that’s a one hot team every ten issues average

February 24th, 2012 Posted by david brothers

Marvel’s been double-shipping comics lately, taking advantage of an increased shipping schedule to pull a little more money from their fanbase. As a result… the quality and consistency of their books has slipped over. Here’s a quick copy/paste from my buddy Ron Richards’s Marvel May solicitations post that does a pretty good job of explaining the situation:

To put it in perspective, here’s a rundown of several single issues coming out in May. Series that previously featured a “hot” artist who received critical and fan praise, and the artist replacing them:
Secret Avengers #27 – you loved Gabe Hardman on this book that JUST relaunched with a new creative team, so HERE’S RENATO GUEDES!
Ultimate Spider-Man #10 – you loved Sara Pichelli and her new take on Ultimate Spider-Man, so HERE’S DAVID MARQUEZ!
Ultimate Comics The Ultimates #10 and #11 – Esad Ribic blew your minds with the opening chapters of Hickman’s run, so HERE’S LUKE ROSS!
Scarlet Spider #5 – you loved Ryan Stegman after he launched this title, so HERE’S NEIL EDWARDS!
Fantastic Four #605.1 – you loved Steve Epting, so HERE’S MIKE CHOI (Speaks for itself after last week’s Green Lantern #6 atrocity)!
Defenders #6 – you loved Terry Dodson, so HERE’S VICTOR IBANEZ!
Daredevil #12 – you loved Paolo Rivera SO HERE’S CHRIS SAMNEE – oh wait, this is a good one…
EXCEPT, next issue…
Daredevil #13 – you loved Paolo Rivera and Chris Samnee, so HERE’S KHOI PHAM!
Don’t mind me, my head’s too busy spinning.

That’s a lot of changes. Most mainstream artists can just about keep a monthly schedule. Previously, you’d see two stable art teams alternating arcs on a book to keep the book on schedule and with something of a cohesive look. With the double-shipping, stable art teams are looking less and less likely.

Daredevil is a good example of what I’m talking about, and why these art changes are so frustrating. At launch, it was announced as a book that would feature Mark Waid writing with Paolo Rivera (and his pop Joe Rivera inking him!) and Marcos Martin alternating on art duties. Javier Rodriguez was going to color Rivera, Muntsa Vicente was going to color Martin, and Joe Caramagna was going to letter all of it. That’s a good team–an astounding one, honestly. Alone, Rivera and Martin are beasts. Putting them on the same book is like having putting on a concert with fifteen Michael Jacksons on stage at once, or going to a basketball game that’s Jordan on Jordan. (It’s a pretty good comic.)

By the time we hit issue 13, we’ll have seen Rivera, Martin, Kano, Chris Samnee, and Khoi Pham illustrating the book. That’s five artists over thirteen issues. Some will have done one issue, others just a few. And on a certain level, sure, all of these artists are pretty good. Daredevil is going to be a good looking comic regardless, and will presumably remain well-written. But on another level, good looking isn’t a binary proposition. Martin’s good looking is different from Rivera’s good looking. Samnee and Kano are two entirely different types of good looking. With alternating teams of two, you can maintain a real visual identity. That’s what a stable art team does–it gives the book a look. Bringing in five artists onto a book in just over a year is far from stability. It’s another hoop for your suspension of disbelief to jump through so you believe in the story.

I saw a Marvel editor going off on Twitter about how artist switch-ups aren’t a problem, because hey, you’re still buying the comic, aren’t you? What’s the deal? It’s not like they’re ugly. I disagree. Vehemently disagree, in fact.

Think of it like this. When you hopped on Daredevil, you hopped on for Waid, Rivera, and Martin. They set a specific mood with their first issue. For another artist to tag in, even a good one, muddies that mood. Samnee doesn’t draw like Kano, who doesn’t draw like Martin, who doesn’t draw like Rivera. Rivera and Martin are complementary (though perhaps not as complementary as Javier Pulido and Marcos Martin, another killer duo), and their mood (which is aided and abetted by Waid’s script, of course) is a very specific thing.

