Tuesday, March 20, 2012

CAPTAIN ATOM

A couple weeks ago, I saw a post from a Facebook friend by the name of Freddie Williams. I've never actually met him. Freddie is the artist on DC Comic's “Captain Atom,” as well as several other comics in the past few years. I always liked his style, and when his post said “the next ten people to contact me will get the first six issues of Captain Atom, And I'll even pay shipping.”

Free comics? Sweet! Sign me up!

I inboxed Freddie a message, and he got back to me pretty quickly saying that I would be receiving the comics in the mail shortly. All I had to do was read the books, and give an honest review on my blog, and post it to Facebook and Twitter.

After A trip home to see the fam last weekend, I found the books in the mailbox. Like a ten year old kid, I ripped open the packaging and opened them immediately. My bags may or may not have hit the floor before this happened. I read the first issue immediately, and the following five today. Myself being an artist, writer, and designer myself, It was fun to actually pick something apart from my standpoint. The subsequent review is here for your perusal.

The best place to start is the cover, I suppose. All six covers are fantastic, from the composition, to the rendering, and down to the logo and trade dress placement. My only gripe is that Freddie didn't do the covers himself. His iconic portrayal of the hero, Captain Atom, is top notch. (More on that later.) I don't know who this Stanley “Artgerm” Lau is, but they need to keep him on covers for as long as possible.

First up, Being an artist first and foremost, I'll hit that area first. Freddie has been doing really solid work for a long time. This however is the first time I've read several consecutive issues of his work in a row. And, there's a reason why this guy is working on Captain Atom, part of DC's NEW 52.

He knows what the hell he's doing.

The storytelling is clear, the characters stay on model from page to page. What stuck out the most to me though, and probably my favorite part of the book, is it seems that EVERY shot of Captain Atom is a money shot. That iconic, badass, “That's a SUPERHERO” shot. A lot of artists can make an awesome pose, pinup... And it usually sticks out in the book as just that. A blatant flexing pose, taking up the whole page. Freddie has mastered the art of incorporating these iconic poses into his page design and storytelling without making it look like an advertisement.

Now, I know what you're thinking. “He's just jocking him because he gave him some free comics.”

False.

This isn't all puppies and rainbows, so here's what I dislike about the art. The main figure, Captain Atom, and all of the other super powered “Metas” are rendered in kind of a pencil, ink wash style. Which looks friggin' sweet. The background, or non-powered Humans, are rendered a strong, high contrast black and white ink style. Which also looks friggin' sweet. However, I felt a huge disconnect when these two separate styles were merged. It's not like it took me out of the story, and it may just be the artist in me, but they just didn't seem to successfully achieve a cohesive look. There were a few small scenes where entire panels were rendered in the pencil/ink wash style, and I found myself wishing the entire book was rendered in that way.

On to the story.

I've never heard of the writer, J.T. Krul before, so I go into this story with an open mind, hoping to be pushed to my ass by a kick ass story. He pushed me, but I didn't QUITE fall to my ass. I really liked that I didn't really have to know much about the main character to pick the book up and jump right in. I suppose that's the whole point of the New 52. It flowed well, and had solid character development. I really liked the homage to Stephen Hawking in the character in Dr. Megala. (At least, I took it as that. My only experience with Cap is in a few issues of Batman/superman a few years ago.) Captain Atom however, seemed to read a lot like it were a “Dr. Manhattan” solo book. From his overwhelming power, his loss of a sense of humanity, even down to his look.


For the reason alone of wanting for this guy to knock me out with a kick ass story like I think he can, I'll probably pick up the next story arc. Add some really good art on top of it, and this book is pretty successful. I don't think it's QUITE hit it's stride yet. But It's definitely worth checking out to see if it gets there. They have all of the tools, they just need to put the pieces in place.

You can check out more Of Freddie Williams' art on his site, www.freddieart.com.

You can also follow him on Twitter. @Freddieart

Saturday, February 4, 2012

A Critique of a Rob Liefeld cover

A lot of folks hate on Rob's art. But the truth is, he's still doing his thing in the industry. Like him or hate him, He's probably doing more than the Fanboys that point fingers. I just thought I'd offer an unbiased Crit of one of his latest covers for DC comics "Grifter." Keep in mind this is all subjective, and one artist's opinion.

First up- The composition. I like it. It's not trying to be anything more than it is. Straight to the point, dynamic, It's catchy, It's got explosions, and the Main character featured prominently. It Doesn't blow me away, but it really doesn't suck. At all.

Grade- B+

Next- The figures themselves. These Look pretty good. Oddly enough, I like a lot of Rob's older figure work better than his current stuff. The anatomy looks pretty good in this one. as comic book artists, we often take a great deal of creative license with anatomy. The thing that stands out as being a little off on this cover is the foreshortening on the main figure's arms. They just dont seem like they are coming forward in space enough. It's not like this piece has extreme perspective, But exaggerating it just a hair more would help things out a LOT.

Grade- B-

Which bring us to- Detail. Things look nice and rendered. It looks like the folds in the clothing and whatnot have had a great amount of attention payed to them. But what really stands out and turns me off about this image is the detail that WASN'T paid to the weapons. Grifter's pistols, and the cannon in the background look like no care was put into them. We live in 2012, where access to reference images is in the palms of our hands. A quick Google search will bring up millions of images of weapons that one can look at for inspiration. There is simply no excuse for taking shortcuts in this area. Readers nowadays have video games and movies with the most imaginative weapons people can think of, so we have to compete with that.

Grade- D-

Colors- For the most part, the colors are solid. Most of what i have to say about it is in regards to personal taste, not technique. I was never a fan of the "airbrush" highlight style. I feel like it takes away from the shape of the figure. The light sources look accurate, but then again, there is light coming from everywhere. That being said, this is also something we take a lot of creative license with. As long as it looks believable, You're usually good to go.

Grade- B

Last- The background. I understand that the background on this piece is the last thing most are concerned about. The thing is, it's kind of hard to tell where the pencil art ends and the photo background starts. In a bad way. I use some photo backgrounds myself, and it's a very thin line between clunky and seamless. I think this piece would be better off just dropping the line art and go with an all digital background.The colorist saved the background on this one.

Grade- D+

Okay students, This brings us to the final report card. In the end, Mr. Liefeld gets a B-. A few little tweaks here and there could make this cover awesome. But in a business where time is money, sometimes things just need to get done. I know this all too well.