Axel-In-Charge: Waid & Samnee on "Black Widow" and the Dawn of the All-New, All-Different Era
Every day this year, I will be examining the artwork on a single comic book story. Today’s artist is Chris Bachalo, and the issue is Uncanny X-Men #1, which was published by Marvel and is cover dated April 2013. Enjoy!
By the time Bachalo once again returned to Uncanny X-Men, he had settled into his current style, and it’s unclear if, at the age of 48, he’s going to fiddle with his style again anytime soon. We shall see, shan’t we? His work on this issue is a culmination of a lot of the threads I’ve been looking at over the past few days, so let’s see what’s up with this comic, ‘k?
Bachalo is still using a lot of details in his backgrounds and clothing, but you’ll notice that it’s become more streamlined and a bit more abstract, even with all the details. He’s using straight lines more than he used to, and the hatching on the walls, for instance, isn’t quite as detailed as it once was. In this issue, Bachalo is inked by his third main inker, Tim Townsend, as well as Jaime Mendoza and Al Vey, so once again, I’m not sure if Bachalo is drawing in the lines (as I suspect) or if the inkers are adding them (which could certainly be the case). His figure work, like yesterday, has become a bit more basic – blocky shapes and such – and while his faces are still less hatched than they used to be, we can see that Bachalo has never left the “classic Bachalo face” completely behind – the black dude (is that Nick Fury Jr.?) exhibits some of the classic facial features, while Maria has the late-model Bachalo face. One thing Bachalo has started doing is getting rid of panel borders – as we see here – and using some more big white spaces between panels. It’s an interesting affectation, which seems to be all it is, as I can’t suss out what storytelling purpose it would serve. But we’ll see it again below.
This two-page sequence is a nice example of Bachalo’s current style as it relates to action. I noted a few days ago that Bachalo really enjoys putting concrete concepts of abstract things (like musical notes) in his comics, letting them wander all over the place, and while Fabio is creating actual things (the balls), Bachalo still makes them wander around the page so that they break panel borders and appear to float above the page.
Bachalo still has a good sense of humor, as we see on these pages. The first thing we see is the ball bouncing into that dude in the upper left and knocking the wind out of him, and it’s a silly image that sets up the rest of the scene, which turns very serious very quickly even though we chuckle at Fabio’s ability to make floating balls appear. Notice Bachalo’s details in the background – he still makes sure to draw in quite a bit, but while 13-15 years earlier, he and his inkers would have drawn in every crack in the buildings, now Bachalo is content with a lot of parallel horizontal and vertical lines to fill in the blanks. He still draws wreckage pretty well, but it’s just not as detailed as it once was. On the first page, he gives us a broad white band between Panels 2 and 3, which he or Joe Caramagna fills in with the balls’ sound effects. Then, on the second page, we get the broad white bands at the top and bottom for no discernible reason. On that second page, we get the cops tackling Fabio and then zapping him when the balls reappear, and we see again the hallmarks of recent Bachalo – not as much detail, more basic body types, and more cartoonish faces. Bachalo, I should point out, colored this issue himself, and the use of pinks and yellows and purples is an unusual choice. I’m not quite sure why he does it – perhaps because the Sentinels show up, so he wants to get a purple-based palette going a bit before they appear. It’s an unusual choice.
At the end of that sequence above, the dude turns when someone speaks from off-panel. That someone is Cyclops, and here we see the team he’s assembled in all its Bachalovian glory. As much as I like Bachalo – and I do, even his more recent stuff – I do not like how his depiction of women has evolved. Remember Kathy from Shade? Now there was a woman. Tempus (Eva), Emma, and Illyana look like girls. Sexualized girls, sure, but still. Emma and Eva have almost the exact same face, while Illyana’s is different only by dint of having slightly more feline eyes. Different hair notwithstanding, the women all look very much alike. Bachalo doesn’t do this with men – that healer dude (whatever his name is) and Cyclops (despite the fact that Scott is wearing that idiotic mask – why is his glabella glowing?) look nothing alike, and if we check out the dudes in the two previous pages, Bachalo at least tries to vary them a little bit. So what’s the deal with the ladies? Meanwhile, notice the lines on Emma’s and Illyana’s bellies – I mentioned this yesterday, as this has become much more common in Bachalo’s artwork. I suppose it would exist if he drew Cyclops shirtless, but dudes don’t show off their bellies. That would be crazy.
When the Sentinels attack, Bachalo tilts the page to show the action, which isn’t a bad way to lay out the scene. In Panel 1, Magneto looks odd, as Bachalo creates a computerized version of Zip-A-Tone, which makes him look like a stock drawing. We can see that Bachalo’s attention to detail is slipping just a bit – the Sentinels in the background are a bit sketchier than they would have been in the past, although the wreckage is nice. Bachalo uses the motion lines in Panels 4 and 6 well, as he colors them the same as the rest of the scene, giving those panels are weird, psychedelic vibe. Notice, too, that Magik in Panel 7 is very basically shaped, as Bachalo’s figures have become. Yes, she’s far away from the reader, but she’s still blocky. Bachalo and his inkers still use hatching to good effect, and Bachalo’s spot blacks are placed strategically, but he’s still obviously working a bit more quickly and therefore sloppily. Even so, he can’t keep up as well as he used to, unfortunately.
Bachalo continues to draw Uncanny X-Men as of this date, and he continues to draw a few issues but need a bunch of inkers to do it and need more time off to catch up. He would crush another creator-owned project from Image that doesn’t necessarily need to come out every month, but I guess he digs drawing for Marvel. I can’t blame him, but I do wish he would evolve a bit more, because he’s a fascinating artist.
Tomorrow I’ll jump into another artist’s work, even though I’m not sure which one yet. I’ll figure it out! Have a grand time in the archives while you’re waiting for the surprise!
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