"Justice League": Exploring How Superman Returns (Again)
Comic Books, Film
Every day this year, I will be examining the artwork on a single comic book story. Today’s artist is Jamie McKelvie, and the issues are Young Avengers #2, 4, 7, 9, and 13, which were published by Marvel and are cover dated April, June, September, October 2013 and February 2014. Enjoy!
For the final day of Jamie McKelvie artwork, I thought I’d cheat a lot. Yes, I’m going to feature art from five (5) different issues of Young Avengers, mainly because I can. Actually, after I’ve looked at all the things McKelvie is famous for, notably his excellent body language and facial expressions and character interaction, on this series he really started doing some very cool things with page layouts. Unfortunately, like the punk he is, he couldn’t just confine his interesting page layouts to one issue of the series, so I want to check out some of the coolest things he did over the course of the series. Blame McKelvie and Kieron Gillen – that’s usually the safest course, I’ve found.
In issue #2, Billy gets thrown into “Mother’s” prison dimension, and McKelvie does a nice job with it. Obviously, breaking panel borders and making the characters step “outside” the confines of a comic book isn’t original, but it’s still a pretty cool trick, especially if it’s not overused and done well. One of the neat things about the first page is that Billy appears to be falling from the “real” world – the Marvel Universe – into the box, which is a pretty nifty effect. Many artists make the panel borders the walls or floor/ceilings of the character’s world, as McKelvie does here, but he shrinks the panels so that the gutters are wide, which adds to the claustrophobic effect of the prison. When Loki busts Billy out, I like that McKelvie draws the shards of the panel border in the first panel of Page 2. It’s a nice attention to detail. He moves us really well over the page, as they search for Teddy, and the repeated drawings of Loki and Billy adds to the unreality of the page – when they climb down on the upper right, Loki’s word balloon follows Billy’s above it, but it leads us to another drawing of Billy, who was just behind Loki! Wait, he still is! It’s an old trick, but a good one. In the final “panel,” Loki’s magic obliterates the panels entirely, taking them beyond the confines of Mother’s dimension. It’s another well done effect.
Here’s the epic two-page spread from issue #4 – I yanked this off yonder Internets so I wouldn’t have to scan two separate pages and post them as smaller images. This isn’t as big as it should be, but you get the idea (plus, if you click it, it’s a bit bigger). I know this is very Chris Ware-esque, but the point is that this is a superhero comic, the art of which isn’t exactly known for being super-innovative. McKelvie wrote a bit about the spread here, and it’s interesting how collaborative an effort this was. Noh-Varr’s grimace as he crashes through the window into the club is excellent, and the way McKelvie moves him (and us) around the room is very nice. I love how the upper left panel and the bottom right panel are mirrored, as Noh-Varr bursts in, causes havoc, and crashes out. The numbers, linking to the key on the left side, also move us nicely around the room. This is just a wonderful image, and it’s very cool that McKelvie and Gillen came up with it.
As cool as the double-page spread from issue #4 is, I almost like this page, from issue #7, even better. It’s such an interesting way to show movement between dimensions. America kicks a hole in our dimension, and the Young Avengers leap through it. McKelvie once again erases the panel borders where she kicked it, so that it appears the other dimension is bleeding into ours just a little. We can see how well McKelvie has gotten at drawing figures in motion, as the group looks quite fluid at the top and the bottom of the page. In between, we get the shards of glass, each with different drawings of the team on them. McKelvie takes his time to show many of their emotions. Teddy is looking back worriedly at Billy, Noh-Varr looks elated, and Loki looks unperturbed. It’s really impressive how easily we can read some of their personality traits just by some small drawings. At the bottom, the background is nicely done. Mike Norton, who worked on backgrounds a lot in this series, didn’t do the backgrounds on this issue, and McKelvie does a lot of hatching in this panel, creating a dirty-looking room. It contrasts very nicely with Matthew Wilson’s bright coloring for the superheroes.
In issue #9, our heroes find a bunch of other-dimensional analogs to attack Mother, and we get this marvelous page. Mother’s panel prisons swirl around as she uses the “stuff” of the dimension to ensnare the many heroes as they get close to her. The balance in the panel is amazing – all the heroes are focused on Mother, so we get the giant funnel pointing directly at her, while she stands alone against them all, but still able to stop them. I’d really like to know how McKelvie did this – I assume he drew all the tentacles and then erased the holding lines in Photoshop or some other program, but however he did it, the effect is very cool, as the lack of lines makes the web look far stickier. In Panel 3, McKelvie draws America leaning over so she can fit into the panel, but also because she’s bent over, out of breath. It’s a clever way to fit her in the panel and also show how much strain she’s under.
Billy saves the day, of course, and we get this cool sequence in issue #13. McKelvie overwhelms Mother’s dimension with the star containing the cosmos, and that dominates the first page. The panels placed in the corners fit in with the star’s borders, of course, and they also create an inverse triangle to balance the main star in the center. Notice that America is making a star with her hands, mirroring the giant one floating above them. Billy and Teddy’s kiss is the central image of the page, and it’s cool to see Mother reacting so strongly against the light, but also the kiss, while the Young Avengers look on in admiration. On the second page, Billy steps outside the dimensions and uses his new power to disintegrate Mother and drag the bad guys away from Central Park. I assume the cosmic effects are Norton’s and possibly Wilson’s work, and it’s very cool. The page layout is well done, but the colors overwhelming the blankness of Mother’s dimension is very neat. Then we get the double-page spread in which Billy even steps outside the Marvel Universe itself (once again, I stole this from somewhere on the Internet, so you click on it to make the entire thing bigger). On this image, we get every panel from every issue (well, not really, but that’s implied), and Billy strolls over it, wondering if he can change everything in the universe. McKelvie leads us on a nice route across the pages, with the paint splatter effect working well to keep Billy separate from the events in the comic. Then, at the bottom right, McKelvie makes it appear as if Billy is going to rise completely away from his universe, but he comes back down to rejoin Teddy and his friends. It’s a nice moment.
McKelvie is still getting better, it appears, and as he’s one of my favorite artists, I can’t wait to see what kinds of stuff he comes up with next. Young Avengers has some nice examples of what he can do. Tomorrow I think I’ll go with another British dude, one whose style has changed a bit dramatically, which means he’s a good candidate for these posts! Be sure to browse the archives!
Comics Should Be Good accepts review copies. Anything sent to us will (for better or for worse) end up reviewed on the blog. See where to send the review copies.