Every day this month, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. This month I will be doing theme weeks, with each week devoted to a single artist. This week: John Romita Jr.! Today’s page is from World War Hulk #5, which was published by Marvel and is cover dated January 2008. Enjoy!
John Romita Jr.’s style hasn’t changed too much in the past 20 years, as we can see in the final issue of World War Hulk, his collaboration with Greg Pak in which the Hulk gets to punch the shit out of a lot of stuff. However, one of the interesting things that we see as he’s gotten older is a penchant for the smallest bit of sketchiness, as his figures become a bit more abstract and reliant on, for lack of a better phrase, the “Romita style.” Any comics reader probably knows what Romita’s art looks like, and he occasionally sketches just out the barest framework of the “Romita face,” for instance, and leaves it at that. Check out Rick Jones in panel 2 of this page – we get the slightly long, shaggy hair, the high forehead, the large eyes, and the wide cheeks, all of which are hallmarks of Romita, but Rick looks far less expressive and more zombie-like than many of Romita’s character over the years. In panel 4, Tony Stark looks like he’s wearing some kind of plastic suit, as Romita barely doesn’t give his torso much definition. Due to the digital coloring of Christina Strain, Reed’s costume is far more like spandex than we would expect from a Romita drawing, and the roughness of Miek (that is Miek, isn’t it?) seems smoother than we would expect (even though he’s in the background, and he looks a bit better in close-up). Strain’s coloring, like a lot of modern coloring, helps make elements like the electric crackle look really nice, but it also fails sometimes with more of the nuts and bolts of certain artists, and Romita falls into that category. I certainly don’t want to blame Strain or Klaus Janson (who inked this) for any shortcomings that belong to Romita, but the modern coloring doesn’t do Romita any favors. It’s Janson, who seems like a good fit for Romita, that surprises the reader, because his inks are fairly weak on this page.
Romita still does a nice job with the initial panel, which shows the destruction caused by the Hulk’s rampage through New York very well. He does a wonderful job later in the issue with the Hulk’s fight with the Sentry, but this page, art-wise, isn’t too great. Pak, however, gets us into the story nicely, as Miek explains that the Hulk is in charge and Reed Richards is somehow under his control and that Reed is being forced to kill Iron Man. It’s a powerful scene (even though we know there’s no way Reed will actually kill Tony) and Romita certainly doesn’t ruin it, although it could work a bit better with better art. Chris Eliopoulos, as he often does, letters this well, as it’s always nice to see different fonts for different species – Miek’s speech just sounds more alien in our head because of the font change.
World War Hulk is a marvelous series with tons and tons of violence, and Romita does a pretty nice job throughout, especially with said violence. This first page isn’t excellent, though, and it seems like it’s a combination of some Romita sloppiness, indifferent inks by Janson, and computerized coloring by Strain. I think. But what the hell do I know?
Next: A new artist, the other one who got two votes from the readers! Another artist whose style has changed a lot over the years! But this artist might just be a bit crazy, and that makes it all the more fun! In the meantime, it’s time to romp through the archives!
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