Penny Arcade creators Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik had a great idea when they came up with Lookouts. If youth scouting existed in fantasy worlds, earning badges would be a lot more dangerous than just making fires and spotting raccoon tracks. It’s a clever concept that includes an ensemble cast of diverse characters and an endless supply of situations in which our heroes can find themselves. Getting Ben McCool to join the writing team is also a good thing. But the reason I most look forward to a new issue of Lookouts is the art by Robb Mommaerts and colorist Rainer Petter.
Mommaerts does several things exceedingly well, and he (and Lookouts as a whole) deserve to be talked about more than they are. First are the creature designs. Lookouts puts more thought into creatures than just sticking in a dragon or unicorn every once in a while, and even when the monsters are familiar, their looks are new and refreshing. Take, for instance, the sphinx that serves as the antagonist for most of the first story.
Even a mundane snake becomes wonderful in Mommaerts’ hands.
Not that the creators limit themselves to existing mythology. They don’t mind making up some stuff too, like this Devil Ape.
Most of the creatures appear in the story, but Lookouts also treats its readers to pages from the Lookouts Handbook, offering a deeper look at the world and more designs by Mommaerts. He even colors these himself. Check out his vampires.
Another great thing about Mommaerts’ work is the way he draws the human characters. I love a clean line that can communicate a lot of emotion in a really simple way. There are about eight lines in this kid’s face, but that’s all I need to know that he’s terrified.
And this panel breaks my heart with how pained the character is. It would’ve been easy just to make him look pissed, but Mommaerts gives him shock and disbelief to go with his anger.
And then there’s the world-building. Whether the story is set in the dark woods or a village, Mommaerts brings the place to life with tons of detail. Take this full-page establishing shot:
In one of our What Are You Reading columns a couple of months ago, MTV Splash Page editor Josh Wigler described Lookouts as the first comic since Bone that he could recommend to pretty much anyone. That’s a great, appropriate comparison. Lookouts deserves to be mentioned in the same conversations as Bone and Mouse Guard and Mommaerts is a huge part of why that is.