When you begin adding to that mood, Daredevil becomes a different comic. It’s like if the actors changed forty-five minutes into a film, or if the new hot single by your favorite artist changed BPM and singers halfway through, but kept the same subject matter. It’s not that strange a comparison, I don’t think. There’s a skipped beat there. Every artist is unique, and swapping an artist out of one story (and make no mistake, Waid is clearly scripting one story) and slotting another in changes that story fundamentally.

I’m actually having a hard time explaining why because it’s so obvious and basic to me. It looks different, and comics are a visual medium. You don’t just read comics–you look at them. The art matters, and when the art changes, the story changes. All-Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder is such a beautiful hot mess because Jim Lee is the quintessential superhero artist of our day and Frank Miller scripted a story that needed a more cartoony, flexible style. I talk about it here a little, but Lee is simultaneously the best and worst choice to illustrate what Miller was trying to do. If Miller drew ASBAR, it would have been received differently. It follows, then, that Lee’s ASBAR is not Miller’s, just like Rivera’s Daredevil is not Kano’s. It isn’t a value judgment. It’s an objective fact. Blue is not red, but they are both nice colors. Same thing.

These changes also have this unwanted effect of devaluing the artist, in a way. It sets the writer up as the prime mover on a comic book. The writer is the one constant in all these creative changes, and that changes the conversation from “Waid and Rivera are doing Daredevil!” to “Rivera is drawing Waid’s Daredevil next issue!” There is a difference there, and it affects how we think and talk about comics. It gives the writer ownership of the book, and makes the artist secondary, despite the artist being such a huge part of the success of the book.

(I realize that I’m giving short shrift to the inkers, colorists, and letterers here, but please believe that I love you guys, and do not wish to underestimate your influence. Pardon my shorthand.)

I don’t expect every creative team to stay together forever. But the constant musical chairs, right when things are getting good, is off-putting. We’re paying more money for less content, and we can’t even get consistent content. I understand why Marvel double ships comics, but am I really going to keep buying two issues a month when the creative team is compromised like it is on so many books in the latest round of solicits?

I buy cape comics because I like seeing what a small, dedicated team can do with these old characters I grew up on. Spider-Man has no value in and of himself. I might get curious about a series featuring Spider-Man and Hypno Hustler, but without a strong creative team, it’s nothing. It’s worse than nothing. Uncanny X-Force is a dumb idea on paper. It’s the team of X-Men that go out and murder people at night. But it came roaring out of the gates with Rick Remender, Jerome Opeña, and Dean White firing on all cylinders, including cylinders I didn’t even know Marvel had. That team made that series. By issue eight, Billy Tan was drawing the book, the quality took a nosedive, the magic was broken, and I bailed out. Why was Tan drawing it? Because Marvel shipped six issues of the series between the cover dates of May 2011 and July 2011, tossed out another two in October, and will consistently double-ship the book from February to April.

Uncanny X-Force 17-22 feature five different artists. That’s seven issues, including 19.1. There’s no in-story reason for the double-shipping. It just happens. That’s not a problem? It’s enough of a problem that I quit the series, and I’m absolutely positive that I’m not the only one. Maybe it’s just us elitist hipster douchebags dropping books over changes, but I doubt it.

Boiled down, though, my only request is this. If you want us to pay four bucks for 20 pages of comics, then at least let us trust that the reasons we’re reading the series are going to stick around. Let us get a story from a creative team that’s had time to grow together and get in sync. If you want us to pay more for less, at least do us the basic favor of giving us something approaching consistency.

