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Year of the Artist, Day 181: Gabriel Hardman, Part 5 – Star Wars: Legacy Volume II #1

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Every day this year, I will be examining the artwork on a single comic book story. Today’s artist is Gabriel Hardman, and the issue is Star Wars: Legacy Volume II #1, which was published by Dark Horse and is cover dated March 2013. These scans are from the trade paperback Prisoner of the Floating World, which came out in November 2013. Enjoy!

In recent years, Hardman has been writing a lot of comics with his wife, Corinna Bechko, and I wonder if this will mean we’ll see a bit less of his artwork. But he still draws comics, and so for our final day, we’ll check out his art on the first issue of the rebooted Star Wars: Legacy, starring Ania Solo!

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Early on, we get a nice fight between Master Val and the Sith Lord, which Hardman depicts almost without words – Hardman, as an artist, knows the value of the writer getting out of the way occasionally. He gives us a lot of small panels after the big one to kick off the fight, which mimics the “shaky cam” and close-in shots of innumerable annoying movies but, because of comics’ static nature, works quite well on the printed page. He leads us well across the first two pages, with Val and the Sith leaping around and the Sith using his freaky mind powers to crash space ships and make Val’s hand hurt before he knocks the lightsaber out of Val’s hand (which is, unfortunately, a poorly colored panel, so you can barely see the outline of the saber as it flies away). Hardman implies that the Sith hesitates at the bottom of Page 2, which of course is fatal in a fight, and he gets it in the back from the mysterious masked dude. The pages are bookended by the Sith leaping down at Val and the masked dude killing the Sith, which creates some nice symmetry on the pages. Hardman’s rough inks make the fight a bit more brutal, while Rachelle Rosenberg uses blue to make the two combatants, with their red skin or red armor, pop a bit more. The fact that the masked dude’s lightsaber is also red makes the final panel tie into the rest of the fight, as it illuminates Val’s (non-red) face well.

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Ania Solo and Sauk find a lightsaber, which isn’t as cool as you might think it is. Hardman does a nice job with the seedy look that imbues a lot of Star Wars – one of the best things about the original movie was how shabby everything looked, keeping with the idea of it being a Western set in space – as we get the clunky ship with a lot of rough blacks on it in Panel 1. Ania and Sauk’s clothing is also roughly inked, making it look tough and worn, as befits two people living on the margins of society. Hardman uses fewer lines on Ania’s face than he does even with other females, which makes her look a bit younger and innocent (even though she’s not that innocent) and might also be a result of Rosenberg’s slightly flatter colors on this book than Breitweiser’s, say, on Agents of Atlas. He also does a nice job with Sauk, showing his reticence and worry in Panel 4 and anger in Panel 5 even though Sauk is, you know, an alien. That has to be tough, but Hardman does a good job with it.

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Panel 1 gives us a nice establishing shot, as Hardman makes the sandstone structure imposing and oppressive, much like a lot of Star Wars architecture. He also draws rough clouds of dust as the authorities herd Ania toward the center of the panel for the showdown. Ania shows us how tough she is, as she blasts the dude trying to take the lightsaber. Hardman does good work in Panel 3, as once again, he doesn’t ink Ania’s face very much, but her thin eyes and set mouth give her a steely look, while the smudge on her cheek is enough to show that she doesn’t mind getting dirty. Hardman uses blacks well in Panel 4, as the blaster shot lights up the victim and shades him around the edges, making his death a bit more dramatic as it throws his face into sharp relief. Hardman, it should be noted, remembers to put Ania’s hand next to her holster in Panel 2, so her draw feels natural. It’s a well composed scene.

Hardman and Bechko continue to write the series and Hardman provides some of the art, but I imagine that soon enough, he’ll be moving on to something else, given the impending shift of the franchise to a different publisher. I like Hardman’s art, though, so I’m always interested in what he’s drawing. He and Bechko are getting better at writing comics, too, so it will be neat to see what they do next.

It’s hard to believe I’m halfway through the year (for me, as these are harder to write than the series I did two years ago, it’s more like “Man, I’m only halfway through the year?!?!?”), but I am, so tomorrow I’m going to return to the King and go through his 1970s work, where I think he did his best work, artistically. After that, it’s back to Ditko, with his 1970s work. I said I’d go back to those dudes! Even if you don’t think they’re the two best comic artists, they’re so influential that spending just five days with them didn’t seem right, so I’m coming back around! Be sure to check out their work – and others’ – in the archives!

