Review: ‘Malefic’ by Luis Royo
By Luis Royo
NBM, 96 pages, $32.99
Reviewing what is essentially an art book is tough if you’re not an artist since so many of the proper words and phrases can prove elusive. Also, if you have only a passing familiarity with the artist, you might lack the experience to judge the work. Still, if you like art, like fantasy and science fiction, the hope is that the package is compelling enough for you to buy it and learn more.
The 59 year old artist Luis Royo is perhaps best known in America for his work in the 1980s in [[[Heavy Metal]]]. His popularity there led to countless paperback cover paintings and then his work in trading cards, culminating in several sets from Comic Images to spotlight him.
In 1994, Royo’s first collection of work, [[[Malefic]]], was released and has since gone on to be an international best seller. Now, coming in February from NBM, a new edition will be unveiled. The hardcover book, measuring 8.5” x 10.5”, has is the first in a newly remastered set of Royo’s collections. Beginning here and to be carried on through subsequent volumes, Royo will redesign and reorganize his paintings, adding to the complete works.
Under a new cover, which shows the painter has not seen his talent diminish, the book is a collection of sketches and finished works with scant text that attempts to evoke a mood for each portrait. Maybe it’s the translation from the original Spanish, but the prose is poor at provoking a feeling or conveying information. In some ways, the book would have been better without it or Royo should have hired a writer to flesh things out.
Regardless, his art speaks volumes without a single letter. In the introduction, Miguelanxo Prado notes, “He fills his airbrush with darkness and spreads it left and right with virtuous accuracy. He paints thick, Lovecraftian fogs, the kind that wrap everything in gloom, like vapors from cheesy special effects.”
Royo’s work is somber, using a limited color palette to work with, keeping all his settings filled with dread or despair. Even his warriors at repose are bathed in muted tones, indicating danger is merely at bay, not at all defeated. He works predominantly with acrylic and oil on paper and the work is moving and imaginative.
Examining the occasional preliminary sketch with the finished product shows the detail and twisted thinking that makes his work distinctive. While the outfits his men, and especially his women, wear isn’t always practical, they are always memorable. What’s really interesting is that the feeling one gets from his pencil work and his painted work can be entirely different. Both are good, and always engaging.
The women are full-figured without exaggeration and varied in physical type. His men avoid the bodybuilder template while his creatures – organic or mechanical – never feel out of place. There’s an undercurrent of sensuality in his compositions regardless of setting or impending doom.
In this book alone, there are few recurring characters, although the title figure, Malefic, can be found in multiple images. Overall, this is a handsomely packaged, albeit expensive, art book. Royo fans will certainly rejoice in having new material and a unified library. More casual art fans are encouraged to check this out and see other worlds and ideas conjured up in a compelling way.