Folks, I’ve spent another week reading comics! Here’s the stuff I liked the most.
1. Lee Weeks’s second act
Lee Weeks has been drawing comics for a long time. And he’s been drawing comics with a consistent craftsmanship not easy to find. When it comes to artists, though, long-term careers aren’t really the norm, especially not without modifications to one’s style to keep up with trends and/or the realities of the marketplace (deadlines, process, etc).
It’s possible Weeks has adapted his process over the years, but his style is just as consistent and remarkable as it ever was. So it’s been fantastic to see his work in a new spotlight as DC shifted into Rebirth.
He started with “Titans” #7, for my money, the best issue of the book post-Rebirth so far.
Yes, Flash, really! Brett Booth has his strengths, but I felt Weeks’s style was much better suited to this team of older, slightly more skeptical Titans. And look at how he sells the Titans Tower reveal at the end:
The next splash came in “Batman/Elmer Fudd”, an instant classic, with exchanges like this one:
The linework is impeccable, but look at the acting in conjunction with the panel-to-panel transition here.
That all brings us to “Batman” Annual #2. It’s difficult to pick just one moment in this issue to highlight in addition to that spread up top, but this one has it all:
Incredible performances, detailed costumes and background, perfect mood to the lighting, and Elizabeth Breitweiser’s colors are the perfect finishing touch.
So why now? Aside from DC just plain recognizing greatness when they see it, I feel like Weeks’s style is the perfect antidote to the kind of contemporary comic art that eschews solid linework and shadow for digital inking and downplays any kind of sense of place by photostatting or even eliminating backgrounds. His pages are rich with the kind of detail that a lot of artists have just assumed they can get away with avoiding these days. Hopefully, his return to prominence is a signal of things moving in a better direction.
2. J. Jonah Jameson wears socks in the house
It’s maybe a little hyperbolic to say that this single panel from “Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man” #6 holds within it all the potential for greatness that exists in the framework of the Marvel Universe, but stick with me.
Written by Chip Zdarsky and drawn by Michael Walsh with colors by Ian Herring and lettered by Travis Lanham, this is the comic equivalent of a “bottle episode.” The entire issue is devoted to a conversation between J. Jonah Jameson and Spider-Man, which has a lot of heft to get into, but I want to focus those socks.
Think about it, have you ever seen anyone in the DC Universe in their socks? The Marvel Universe is the place where you could actually see two characters sitting in someone’s kitchen, where there’s space and air available to tell the reader that when J. Jonah Jameson is at home, he takes his shoes off.Continued below
This all leads, trust me, to the pivotal moment in the issue, where Spider-Man reveals his secret identiy to Jonah. It’s not done because of a ticking time bomb or a wild hostage situation, it’s because Peter cares about Jonah and knows that this is the only way to relieve him of his agonizing burden of loathing.
It’s the human element that has always elevated Marvel at its best. And humans sometimes keep their socks on in the house.
3. The pages of “Batman/The Shadow”
I finished off this great mini-series this week and found a lot to like, but what I really loved was Riley Rossmo’s page layouts working in tandem with Clem Robins lettering. Robins, and colorist Ivan Plascencia, create a great dialogue bubble scheme for The Shadow, with that square and bold yellow underlay, but the dynamics of it hit another level entirely when the axis shifts on pages like this, and the lettering goes along for the ride:
I’m not a huge Shadow-head, so maybe Rossmo didn’t design this tank-headed weirdos in the spread below, but he sure draws the heck out of them. Just wanted to point them out.
4. Back when Kevin O’Neill made sure to write on every available surface
It probably shouldn’t have been to such an impressionable youth, but “Marshal Law” by Pat Mills and Kevin O’Neill was a formative book when I was a kid. The blatant S&M signaling went right over my head, as did a lot of the commentary on the gritty superhero comics of the time. I was mostly transfixed by Kevin O’Neill’s art and character design — and that he never passed up an opportunity to label something.
O’Neill, who also colored the book, created an indelible black, blue, and red palette that made everything about five times bolder than your usual comic page, and all that added labeling of in-jokes, puns, and commentary kept your eye lingering.
I mean you can just get lost in stuff like this:
5. When Batman wore a black armband because Superman died
I just want to point out that he’s dealing with a hostage situation at Arkham Asylum engineered by Bane. Wearing that.