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon


7 Artists: Paolo Rivera

July 9th, 2010 Posted by david brothers

Covers sell comics. I mean, obviously, right? Back when you could buy comics in public, covers had to be exciting and interesting as a general rule. Severed heads, gorillas, and frankly stupid ideas were commonplace, and it was all calculated to catch your attention. As the comics industry became more insular, the covers did the same. They stopped trying to attract civilians and started trying to trick comics fans into buying the issue because “nothing will be the same!” If you look at early ’00s Marvel, and actually several covers recently, it’s clear that they weren’t even trying to reach even comics fans. “Get Adi Granov to draw She-Hulk standing on a gunmetal-y background! That’ll move units! Get Greg Horn to throw some D’s on that joint!” In a word: lazy. Another word: boring. Those are two of the worst things a comic book can be.

Paolo Rivera, though. This guy did a series of fully-painted Marvel books with Paul Jenkins that I liked well enough. They were origin stories, slimmed down and tightened up. Fun, but not particularly interesting, you know? They were stories I’ve read dozens of time before. The art was good, and the writing was okay, but it wasn’t groundbreaking. But his cover work… that’s where he shines. This guy actually makes interesting covers, something that was in short supply for a long time.

I don’t really have any science for this one. I don’t really know cover theory beyond realizing that some cool type, clever copy, and great art makes for a good cover. I have several cover artists I like (Dave Johnson, Rafael Albuquerque, Frank Miller, Walt Simonson, Jordi Bernet, others), but I couldn’t genuinely tell you why I like them. Not beyond “It looks good.” I’m not equipped.

If I strained, I could point out reasons why Rivera is a great cover artist. It could be the little details he puts on his covers, like Spidey’s tiny (but expressive!) eyes, the glow of Cyclops’s visor on the snow, or the awkward mid-motion poses of Punisher and Spider-Man (and his web). Maybe it’s the draftsmanship/craftsmanship in his work. His characters tend to have real weight and are believable in context. Spider-Man is kinda thin, Cap a little tall, and Punisher looks a little like a creepy child molester. Maybe it’s the hand-lettered sound effects. Maybe it’s how he knows how to draw your eye to a specific point on the cover. Maybe it’s the look on Sandman’s faces while he pummels Spider-Man. Maybe it’s the incredible sneer on Black Widow’s face.

Who knows. Who cares. I’m a firm believer in examining what you enjoy. If it’s worthy of time, it’s worthy of examination. Why you like it, what’s good about it, what it says, what it means. Whatever. At the same time… sometimes you just have to sit back and like things. Sometimes that’s nice.

I like Paolo Rivera’s work.

And this cover down here, with the blue and the red? Cover of the year and instantly one of my favorite Spider-Man images. No contest. It doesn’t even need any copy. It knocked my socks off when I first saw it. Even if you didn’t know from covers, that’s a cover. Check the process here.

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon


Adjusting Mythology

July 1st, 2008 Posted by david brothers

Marvel’s Mythos series is pretty interesting. They’re 32 page one-shots that re-tell, and sometimes re-adjust, the origins of a few Marvel heroes. They don’t fit into any ongoing series, so the collection will likely come in the form of a “Marvel Mythos” premiere hardcover sometime over the next year, hopefully. From the first solicit:

AN ALL-NEW SERIES OF PAINTED ONE-SHOTS FROM MARVEL, RECAPTURING THE EARLIEST DAYS OF OUR GREATEST HEROES! The first of a series of quintessential, stand-alone, done-in-one stories by Paul Jenkins and Paolo Rivera, MYTHOS: X-MEN takes readers back to the formative days of Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, and recounts the first encounter between the nescient, teen-aged X-Men with their ultimate nemesis, Magneto! Filled with new detail and nuance, the MYTHOS books are also the perfect starter set for those readers new to the Marvel cast of characters, or to those who known them only from movies and television cartoons!

The line-up thus far has been pretty much par for the course. X-Men, Hulk, Spider-Man, Ghost Rider, Fantastic Four, and Captain America. The books haven’t really functioned as direct movie tie-ins, save for maybe Ghost Rider or Fantastic Four. Instead, they’re quick primers on the character that also serve as a light continuity patch. Characters are modernized and origins are retooled for the modern day. The FF were given their powers on a space station, instead of fighting Russkies, for example. Come to think, their origin is probably the most changed.

