Saturday, January 13, 2007

Brian Bendis and Alex Maleev, New Avengers #26

1/20/2007 update: I'd been hoping to figure out my thoughts on Alex Maleev's comic book art, as suggested by the original post below, but I'll have to save most of that project for another time. One commenter mistook my few words below as disapproval of Maleev. Just the opposite of what I'd intended. True, I don't like the Scarlet Witch cover, but that's because it's so unlike that which makes Maleev's art unusual in comics -- his attention to texture, his muted color scheme, his ability to tell stories through facial expression.

This last is important, I think. The classic comics artists used template faces for all their characters; their concern was motion and bright color. Modern comics "pencillers" (as they call themselves) wanted to be artier, so they slowed down the action and made much use of close-up facial reaction panels. But they didn't learn to draw faces any better. In fact, they got worse -- reading some no-name superhero books from the 90s, I was struck by the fact that the characters' faces maintained no consistency at all. Maleev's men are individuals, his Daredevil and his Hawkeye distinct characters with expressive faces. Maybe that's my problem with the Scarlet Witch cover -- Maleev's men possess this individuality, but his women, not so much. In the comic referred to below, Scarlet Witch's face is like those drawn by the bland modern illustrators -- she's always hot, but not always the same hot. But being hot always trumps actual expression.

Well, comics are for geek boys, so that's no surprise. But Maleev is more talented than that -- the best panels in this book remind me not of cheap Klimt, a la the cover, but of Ben Katchor, back in the days of his less-crowded Julius Knipl, Real Estate Photographer panels. Katchor with emotional intelligence. (His surreal strips are not so much about individuals as cityscapes.) Maleev's writing partner, Brian Bendis, writes female characters brilliantly (see Alias -- not the TV show -- a series of graphic novels about a grumpy female detective who quits using her super powers because she's depressed). Apparently, the two are teaming up on a Spiderwoman comic book, so maybe Maleev will create a real female body to go with Bendis' story. The illustrations I've seen don't look promising, though -- too curvy to qualify even as porn. More like satire of porn.


Some really awful neo-Klimt from one of my favorite comic book artists, Alex Maleev. After dropping off my grades today, I took a detour into Forbidden Planet comics at Broadway and 13th. This is what I found. The New Avengers, from which this cover image of the Scarlet Witch comes. I've always hated super heroes and villains who depended on a color for characterization. Except, in principle, for the Green Lantern.

I posted this image of Hal Jordan, aka the Green Lantern, mainly because it's neato, and the subject of the post I'm mulling is romance comics. That, and the work of Alex Maleev. Until my thoughts cohere, Maleev's Scarlet porn and the Lantern's kiss will have to serve as placeholders.