Monday, October 24, 2005

Marvel Knights Spider-Man #19



Marvel Knights Spider-Man #19
The Other: Evolve or Die, Part 2

It's easy as humans to lash out and just bash something you don't like without any explanation other than "This sucks!" But whenever possible it is more of a service to be critical of the things we love in order to maintain some level of quality. Marvel has disappointed me greatly with the second part of its massive Spider-Man crossover, "The Other."

The story by Peter David is fine. It's good, it's interesting, David has a standard that has been constant over his many years of offerings to the comic book trade. Sadly, his story for the ever-important follow-up of part one is overwhelmed by the rest of the book's complete lack of respect for it.

The art by Pat Lee is just, well, horrible. Pat Lee has things he does well, he can riff off the anime/manga hybrid his fans seem to enjoy, and when backed by competent studious such as (the defunct) Dreamwave it can look pretty good. However what Pat Lee does not do well is draw Spider-Man. It's a bad match, the editor should have realized this. There is no indication throughout the book that the characters were drawn-- independent of personal artistic style-- to resemble the cast "as we know it." Mary Jane looks like a corpse in every panel, Peter Parker is near unrecognizable, and a cameo by Steve Rogers is bereft of any weight the character deserves.

To start, the cover, man, it's bad. During my time as a comics editor I was fortunate enough to work with a high caliber of artists. It was an extremely rare occasion, maybe once or twice, where I suggested a piece of art was not up to par and asked to have it redone. In one case the artist admitted the piece was rushed and was ashamed to have turned it in, and redrew an exceptional replacement. This type of anecdote I don't think is unheard of in the industry, and I am very curious if my opinion of this cover is in minority. Due to the time and effort involved, having a cover redone is a rather drastic suggestion, but considering "The Other" is a supposed-benchmark Spider-Man storyline, and this is only part two, the cover would seem to be of great import.

Inside the book the gloss of Dream Engine's finishes and colors can barly compensate for Lee's at-times-clearly-amateur pages. Some of these pages would not even get a second look at a convention portfolio review. I do not intend to infer malice in my comments, this is just how I see it and I speak with a small degree of authority.

And speaking of a small degree of authority, there is a section of the story where Mary Jane and Steve Rogers are playing pool. Overall this is not a bad sequence, as drawing people playing pool falls into a challenging category of art. However...

  • In the first panel of the sequence, Lee blows the illusion. Mary Jane is in a very awkward stance for a shot, it's clear Lee did not bother with reference. Also if one were to imagine Mary Jane standing in that same panel, she would tower over Steve Rogers. I know models are tall, but sheesh. Two panels later, their relative heights while standing prove this otherwise.
  • In the forth panel, MJ calls a shot into the side pocket, but the next panel clearly shows a shot into the corner. This could have been the writer's error if the book was scripted after the art. Also, MJ's bridge for this shot is fairly weak, there is plenty of room for her not to have her palm flat.

  • On the second page of the sequence, MJ switches to a lefthanded shot. This is a difficult, and rare, maneuver. Even though the dialogue suggests she is showing off, the only reason to do this is to avoid a "behind the back" shot when the cue ball is too close to the rail at the end of the table. From the position of balls on the table, and MJ's position, there is absolutely no reason to make a left handed shot, show off or not.

Outside of the art, I have one other MA-jor gripe on this book, and it falls on Marvel. The book glaringly showcases more advertising than actual content! The layout goes a little something like this:

intro
AD-AD
page-page
AD-AD
page-page
page-AD
page-AD
AD-page
AD-AD
page-AD
page-AD
page-AD
page-AD
page-AD
AD-page
AD-AD
page-AD
page-page
AD-AD
page-AD
page-AD
page-AD
page-page
page-editorial
AD

22 pages of content... 24 pages of advertising. Shame!!!

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