Usually, this is the exact kind of story I’m not interested in. Continuity Comix? Give it a miss. For some reason, though, I’m really digging them. I think it’s because they feel like a throwback. They’re like the backups that used to show up in Marvel comics, like “Here’s the secret of Spider-Man’s webshooters!” or “Here’s the layout of the X-Mansion!” Paul Jenkins and Paolo Rivera make it work, though.

Rivera’s art is fully painted, but still manages to come with enough of a retro flair to make it reminiscent of old comics. He uses a color palette that isn’t garishly dayglo, nor is it Alex Ross-y. It’s not subdued either. It feels just right. His facial expressions come through clearly, in part due to the large size of the panels giving him room to work. Johnny Storm’s casual embarrassment, the Congressman’s bemusement, and Sue Storm’s complete and utter lack of surprise at her little brother’s antics all are true to life. You can recognize them on sight. I also love that they included the schematic of the old school Baxter. I love seeing that stuff.

Paul Jenkins caught a lot of flack post-Civil War: Frontline. You’d think the man hadn’t written a good comic in his entire life, the way some people talk. However, looking back, he’s got The Sentry, Inhumans, and he had a killer run on Spider-Man. His last issue of Spectacular Spidey, with art by Mark Buckingham? That was one of the best issues of Spider-Man in years. It was pitch perfect.

The core of all of those stories that Jenkins did so well on lies in the relationships he puts on display. Ben and Peter, Norman and Peter, Black Bolt and his subjects, Black Bolt and Medusa, Sentry and his wife/friends, and so on. He’s putting in similar work on the Mythos books. They are about the origins, yeah, but more about the choices, or lack thereof, that led to the origins and the choices that followed. Reed desperately trying to talk Ben down, or Captain America thinking about the men he served with and the things he missed, are what makes these books so good. Johnny Blaze making the decision to sell his soul and Peter Parker’s rage and shame at realizing he caused the death of his uncle are more crucial scenes that succeed.

I started this post with the intention of talking about the Captain America book, but got way off track. The Cap book is a good one because it focuses on Steve Rogers, not Cap. It’s about his life, his dreams, and his regrets. I’d challenge anyone who thinks that Jenkins doesn’t “get” Captain America to read it. I’m willing to bet that you won’t come away with that feeling. This page alone is dead on. I love the dual Nick Fury appearances… and is that milk Cap is drinking?

The Jenkins/Rivera team is a great one. They’re telling tales that you’d think were inessential, but are actually really good. I’m hoping Marvel does the series justice when it collects it. I’m hoping for an oversized HC, myself, but that’s because I’m addicted. I also kind of want Jenkins to get a crack at the Fantastic Four for a while, too.

Also, this cover is basically the definition of awesome. I didn’t even catch the detail on the shield when I first picked up the book.


Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon


No Solicitors

March 22nd, 2007 Posted by david brothers

Have you guys read the new Marvel and DC solicits? I love comics, but those things are a bore and a half. It’s like they don’t even want you to read their books.

It’s cool, though. Here are the ones that are new and good and interesting. Jumping-on points only here, with one exception, perhaps. My pithy and vitally important commentary is in italics.

DC Comics is first since Marvel is better!

Written by Grant Morrison
Art and cover by J.H. Williams III
The Batmen of All Nations reunite for a weekend of fine food and nostalgia, but an unexpected visitor has other plans for the gathering. Batman, Robin, and the rest of the Club of Heroes find themselves trapped and at the mercy of a dangerous madman on the Island of Mister Mayhew!
This is why I read Grant Morrison. Mad ideas that sound completely goofy. He’s Silver Age with a Modern Age sensibility. Plus, I hope the sweet Knight and Squire from JLA Classified 1-3 shows up.

