Every day this year, I will be examining the artwork on a single comic book story. Today’s artist is Mahmud Asrar, and the issue is She-Hulk: Cosmic Collision, which was published by Marvel and is cover dated February 2009. Enjoy!
Toward the end of Peter David’s run on She-Hulk, he wrote Cosmic Collision, one of those weird not-annuals that Marvel occasionally put out and could easily have been two issues of the regular series (this “special” is 38 pages long, and it’s odd to see that Marvel only charged 4 dollars for it – it’s only five years, but it seems like another era!), and Asrar drew it. He didn’t ink it (Scott Hanna did) and instead of Ron Riley, who colored his Dynamo 5 work, Val Staples was on board for this on. Will it be interesting to see how that makes the pencil work different? Well, I think it is, so let’s check it out!
This was when Jen was hanging out with Jazinda, a Skrull, and they were out bounty-hunting. They get attacked by this alien chick who likes killing heroes (her name, it turns out, is Enmity), and there is much butt-kicking. Asrar, as we see, can still construct a page quite well. Jazinda ducks in Panel 1 but Enmity simply turns and kicks her leading our eyes well over those two panels. Jazinda flies against the building girders, and that leads us to Jen, who’s standing below her. Then Enmity starts with her energy thing, as Asrar makes that the focal point of Panel 4, but still leads us to Panel 5. So the page is laid out well. It’s not as easy to realize this by seeing it on a computer screen, but the book is very dark. Staples is a good colorist, and as usual, I wonder if no one saw this printed until the final product, because it often seems that so many books are much lighter digitally than they are printed. So this is pretty murky, and Staples uses that shading that’s so popular these days – check out the shadows on Jen’s face in Panel 3. The darkness of the page means we can’t see Hanna’s inks that well, but we’ll get to that.
This page is a bit brighter, as it doesn’t take place outside, in the rain, at night, so the coloring isn’t as dark. Staples still uses the shading that almost makes Jen appear to be wearing blush, especially in Panel 3. Using shading instead of hatching softens the art quite a bit, and Hanna’s light inks add to that. Asrar and Hanna use some heavy lines on Jen’s body in Panel 2, but that disappears in Panel 3, when we get a close-up of Jen’s face. It makes it more imperative that Asrar get her facial expressions right, and he does a pretty good job here.
This drawing just cracks me up. Look at those breasts! Once again, the shadows dominate the page, so that we can’t see Enmity clearly. There’s no reason for this drawing to be so dark, but it’s something that has crept into comics a lot more over the past 5-10 years. It’s frustrating.
Man, that first panel is so Bryan Hitch it’s crazy. Once again, we get a dark page that doesn’t show Asrar’s work as nicely as it could, but that’s the way it is. Hanna’s inks are a bit bolder on this page, which fits better with Asrar’s strong line, and they do good work with both Jen and Enmity and their emotions here. Jen is angry in Panel 1, of course, and anger is something most artists do well, but Panels 3-5 are pretty cool. Enmity isn’t quite sure what to make of Jen’s words, and Asrar shows her confusion really well in Panel 3. Hanna uses spot blacks to rough up her face, and Asrar’s mouth gives Enmity a good look of puzzlement. In Panel 4, Jen drives home her point, and despite the lack of hatching on her face, she looks very determined, as Asrar gives her thin eyebrows hooding her eyes, and her teeth are gritted. Panel 5 gives us a good close-up of Enmity as she gets angry, and Asrar angles her eye down, opens her mouth, and makes her nose thinner and pointier, while Hanna gives her jagged angry lines between her eyes. It’s a nice progression.
Asrar didn’t show too much growth on this comic, but he got his foot in the door with the Big Two, and that’s not a bad thing. The interesting thing about this is that his art doesn’t work too well with the darkness that permeates a lot of modern comics. Either Marvel and DC figured this out or they started doing better with the transfer from digital to print, because his later work is much brighter, as we’ll see tomorrow. (I should point out that if your computer is anything like mine, you’re probably wondering what I’ve been talking about with the “darkness” of the pages. These are A LOT darker in the printed versions, as these things often are.) Of course, you could always hang around until then in the archives!