Monday, February 9, 2009

The Eternal Debate - Part V : Final Crisis vs. Secret Invasion (The Art)

And by eternal, I mean for the past 12 or so months. You could not go anywhere in the Internet (well, at least the sites I frequent) without finding a conversation about either Final Crisis or Secret Invasion. Or both. This year's events from the Big Two felt incredibly long, by design or by circumstances, but they are now officially over (Legion of 3 Worlds notwithstanding), which allows us to look at both events objectively, or at least as objectively as comic book readers can get.

That is where I come in. I want to look at the different aspects of both events, measure them up against each other and see who comes up on top. To do so, I have chosen several categories (or rounds) which will allow me to compare both sides of the 2008 Special Edition Event Coin. If you have not yet read both series in their entirety, there will be spoilers ahead. Oh, yeah, and the point system may or may not be arbitrary or what most people consider fair. You have been warned.

After yesterday's interlude, we now resume the Eternal Debate with the last round being a tie and Secret Invasion leading 3 - 2 against Final Crisis.

The Art

If I am completely honest, I have to admit that I am probably the farthest thing from an artist. Ask me to draw a person and you would probably get a stick figure out of it, I would have no idea how to ink the finished result, and I would also probably struggle to color inside the lines. I remember my wife once saw an old drawing I had to do for school and she pointed out how I have a good understanding of perspective but sadly, I do not have much of anything else in terms of artistic skill. Therefore I feel a bit hypocritical to point out flaws and misgivings in any art, and especially so for comic book artists who work under stressful deadlines and illustrating the ideas of someone else, which is no easy feat. Unless the art is completely distracting or harming the story, I do not feel the need to make a huge deal out of errors or mistakes in it. Luckily, the Big Two always save up the best artists for events like Secret Invasion and Final Crisis.

The art duties for Secret Invasion were handled by the team of Leinil Francis Yu (penciller), Mark Morales (inker), and Laura Martin (colorist). Additionally, Gabriele Dell’Otto provided gorgeous painted covers for the whole mini series. Yu's artwork is full of kinetic energy, the panels are very clear and easy to read, and his work on facial expressions conveys the right emotions (most of the time). The script by Bendis gives Yu plenty of exotic locales to draw, such as the Savage Land and outer space, and a great load of heroes to fill the pages with. There's plenty of huge group shots and double page spreads that Yu uses effectively, channeling the detailed work of George Perez at times. The only complain I have about Yu's artwork is that he has a tendency to make the chin of his male figures very protruding. For characters like Thor and Luke Cage, who have a bigger body type, it is not as noticeable but when he draws it the same way on Spider-Man and Iron Fist, who have a smaller frame, I can't help but notice it. The work of Morales and Martin is incredibly well done, complementing Yu's work greatly. The colors are sometimes a little too bright to the eye, giving a very shiny aspect to materials that shouldn't be so reflective. The ink lines and shadows are rather thick and noticeable, which I like, but might not be to every reader's liking or preference. Overall, the art of Secret Invasion is quite pleasing to the eye and only suffers from minor missteps.

Final Crisis' art was handled by what can only be described as an ensemble of creators (according to Wikipedia): J.G. Jones, Carlos Pacheco, Doug Mahnke (pencillers), Jesus Merino, Christian Alamy, Tom Nguyen, Drew Gerasi, Norm Rapmund, Rodney Ramos, Walden Wong, Dough Mahnke (inkers), Alex Sinclair, Pete Pantazis, Tony AviƱa (colorists) and Marco Rudy (the Wikipedia page files him under "Artists" with J.G. Jones, but I am not sure what he did exactly). There is a reason behind this extraordinarily long list of artists: J.G. Jones was originally set to be the main and only penciller of the series, but circumstances caused him to be late and DC decided to bring Pacheco and Mahnke to help him and eventually take over him. By the final issue of the series, Doug Mahnke took over all of the penciller duties (even doing some of his own inks), but because the book was already late, DC did all within its powers (in this case, bringing a number of colorists and inkers) to get the book out on time. J.G. Jones, however, did provide some beautiful covers for the entirety of the series. As for the interior, Morrison's script gave the artists plenty to work with, filling the pages with strange characters and some very particular panel work (somewhat reminiscent of We3). In turn the artists delivered some very memorable scenes such as Superman holding Batman's corpse and Barry Allen making his return. Alex Sinclair, the colorist that worked on the greatest portion of the series, conveyed a world that is at times filled with bleakness and destruction and at times filled with hope and the incredible. There was, however, one very noticeable mishap on the pages of Final Crisis 06, Shilo Norman who was previously shown as being black skinned was colored in a way that made him look Asian. In the end, the biggest feat by the huge art team was to emulate the original artists properly and finish thsis series in a timely fashion.

Both Final Crisis and Secret Invasion featured top notch art by some of the best artists in the medium. There is no denying the fact that Jones, Pacheco, Mahnke and the rest ofthe team delivered some great pages for Final Crisis, but for me the deciding factor for me is the uniformity of the artwork in Secret Invasion. I understand that DC is not at fault here, J.G. Jones himself admitted that it was his fault, and I understand that you can't plan for the unexpected (unless you are Batman). The end result of this was that Final Crisis' ending pages look different than the ones at the begining and I think that harms the flow of the story, especially when you consider this is a mini-series. I feel that at the end of the day, I must reward this round to Marvel and Secret Invasion for the consistent look that was provided by their art team, even if both events had great artists.

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