I’m a lover of storytelling, so I naturally lean towards narrative and word choice when it comes to comic books. It’s what I’m familiar with. I know words; I hang out with them all day; I feel comfortable critiquing them and wringing out their emotional effects. But this week… this week, the art stepped up to the plate to a degree at which I’m not sure any single issue I read would have been the same without the visual master behind the curtain. And so, dear artists, this week, I salute you: for bringing nightmares to life, for inking scenes into the dark, for knowing just when to stop so imagination can take over.
I’ve been a fan of Rossmo since he did GREEN WAKE with Kurtis Wiebe; his messy, watercolor-esque style lends itself well to surreal horror and unexplained phenomena—particularly in Nick Spender’s BEDLAM, also currently published by Image. The simple fact is that I would not have given DIA DE LOS MUERTOS a second look without him, and although the short stories featuring Mexican ghosts have their strong points—particularly the second tale, “Reflections”, about a paranormal investigator of sorts using mirrors to do his work—Rossmo’s handprints on everything are what gives this collection its cultural mojo.
Is there anything to say about COLDER that I haven’t already? Every issue is gold. I’m a bit obsessed with this series. Paul Tobin’s protagonists are worth becoming invested in, and the dialogue rings wondrously true; still, artist Juan Ferreyra has catapulted what could be a good horror comic into the realm of nightmarish beauty. There are giant wolf-dogs with hands for hind legs, violent masses of muscle and teeth, endlessly Escherian buildings, and of course, Nimble Jack—one of the best original villains in creator-owned comics. COLDER is just plain gorgeous, and worth checking out on the merit of Ferreyra’s art alone: so smoothly inked that even broken glass looks good enough to eat.
There’s been a two year hiatus on this series, and I haven’t even read the first arc in ages. Brian Michael Bendis has the capacity to be both boring and brilliant, although his many Icon series (POWERS, JINX) tend towards the latter description. So why would I pick this up after so long? Alex Maleev’s intriguing sketchbook art reminded me. I associate Scarlet Rue with the kind of piecey, brown-toned brush strokes that Maleev delivers. There is even a breakdown in the middle of the issue that is designed to read like a children’s picture book with illustrations that look like they popped right off of an oil canvas. When paired with the bluntly violent subject matter, Scarlet’s anti-corruption cause becomes all the more compelling.
JAMES O’BARR & JIM TERRY
IDW’s THE CROW: SKINNING THE WOLVES #3
Writers: James O’Barr & Jim Terry
Although it’s unclear just to what extent O’Barr and Terry shared the artistic and narrative duties here, suffice it to say that the harrowing visuals are what make this mini-series work. The original CROW graphic novel is steeped in the thrash of indie black and white, but somehow the dark colors feel natural here, and the basic premise—a crow bringing back a spirit (in this case, of the Holocast) to exact revenge—has been preserved, along with the no-holds-barred brutality that makes the original so disturbing. Barbed wire for gloves, soot surrounding hollow eyes like heavy makeup, gaping mouths, and a lettering job that rivals the violence in sheer intensity—this book will punch its way into your psyche.
There is very little Jeff Lemire can’t handle in a narrative sense, and my best guess is that people who jumped on this series at #17 did so specifically with Lemire in mind. And yet, while Lemire’s enthusiastically game-changing story is decent enough, this book is really held together by Andrea Sorrentino’s stunning art and stylistic choices. He really brings his A-game of heavy shadows and ragged edges, here, giving a slightly noir feel to the proceedings. Even more fascinating is his use of “snapshot” sequencing, in which crucial elements of the scene are highlighted and surrounded by a focus square, as if through a camera lens. It’s doubtful that the results would be anywhere near as successful without him. Oliver Queen has never looked better.