ROBIN #163
Written by Adam Beechen
Art by Freddie E. Williams II
Cover by Patrick Gleason & Wayne Faucher
It’s Tim Drake’s first Father’s Day as Bruce Wayne’s adopted son, and he wants everything to be just right. Unfortunately, the justice-crazed supervillains known as The Jury pick that very day to go on a murder spree in Gotham City!
This is a great idea for a story. The “family” part of Bat-family doesn’t get looked at often enough. “The Jury,” though, conjures up images of a certain ’90s anti-Venom team.

Written by Paul Dini and Judd Winick
Art by Bruce Timm, Joe Chiodo and others
Cover by Timm
Paul Dini and Bruce Timm -two of the masterminds behind Batman: The Animated Series – join forces in this volume collecting the miniseries BATMAN: HARLEY AND IVY! Also included is the special: HARLEY AND IVY: LOVE ON THE LAM by Judd Winick and Joe Chiodo, plus a newly-colored story rom BATMAN BLACK AND WHITE VOL. 2!
It’s Harley Quinn, so shut up and buy it.
Read the rest of this entry �

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon


Lobo’s back’s back.

August 30th, 2006 Posted by david brothers

Just a few quick bullets on what I’m thinking about in the world of comics right about now.

– This week’s 52 was good. Lobo’s reintroduction was great, and his origin, completely with pompadour, was a good look, too.

– I have a new issue of Kabuki to read. I’m positively giddy. I may wait until tomorrow to read the latest issue of the best non-monthly series ever.

– All-Star Superman, by The King of All-Comics and Frank Quitely, delivered. Lex Luthor’s eyebrow and sheer arrogance come through perfectly and hilariously.

– Mike Carey’s first issue of Ultimate Fantastic Four? Way better than Millar’s entire year, of which I read approximately the first three months. It’s that good.

– Black Panther’s World Tour has started up, and it’s going to be a doozy. Doom gets what’s coming two different ways. Next month is the Inhumans, I cannot wait for that.

– The Boys 02 is the second issue in a row to feature, er, doggy-style. Pun possibly intended. This is one of the most mean-spirited books I’ve read, but we get some good character insights in Billy Butcher and friends. I’m definitely interested, and Robertson’s art? It’s great.

x-men 190 Have you guys seen Chris Bachalo’s cover to X-Men 190? It’s incredible. The scene it depicts happens a little different in the comics, but that’s water under the bridge. There’s precious little Rogue in this book, but her old costume is lovely and her new assertiveness fits a character who’s been a mainline X-Man for years now. She isn’t just “Sugah sugah mope mope mope.” She’s a fighter. Carey is doing a bang-up job on this series. This guy is remarkably good in the Marvel U. His Hellblazer was good, but Lucifer never grabbed me. His Marvel stuff, though… too good. Loving it.

Mythos HulkMythos: Hulk by Paul Jenkins and Paolo Rivera is a four dollar bundle of joy. The Mythos series (right now just Hulk and X-Men) is a retelling of Marvel origins. They are updated for the modern era and boiled down to their essences. Rick Jones isn’t dared by friends to go onto the testing site, he’s an intern who isn’t paying attention. That sort of thing. They’re good stuff, and Rivera’s art is a treat. Highly recommended, and I hope they collect all of them into a handsome hardcover down the line.

– I read Wonder Woman 02. I’m done with the series. I realized that the moment I saw Wonder Woman start to do that stupid spinning thing from the TV show. No sir I do not like it. The Dodson’s art is great, as always, but Heinberg leaves me flat. Not quite Young Avengers flat, but flat. It wasn’t just the spinning what done it, either. It’s a book that seems to be trying very hard to get me to care, but does a poor job of closing the deal. Giganta is smart and tall… okay? Donna Troy is Wonder Woman and sucks at her job… okay? Wonder Woman is sneaking around and hiding… why bother? It’s weird. My favorite portrayals of Wonder Woman have been in the Morrison/Waid/Kelly JLA era. Doug Mahnke drew the absolute best WW ever. The wet hair look was way better than the usual comic book poofy hair. He drew her lean, but powerful, and his Angry Wonder Woman was something to behold. So, uh, now that I own the first 90 or so issues of JLA in trade form, I guess I’ll go read those when I want to read about Wondy.

