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Year of the Artist, Day 86: Jamie McKelvie, Part 3 – Siege: Loki

03-06-2014 11;21;27AM (2)

Every day this year, I will be examining the artwork on a single comic book story. Today’s artist is Jamie McKelvie, and the issue is Siege: Loki, which was published by Marvel and is cover dated June 2010. Enjoy!

Kieron Gillen’s Loki book that tied into Siege was more about Gillen’s run on Thor and then Journey into Mystery, but Marvel figured it would probably sell better if it tied into Siege. I don’t know if they were right, because I bought it not for the tie-in, but because McKelvie was drawing it!

03-06-2014 11;19;36AM

As we can see, just because McKelvie is drawing a Marvel book doesn’t mean he’s going to stop doing what he does best, which is tell a story very well. I just love the way Loki goes through emotions here, to the point where Gillen’s word, as effective as they are, are almost beside the point. In Panel 1, Loki stands proudly, looking into the middle distance. In Panel 2, he leans on the parapet, and McKelvie scrunches up his face. His eyebrows remain curved as they are in Panel 1, but because he curls up his mouth and nose, his eyebrows look more peevish than they were in the previous panel. The pose is a classic one, as we’ve seen it before, but it can mean different things. Instead of leaning in triumph, Loki’s facial expression makes the rigidity of his arms more bitter. In Panel 3, he softens just a bit, as his face lengthens as he speaks of Thor and Balder, but it’s simply to juxtapose against the image in Panel 4, when he shifts to talking about himself. The close-up allows McKelvie to show the deep black around his eyes, as his brow appears to be shading them far more than we saw in the previous panels. His left eye is slightly narrower than his right eye, because his lip is raised in a sneer and his muscles pull the skin up to his eye a bit. McKelvie is very good at this sort of thing – he doesn’t over-hatch, so he doesn’t dramatically show a lot of lines pulling the skin up, he just wisely makes the eye slightly narrower and pulls the left side of the upper lip up a bit. Loki’s nose doesn’t move, but it doesn’t need to. The sneer is balanced, too, as the right eye and left side of the mouth are wider than the left eye and the right side of the mouth. Finally, we get the small hint of Loki’s incisors when his mouth opens slightly, making him appear more predatory. In Panel 5, McKelvie focuses on Loki’s fist, and it’s again nicely done. Just the small motion lines let us know that Loki is clenching far too tightly and trembling a bit too much, so that his anger crashes over us. This entire page shows a nice range of emotions, so while we need Gillen’s words to get some exposition, we don’t need the words to show how Loki feels about it. Meanwhile, Nathan Fairbairn colors this comic, and it’s interesting that his work isn’t quite as bright as Matthew Wilson’s was yesterday. I don’t think it’s because Loki is standing in Oklahoma, which would imply a dustier atmosphere, although that might be what’s happening on this particular page. The entire comic, as we’ll see, is not quite as bright as when Wilson colors McKelvie’s pencils, and I just wanted to point it out. Loki’s pale tan skin and fatigue-green outfit do make him look more like a soldier than usual, though. I wonder if there’s anything to that.

03-06-2014 11;21;27AM

Loki gives Norman Osborn the idea to besiege Asgard, and McKelvie once again does a wonderful job. Norman’s expression doesn’t change until Panel 4, but the way McKelvie draws him, with those downcast eyes and thin, straight mouth, is a good look for a man on the edge – he looks beaten down, and considering that he’s not quite sane, that’s probably the point. In Panel 4, his eyes open a bit, but he’s still a man who looks lost, and he clutches at the direction Loki gives him. McKelvie does a decent job with Loki speaking in the first three panels, and then we get to Panel 4. I love that drawing – Loki’s eyebrow is cocked in a jaunty manner, his smile is broad and not at all sinister, which, when juxtaposed with what he just did, makes it far more sinister. That panel is just one reason why McKelvie is such a good artist.

03-06-2014 11;23;17AM

Loki wants to use the services of the Disir, but they’re kind of unreasonable about those sorts of things, so Loki has to fight them for it. McKelvie was already getting better at action scenes – not as good as he would get, but still – and one thing he did wisely was figure out ways to show action where he could use his skills. This is an early example of him using an unusual page layout to show a scene, as this fight would have lasted several pages had he not done this, and who knows if he would have been able to pull it off at this time? So we get the background of Loki, completely in shadow, and his eyes forming the central image of the entire page. For some reason, a fire started around the fighters, and we see the flames at the top and Fairbairn colors the background around Loki blood red, which is a nice touch. McKelvie can indulge in small, static images that play to his design strengths but give us the impression of a great battle occurring. The images are brutal – one warrior loses the ends of her fingers, another gets elbowed in the face, another gets stabbed in the gut, another gets strangled, another loses a hand, Loki himself gets raked across the cheek – but because they’re snapshots of moments, McKelvie doesn’t have to make them flow together and relies on the reader to fill in the blanks. It’s a clever device, and it’s a good way to do it if you need to conserve space (Gillen has a lot to get to in this issue, so presumably he didn’t want to fill up more than one page with a fight) or if you’re not too confident in your ability to draw action. McKelvie comes up with an elegant solution and gives us an interesting page layout. That’s always nice.

03-06-2014 11;25;33AM

Loki does some scheming and comes to an agreement with Mephisto and Hela. McKelvie gives Hela that magnificent headpiece – Hela’s helmet always looks ridiculous, and it still does here, but the strands of black flowing from it give it a creepy, spidery feel to it. Plus, McKelvie draws a robe on her that could only cling to her breasts by the power of the gods!!!! In Panel 3, he does an interesting trick as she disappears, erasing parts of her body as she steps into another dimension instead of actually showing a door. Mephisto’s sarcastic clap in Panel 4 is nicely done, especially as Loki is looking at him as if he really, really wishes he could destroy Mephisto with a thought. The final panel also contains a very nice expression, as Loki dismisses Mephisto. Once again, we see that Fairbairn keeps the colors muted, and that’s fine, although I do wonder why he chose that way to go. Occasionally, coloring choices are obvious, but sometimes, they’re just not.

We see with this comic that McKelvie is comfortable drawing all kinds of Marvel characters, and so Marvel kept giving him work. But would he step up when he needed to draw more action? Be here tomorrow to see a comic where he had to, and whether he nailed it or not. Until then, feel free to browse the archives!

7 Comments

This series has be thinking about how some artists don’t bother improving, or in some cases get worse. I wonder if it would be worth looking at Liefeld’s very earliest stuff and seeing the potential he had.

Michael: I do plan on looking at some artists who have gotten worse. So far, I haven’t had the heart to do it! :)

David Macpherson

March 27, 2014 at 4:27 pm

Greg,

You kind of already did an artist getting worse, namely Marshall Rogers, which was always so sad to me. I remember getting his first Silver Surfer comic and not understanding how this could be.

David: Good point – I forgot about Rogers! :( However, despite the fact that I think he got worse, he didn’t get to a point where I absolutely loathe his art, which has happened to some other artists.

I am staring at the panels and I swear it looks like Steve Dillon art.

Eric: Yeah, I can see that. McKelvie’s inking line is lighter than Dillon’s, and Dillon seems to square off his faces a bit more, but that’s a good comparison.

I love McKelvie’s artwork. It is so simple in a lot of ways, not a lot of shading or crosshatching, but he manages to do such lovely spare linework, and his expressions are fabulous. In some ways he reminds me a bit of Kevin Maguire, if only for the expression that he is able to convey so neatly.

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