Marjorie Liu x Phil Noto: The Glory of Creative Teams

February 27th, 2012 Posted by david brothers

One of the nicest things about the complicated mess that is the production of mainstream comics is watching creative teams grow comfortable with each other and up their game. Frank Miller and Klaus Janson’s duties evolved over the course of their classic run on Daredevil, Walt Simonson worked with Sal Buscema on a lot of his Thor. Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon. Warren Ellis and Darick Robertson. Garth Ennis and Goran Parlov. Frank Miller and Bill Sienkiewicz. Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso and Trish Mulvihill. Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev. Geoff Johns and Doug Mahnke. Joe Kelly and Doug Mahnke. Garth Ennis and John McCrea.

You know what I’m talking about–you can tell when people are really in sync and just black out on a comic. The other day, Marjorie Liu said something that got me really excited to see a comic. “The last issue of X-23 is going to be entirely silent, thanks to @philnoto’s magnificent visual storytelling skills.” Consider my interest piqued.

Noto, of course, barely needs any introduction at all. Not if you pay attention to ill artists. He’s the guy who drew these shots of Sharon Carter, X-23 & Jubilee, Luke Cage & Storm, the best Robin, this smile, Domino, and Black Widow. His style is super clean, and if you aren’t a fan, you need to get like the rest of us who know from good.

Liu, on the other hand, has quietly turned into one of Marvel’s best weapons. She turned X-23 into a character worth checking in on, and she did her best work on that book while working with Phil Noto and Sana Takeda. For her to feel comfortable enough with Noto to make the big finale of a series she’s guided from inception to execution a silent issue — something that I’ve rarely seen done well — is great. That makes me want that comic.

That’s exciting, and it’s exciting in a way that I’m rarely experiencing with cape comics these days. The writer/artist relationship is one of those things I associate with cape comics above all, mainly due to their assembly line nature. Sometimes it doesn’t work out. Sometimes it crashes and burns to an absolutely absurd extent. And sometimes, things like this happen. It’s one of the most pleasurable things about reading cape comics.

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The Children Are The Future (and X-Men is for the babies)

January 13th, 2011 Posted by david brothers

Here’s a couple of bits from X-Men comics I dug, mainly for their writing.

First bit’s from New Mutants, Vol. 2: Necrosha, with words by Zeb Wells and art by Diogenes Neves. I really dig Wells’s work in general and his work on New Mutants in specific, but this trade is such a mixed bag. As soon as Wells sets up what was clearly meant to be his second arc (the soon-ending New Mutants: Fall of the New Mutants), he has to write a few tie-in issues to Necrosha (a crossover I did not read) and Kieron Gillen interrupts to clean-up some crap from Siege (a crossover I did not like). The switchover from regular New Mutants to Necrosha was pretty smooth, and the story was good, but the overall picture of v2 is that it’s a hodgepodge. I thought New Mutants, Vol. 1: Return of Legion was a really strong book, too. The ship was righted after all this crossover crap wrapped, but man. Ugly business. Death to events.

Anyway, here’s one page from a Necrosha issue. It’s from the POV of a recently revived Doug Ramsey, whose mutant power is that he listens well. Or understands every language ever. Unsurprisingly, his mutant power didn’t protect him from being shot and killed years ago. Wells introduced a neat twist on his powers in this issue, and hopefully the red on black text (why?) is legible.

I like this, because it makes what’s honestly a pretty crappy power for adventure stories into something interesting. He can decipher what they mean, rather than what they’re saying. He can also now “read” other things, from cities to computer programs, but this was the bit I liked the best. Wells nailed the characterization here, and I particularly like how Sam Guthrie and Bobby Dacosta come off. I’ve liked those guys since I was a kid and high on that Nicieza/Capullo X-Force. Clever work.

Next is X-23 4, words by Marjorie Liu and art by Will Conrad and Marco Checchetto. Colors by John Rauch. I think this page is Checchetto, but don’t quote me. I picked up the first issue because Marjorie Liu is a pretty ill writer, but I was left pretty underwhelmed. The “Wolverine is in Hell. Hell! HELL!” stuff that’s spread across the Wolverine family of books right now is a huge drag, and that first issue wasn’t really for me. 4 was the start of a new arc, and actually feels like where the series should have begun. It’s much better than before, though I’m still not feeling the art. I think that may be due more to Rauch’s colors, though. He makes stuff seem really washed out, sort of like how Pete Pantazis did on JLA a while back. We’ll see how it shakes out.

I think the “Heroes don’t kill!” thing in comics is dumb, and have harped on it ad nauseam. I like this bit, though, because it’s more… honest. X-23 is a character who has gone from killer to child prostitute and back around to being a killer again. Only this time, she’s a Wolverine-style killer, where it’s hyped up and encouraged until someone decides it isn’t cool. And that always rubbed me the wrong way, like the guy who rails about how drugs are for idiots but is down to hit a blunt at a party. Which is it? Pick one and stick with it.

This, though, is a more honest treatment than the either/or that infests cape comics. It’s just, “You did this thing. Can you live with it?” “Yes, he deserved to die.” “Well, all right.” I like that. When your mutant power is “kills people real good,” a different approach from your usual superheroic code of honor is required. Here, the killing isn’t treated as something positive, or something to be encouraged, but it is treated as necessary, or maybe even just. More like this, please.

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