*Obie, through his dabbling in arcane magiks mixed with ancient corrupt business practices, has had not just the colors of his fur switched, but a complete overhaul of his work ethic as well…I think I’m kinda okay with the mishap.
Not sure what “Comics Lust” is about? Take a look at the Introduction to “Comics Lust” post or take a look at the static “Comics Lust Table of Contents” page to jump to a topic.
Trippin’ on the Visuals (Part 1)
Having dabbled in comic book writing myself—hundreds of scripted pages and rewrites—and after being a fan of the medium for 90% of my life, I am well aware that it is the art that makes or breaks a comic. Yes, writers are currently the ones who garner most of the attention, interviews, and such, but it’s that striking cover by this artist, it is the lush interiors by that artist, it is the emotional impact of a certain colorist that captures the eye before we even notice the credited creators involved in the work. A comic can have the best story ever written, something that will win the hearts of everyone who takes the time to read it, but if the art is...less than adequate...then that book can go wholly unnoticed. The reverse, however, is not necessarily true. A comic with an incomprehensible plot, no characterization, and awkward pacing can succeed in grabbing someone’s attention if the right artist/colorist is attached to the book and ultimately result in the issue being bought. Today, we look at some comics that not only win on both writing and art fronts but provide some truly glorious, and at times dang-near-psychedelic moments that have to be seen to be believed.
Avengers Versus Thanos(Mostly written and illustrated by Jim Starlin, published by Marvel Comics in 2013)
It’s no secret that I am a huge Adam Warlock and Thanos fan. It can also be said that I am only too happy to preach on the marvels of Jim Starlin as both a writer and an artist. But when you have Starlin involved with two of my all-time favorite characters, I simply can’t say no. It was his reimagining and revitalization of Warlock in Strange Tales #178 that turned a cool looking character into one that mattered. It’s this run that reintroduced Thanos, brought in the credible threat of the Magus—whose secrets I won’t reveal...you’ll have to read it—introduced a militaristic and expansionist religious cult, basked in madness, and set the scene for one of the best space operas in comicdom. The story is deep, complex, riveting, but when you see the beauty of Warlock soaring across the cosmos, where stars burn brightly and strange worlds glitter in the distance you can’t help but be torn between looking at the perfectly sculpted characters or the strange, intricate backgrounds. Some of the best moments are when Warlock teeters on the edge of the aforementioned madness over conflicting thoughts of destiny and free will, where imagery goes off the rails and color palettes are flipped to become truly psychedelic, yet always beautiful; it was the ‘70s after all. What always grabs me the most is Starlin’s use of stars, whether in a character’s costume or in the lovely backdrop of space and in this collection you see plenty of stars. This book not only delivers great stories of Warlock and Thanos, but also has some great Avengers, Captain Marvel, Cosmic Cube, and Infinity Gems moments; it’s also a great primer before the new Avengers movie comes. If you want trippy, mind-bending art, then Starlin’s work is a great place to start.
Elric the Dreaming City(Written by Roy Thomas, illustrated by P. Craig Russell, letters and logo by Tom Orzechowski, published by Marvel Comics in 1982)
First off, I just want to throw it out there, if you find something illustrated by P. Craig Russell then you may as well just buy it. Whether it’s his early Killraven material, his ‘80s work on the likes of Dr. Strange, or later work focusing on The Sandman or his visual interpretations of his favorite operas, Russell’s work is certain to charm and captivate all who behold it. Personally, however, it’s his work on Michael Moorcock’s doomed antihero Elric that continues to prove that magic is real. Yes, you might have to hunt down this beautifully haunting jewel, but it is well worth the effort. Elric is the 428th emperor of Melniboné and a sickly albino who wants nothing more than to rule his kingdom alongside his beloved cousin, Cymoril. Cymoril’s brother, Prince Yyrkoon, wishes Elric dead so that he may rule in his stead. If not for the strength-giving herbs, Elric would be too weak to rule, but he has another source of strength and power: the vampiric sword Stormbringer. Every panel of every page in this Marvel Graphic Novel is lovely. The cover alone is a wonder of design, storytelling, and has a fantastical background, but when you see the very first chapter page, you’re greeted by an art nouveau inspired illustration that promises swords and sorcery at the forefront of a great tragedy and that is exactly what you get throughout. The character acting and backgrounds are beautiful in their own right, but it is the additional graphical elements such as lightning and stars and radiant bursts of magical effects that make this book a thing of wonder; the painted colors are a massive trip in and of their own. When it comes to Russell, all it should take is a quick flip through one of his books to get you smiling and puzzling over how he thought up what you are actually seeing.
Batwoman: Elegy(Written by Greg Rucka, illustrated by J.H. Williams III, colored by Dave Stewart, published by DC Comics in 2010)
This story originally appeared in Detective Comics #854–860, and it was at some point late in this run that I first took notice of Batwoman. Her costume was inventive with the attention-grabbing, fiery reds that mirrored her long, flowing hair. She had alabaster skin and crimson lips, looking beautiful and most assuredly dangerous as hell; I had to know more. So, I flipped through the comic and found that the interior was every bit, if not more, gorgeous than the cover. I eagerly began awaiting the inevitable collection as past issues were nearly impossible to find at the time. Williams III uses panels of various sizes and shapes and often incorporates themes into the page design that are fascinating even before a single character or building is penciled in. But the arrival of those characters and background elements quickly take prominence and demand that you stay on the page to marvel at everything you are seeing as there is far too much to miss if you whip through Rucka’s fantastic story. Not only that, Williams III’s art style changes to from scene to scene: Batwoman scenes are highly detailed with shadows and lighting and added definition; Kate Kane scenes depend mostly upon line work with little to no shading; the past offers an even more stripped down interpretation than the present through the use of rougher lines. Then, Stewart’s colors come into play, also telling a story: Batwoman moments are fully rendered; Kate Kane scenes are portrayed flatter, more ‘80s in tone; and the past goes completely flat, yet beautiful all the same. The character is amazing, the story is intense, and the art…well, it is otherworldly. I think I just psyched myself up to reread it in the very near future.