11 Comments

Michael Lynch

June 30, 2014 at 2:19 pm

Glad you’re going back to the great ones.

tom fitzpatrick

June 30, 2014 at 2:27 pm

Are you going to back to do the same for every GREAT ones? Or just a select few?

FYI, I’m pretty sure I haven’t been exposed to Hardman. Is that such a bad thing?

Michael: Hey, they’re all great! :)

tom: No, it’s just Kirby and Ditko. I could do more for several artists, but I’m still limiting myself to no more than 5 days, except for those two gentlemen. Sorry!

No, it’s not a bad thing that you don’t know Hardman’s work. That’s partly why I’m doing this series – so readers can find artists they might like!

LouReedRichards

June 30, 2014 at 3:30 pm

Wow- that’s some nice artwork.

I may have to pick up some of his Star Wars work, I’ve avoided the Star Wars comics for a long time, but he makes it look quite compelling (well at least what I see here).

I wasn’t familiar with this artist and each day has certainly gotten better, but today moved it into “one to lookout for” category.

Thanks.

I’m excited about the upcoming 70’s Kirby stuff, so much goodness to choose from!

I’m much less excited for Ditko, I like a lot of his 60’s work, but the little I’ve seen of his 70’s work is far less enjoyable.

It was his late-60s explosion at DC that I loved at the time: the Creeper, Hawk & Dove, the Question, his Blue Beetle. I was too young for the politics to bother me.

LouReedRichards: No problem, sir! I always like finding new artists, so I’m glad to introduce others to them, too!

We’ll see if you change your tune when I get back to Ditko!

Mike: I’ll show some of that, but because he kept working, I do show his 1970s, 1980s, and even 1990s work!

Hardman did some good stuff on Jeff Parker’s Red Hulk run for a few issues. He did a good job there and gave Rulk a distinctive style which helped give the book a unique “voice” after the Loeb/McGuinness run. Too bad it didn’t last–I hate Marvel’s habit of changing artists (but not writers) on a book every few issues.

Yes, this art clinches it, I will keep an eye open for Hardman in the future. Hope he lands on something that I’ll be buying. Unfortunately, I lost track of Star Wars a long time ago and find it too confusing to find a good place to start.

At the main CBR page I saw a preview for Groo Vs. Conan and thought, now there’s an artist Greg can profile: Sergio Aragones! He could even be considered a legend! Ah, but then… his style… maybe hasn’t changed all that much over the years. Ha ha! The other artist (Thomas Yeates) is also nothing to sniff at, I remember buying some of his Tarzan books (in the early 90’s, I think).

Does it say something that whenever I see a book by an artist I am familiar with and respect, I think of this blog?

David: I probably won’t show Aragones because of the fact that his style hasn’t changed all that much, as you noted. If I find some really old stuff that’s completely different, maybe I’ll change my mind, but right now, it’s not looking good. The same holds for Yeates, actually – I like his art quite a bit, but the earliest stuff I own by him is from the early 1980s, and his style hasn’t really changed that much. Maybe I’ll see if I can find some of his earlier stuff to compare.

I hope you mean you think of it in the most flattering way possible! :)

I know you don’t do digital, but his Digital Only comic Kinski is fantastic.

Greg: With Aragones, I was definitely joking. I don’t want his style to change, actually – the mark of a fine cartoonist! For Yeates, I don’t have a lot of his work, but I do remember really liking those Tarzans, so I am doubly excited about Groo Vs. Conan. And, I don’t know much about Yeates’ earlier work, or post-90’s work, so if you say his style hasn’t changed, I will trust you. Also, I don’t know all of what he’s drawn, for example, has he done any superhero art? I’ll have to go google him and see if I have anything else of his work (and just didn’t know it, being the undiscerning youth that I was).

And yes, it was meant in the most flattering way possible! I think your picks are excellent and well-balanced, from classic legends to modern-day artists that I’ve never heard of. I get both the “nostalgia” and “hot new thing” buttons pushed, Can’t go wrong with that approach!

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