like, illustration that makes you happy to view it, in any number of styles. Just remember, especially if you like to talk about comics, to give the art its due. You may not have an enormous artistic vocabulary compared with the one you use to discuss writing, but that’s no reason to shortchange some of the best creators in the business.
Elayne Riggs is ComicMix‘s news editor, and is comic’ed out for the moment so she now looks forward to continuing her December quest, re-reading of all the Oz books in her collection. Maybe she’ll even get through the Baum and Plumly Thompson ones this time and can finally tear off the shrink-wrapping from the Eric Shanower volumes.