Atomahawk #0(Written by Donny Cates, illustrated by Ian Bederman, lettered by Taylor Esposito, design and logo by John J. Hill, edited by Seamus Martin, published by Image Comics in 2017)
I have no idea if we are going to be getting more Atomahawk or not, but I really, really, really hope we will see more soon as this book is a headbanger’s dream come true. I can tell you the reading experience is only enhanced when you throw on some AC/DC or Iron Maiden and let the music carry you along with the Cyberzerker as he and his dreaded Atomahawk rip through skull-faced nightmares and video-game-inspired giant mecha warriors. There is carnage and smashing and a story that is as bizarre as the visuals, the likes of which I have not seen in comics before. In fact, Bederman’s art usually resides upon people’s bodies in the form of tattoos, which explains the heavy use of reds blues, and blacks in this dang-fine, beautiful, oversized comic. I can’t wait for more. Metal!!!
Ether: Death of the Last Golden Blaze(Written by Matt Kindt, illustrated by David Rubín, published by Dark Horse in 2017)
I am now a David Rubín fan and I simply must get everything he’s touched. I first became aware of his work with Black Hammer #9 and 12, when my first thought was oh no, a fill-in artist. Then I saw the first page, and the next, and the next, and I was 100% in love. His vibrant color palette drew me in and kept me glued to the book as did his lively character designs. Then I discovered Ether. I’m already a Kindt fan, but the Rubín cover on Ether alone had me thrilled to dive in and this book did not disappoint. The story follows a world-traveling, supernaturally-skeptic scientist who gave up everything in his world to travel the Ether and disprove the existence of magic through science. This is in spite of the existence of living bullets, a purple gorilla gatekeeper that talks, and a mystical warrior woman known as the Blaze that protects the city. Every…single…page of this first book is a visual treat and Kindt’s mystery at the core of the series had me fighting between basking in the beauty of each page and madly whipping through the book to see what happens next. Thank goodness there’s a second arc on the horizon. Now, I need to get the soon-to-be-released Sherlock Frankenstein and the Legion of Evil trade—a Black Hammer tie-in series—and then all of Rubín’s other work. Only then will I be complete. You really need to check out this delightful series.
Space Riders(Written by Fabian Rangel Jr., Illustrated by Alexis Ziritt, lettered by Ryan Ferrier, published by Black Mask in 2017)
Oh, my Denizens! I was absolutely blown away by this series when I read it while vacationing up at Lake Arrowhead while lounging around the pool. Put on some Pink Floyd, turn on your lava lamp, and give the velvety texture of your bitchin’ naked lady with a sword black light poster a pat before settling in for the glory that is Space Riders. This is a story of the revenge of Capitan (not Captain!) Peligro. This is a story with a bipedal mandrill warrior socking the stuffing out of space Vikings. This is a story of sexy ‘80s robot ladies and so much madness and mayhem that I can’t even begin to tell you what the heck is going on. Just know this, you don’t—and shouldn’t—have to be on a controlled substance when you read this comic, but you will most likely feel like you are once you finish it. I try not to curse too much on these entries, but fuck yeah, FUCK YEAH! Space Riders is the real deal and a trip and a half for your ass. I can’t wait for the Space Riders: Galaxy of Brutality trade that comes out next month. You deserve to read this.
That’s it for this entry, and I am well aware that I left off a certain King of Comics, who will probably monopolize the entirety of “Trippin’ on the Visuals (Part 2)” when I get around to writing it. May you krackle with excitement and energy until then. Space be with you.
This Week’s Reading ListI’m late, so let’s wrap this up with a quick rundown of this week’s books:
- Deadly Class #33
(Written by Rick Remender, illustrated by Wes Craig, colored by Jordan Boyd, lettered by Rus Wooton, edited by Sebastian Girner, published by Image Comics) Everyone should be reading this tense-as-heck comic about high school assassins. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
- Domino #1(Written by Gail Simone, illustrated by David Baldeon, colored by Jesus Albertov, lettered by VC’s Clayton Cowles, published by Marvel Comics) I gave this one a shot and I’m happy I did. Fun and exciting and one of the first new Marvel comic books I’ve bought in a while. RECOMMENDED!
- Oblivion Song #2(Written by Robert Kirkman, illustrated by Lorenzo De Felici, colored by Annalisa Leoni, lettered by Rus Wooton, edited by Arielle Basich (associate) and Sean Mackiewicz, published by Image Comics) We’re still world-building at this point, and I’m loving every page of it. A city of 300,000 people are swapped into a hellish dimension of monsters, and Nathan Cole has spent 10 years attempting to rescue as many of them as he can. But what else is he searching for? HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
- Gideon Falls #2(Written by Jeff Lemire, illustrated by Andrea Sorrentino, colored by Dave Stewart, lettered and designed b Steve Wands, edited by Will Dennis, published by Image Comics) A slow build horror thriller that mixes the best moments of Twin Peaks with a troubled priest and a supposedly mentally ill man searching for something called the Black Barn. I have no idea of what’s going on, but this book is a spine-chilling good time. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
Happy reading to you all.
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