Titans – Someone explain this image to me. Is this from the new issue of Teen Titans? I found it linked off SomethingAwful’s BSS forum and it… bleh. Johns, what are you doing, man? That first row, save for Aquagirl and Speedy is worthless, and I like Speedy despite Judd Winick’s handling of her. The second row has Beast Boy and Offspring and they’re cool, but the rest of that row is worthless, too. I realize I’m prejudging here, but Little Barda is too much. DC just needs to leave the Fourth World alone. Give it to Morrison and a good artist and just keep it out of anyone else’s hands. It’s cool to see Mas y Menos and Captain Marvel Jr, but again, the rest of the characters? Bleh. On the bottom row, I think that the two Daughters are interesting ideas, if pushing the gimmick a bit, and I like Ravager, and that leaves Osiris. If Osiris turns out to be Isis’s brother, he’s got the most poorly thought-out code name ever. It takes a lot for me to read Titans. Introducing a bunch of no-names and go-nowheres isn’t really drawing me in. The series hasn’t really grabbed me since Titans Tomorrow, to be quite honest. Maybe it’ll pick up, but I basically have read Teen Titans for two years of my life. I can do without it. It’s turned into the JSA, in that it’s a book about a team full of characters who should be guest-stars at best.

– To be quite fair, Whedon’s Astonishing X-Men is boring me, too. Ha ha, Wolverine, yes, but the rest of the book is cute references up the wazoo and SHOCK REVEALS. It’s very pretty, but I’m not even remotely interested in the story. It feels like it’s treading water, with Neat Callback Scene (Kitty Pryde in the sewer last issue made me roll my eyes hard) to Neat Action scene with no meat inbetween.

– Just to complete the custom combo, I found Serenity boring and Firefly decent to middling at best.

– Cameron Stewart is awesome. You all know this, yes? His upcoming book about Vietnam looks like the bee’s knees. However! He and his Royal Academy of Illustration and Design cronies are having a draw-off, and Harley Quinn was the pick for today. Harl is probably my favorite bat-villain, so go check it out. I kind of like Cam’s, since it’s classic Bruce Timm style, but all of them are good. Go look!

– Oh man, I’m totally going to pitch DC Joker Loves Harley Quinn and do it in the Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane style, but with more mayhem. Yes.

– Here’s an interview with Georges Jeanty, artist of The American Way. He’s a great talent, and TAW is totally a sleeper hit. It gets better and better. It’s telling a great tale of superheroics in the 1960s and actually deals realistically with race. I’m loving it, and 4l member Thomas Wilde likes it, too. He doesn’t like anything but Barb Wire, Vampirella, and other bad comics, so him liking a good book is astonishing. I’m kidding! He doesn’t actually like any of those books. However, if he doesn’t write for the blog, I’ll tell everyone that he does and then kill him while he sits in shame.

– I’ve gotten a buttload of trades over the past couple weeks. X-Men: The Coming of Bishop, Birds of Prey: Sensei & Student, Starman: Sins of the Father, X-Men: Golgotha, some JLA v3 trades, Ghost Rider/Wolverine/Punisher: Hearts of Darkness, Spider-Man: The Assasin Nation Plot, The Punisher/Wolverine: African Saga (Carl Potts and Jim Lee! Whatever happened to Carl Potts?), and Monster volumes 3 and 4. Also Absolute Kingdom Come, though I don’t like Alex Ross’s art very much at all, but I love extra content in hardcover comics. I sometimes fear that I have bad taste in comics, but I love them too much to quit.

– So, summing up: Comics are great right now, Wonder Woman’s series is blah, Teen Titans is blah, but comics are still great, the internet is awesome, and I’ve got bad taste in comics. This ended up a lot longer than expected. It was supposed to be a short post!

– Peace!

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon