Ewing and Rocafort's "Ultimates" Stand Guard Against Alien Empires & Cosmic Entities
Every day this year, I will be examining the artwork on a single comic book story. Today’s artist is J. G. Jones, and the issue is Final Crisis #3, which was published by DC and is cover dated September 2008. Enjoy!
Final Crisis is a book that reads much better as a whole (with the Superman issues, especially), which is too bad because DC wanted it to be so important. Unfortunately, Jones was plagued by illness and other personal problems during its creation, which caused him to fall behind on the art. The work he did before all those problems struck, however, is very cool, so let’s take a look at it!
As we saw yesterday, Jones can do some interesting things with a restrictive grid, and he does so here with a 9-panel one. In the corner, we get Renee Montoya fighting the forces of S.H.A.D.E., and Jones does his usual good job with the choreography of the battle as the Question escapes. The outer shell is neat because it allows Jones to show the wider city, but also, because we’re still reading left to right and top to bottom, we get to Panel 3 before we get to the bottom row, so Jones and Morrison use that to show a burst of light, which is the arrival of a beaten-up superhero. We don’t know that yet, but it’s a clever way to introduce it in a different scene and link it to the later pages. Jones also shows the Question turning back into Montoya in the bottom row and disappearing, using the technique we saw yesterday, where static images in different panels help imply movement. Jones does this very well, and we see that here.
So the Flashes are running backwards through time or some such nonsense, and the bullet hits Orion and messes him up. I wanted to show this page mostly because of the special effects. Alex Sinclair colored this issue, and as with all special effects, I assume he had a big hand in this. Jones, I’m sure, knows how to do this sort of thing, but given his time constraints, I wonder if he had the time to do it. I’ve never been a huge fan of computer effects in comics, because too often it looks unnatural, but as with anything, the higher the production values, the better things look, and Sinclair/Jones’s use of it here is about as good as it can be. I like the swirly paints in the background of Panel 1, while using electronic paint to make the Flashes’ lightning more crackly has always been pretty cool. The effects in the background of Panel 4 shows that we’re still in another dimension, and the fact that Jones’s line work is so strong makes the effects work a bit better, too. We can see every piece of Orion’s armor, the shreds of his uniform, and the anguish on his face. If you’re going to use computer effects in your comics, it helps if the pencil work can stand up to it, and obviously, Jones’s can.
So we get the “superhero draft,” which is one of those Morrisonian ideas that balances on the knife’s edge of brilliant/idiotic, and Jones gets to draw heroes getting the call. I like the dichotomy of this page – we have Supergirl saying goodbye to her cat, and Jones puts her high in Panel 2 as Tawky Tawny gets the call, linking the anthropomorphic tiger with the more mundane feline. In Panel 1, Jones draws differently for Supergirl’s designs, and even gets to paint something odd in the corner – is Supergirl dreaming about Cthulhu? Obviously, Jones has it written into any contract he signs that he gets to draw women in leather, so in Panel 3 we get Black Canary getting dressed. I’ve never worn leather bondage gear (I’ve certainly offered, but my wife tells me it’s not necessary, which is probably for the best), so I’m not sure what you wear under it, but a lace bra seems kind of odd. Wouldn’t that bunch up a bit? It’s a nice pose, though, as Dinah knows that Ollie is a jerk, so she doesn’t even listen to him as she holds his quiver toward him.
Speaking of leather … Mary Marvel shows up, and yes, this is EVIL Mary Marvel. As usual, Jones shows that he knows a thing or two about drawing leather – he uses white inks to make it shine, and he puts nice folds at her elbows and knees. The cape is lushly inked, too, making the fabric look like thick satin. Mary’s breasts are a bit big, but I guess when she turned evil, she decided to get some work done! Jones is still quite good at faces, as Mary’s heavy-lidded look in Panel 2 makes her look a bit more louche, while her plumped lips signify amped-up sexuality, which of course is also evil. Jones composes Panel 1 quite well, with Wonder Woman standing ringed by Atomic Knights, so we get a good view of the challenging Mary, while his point of view from behind and above Mary implies that evil has the upper hand – Mary stands dominant, while Wonder Woman and her allies are in the background, much smaller. It’s a bit obvious, but nicely done nevertheless.
The next page is a bit strange. We saw a few days ago that Jones allowed style to overtake function when he laid a page out, and while here we get a simple wide-screen stack, the drawings within each panel are a bit odd. In Panel 1, Mary leaps at Wonder Woman, who dodges out of the way. The Knight in the foreground is named “Marene,” as we discover when someone off-panel yells her name (we also get confirmation on the next page). So far, so good. In Panel 2, Mary obviously kills Marene and her puppy, but it does get confusing. First of all, where’s Wonder Woman? Second, Mary flies quite far above Marene, who obviously was torn apart at the waist, which is fairly thick. I know superpeople are really powerful, but it appears that Mary made no effort to rip a grown woman in half. We also see that the dog’s head has been spun around, and we see in Panel 3 that it has been decapitated. So from that one panel, we’re supposed to process that Wonder Woman has disappeared and Mary has done two horrible things to a woman and a dog whose wounds aren’t really that close together, but Mary apparently caused both traumas in one pass. Plus, the word balloons imply that this takes place really, REALLY quickly. Wonder Woman reappears in Panel 3, and we see that Marene has been divided and the dog decapitated. Mary is holding Wonder Woman and she’s already scratched her, but that still doesn’t tell us where Wonder Woman was. Finally, Panel 4 pleasantly puts the dog and Marene in the foreground, so we can see the blood spurting from them. Wonder Woman and Mary look much closer to the corpses than they did in Panel 3, even though momentum seems to imply that they would be farther away. The drawing on this page is perfectly fine, but the way Jones presents the fight is confusing, even though we do know what’s going on.
We get some more special effects when Barry and Wally run a few weeks into the future, as Jones does that distortion you can do with computers to blur someone who’s “running” really fast. Again, I don’t mind it too much, especially in certain circumstances, and the Flash running really fast is a good place for it. Sinclair drenches this sequence in deep blues and lurid reds, implying that the state of the world has deteriorated rapidly. Jones also inks the page heavily, so that we know it’s at night and that things aren’t too great. As we see above, a lot of his inking on this issue is a bit lighter than usual, but here, he uses a heavier line to imply the darkness descending on the world.
Jones hasn’t done a ton of interior work recently – he did draw a Before Watchmen mini-series, but to see that art, I would have had to get over my distaste for that entire venture, and I didn’t want to do that, so I don’t know what it looks like. However, I’m always looking forward to seeing what he does next, because he’s such a great artist!
I know that I gush about most of the artists I’ve featured this year, but tomorrow I’m going to start on an artist who remains one of my favorite artists of all time, one of those dudes whose books I’ll buy even if I don’t like the writer or even the subject matter. That’s how much I dig him! You might be able to guess who it is, but you don’t have to, because you can just come back tomorrow and find out! Obviously, you won’t find him yet in the archives, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore them!
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.