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 Indestructible Hulk Annual #1, which was published by Marvel and is cover dated February 2014. Enjoy!
Asrar continues to do good superhero work, and he also continues to evolve, artistically, as we can see from the most recent comic by him I own, which is the Hulk Annual that came out in December. Let’s check it out!
We can see from this panel that Asrar has become even more angular with his characters, despite the fact that he never really drew them too rounded in the first place. He gives them slightly pointier chins (Randall and Patricia specifically) and Bruce’s and Maria’s bodies seem a bit more etched from granite. Asrar is inking himself, and he uses strong hatching lines on Bruce and Randall, more than we’ve seen in the past – the lines around the chin are new. He’s using more lines on Bruce’s and Randall’s clothing, giving them more folds so the shirts and pants look a bit more natural. You can tell that he’s still at easy with fluid characters, but the hard edges are harder, it appears.
Bruce gets knocked into the ocean and emerges all Hulked out, and Asrar does a nice job with it. He’s still a dynamic artist, as the Hulk and those flying thingies look like they’re moving rapidly toward us, but Asrar’s blacks add solidity to the drawing. He inks the Hulk with a large amount of spot blacks – the lines on his face look carved, and his brow ridge extends over his eyes, turning them into tiny black dots, while Asrar uses the blacks to define his muscles without going overboard, so the Hulk doesn’t look too ridiculously muscled, just very powerful. As the Hulk is coming toward the reader, his right fist is larger, drawing our attention to it and the squelching of the strange flying thing. It’s a clever trick. Asrar or colorist Nelson Daniel uses some special effects at the bottom of the panel (which means, among other things, that Asrar doesn’t have to draw feet, the bane of artists’ existence!), and the slightly muted green of our hero blends nicely with the teal of the ocean. The Hulk almost looks like he belongs in the ocean, which is an interesting visual motif.
Asrar still does facial expressions well, as we see in Panel 1. He knows to draw the Hulk’s mouth nice and wide, so that it fills up the lower half of his face, and he gives the nice uptick of the lip to turn the Hulk’s expression into a sneer. He uses smudges of black to create a large lower lip and an unusually sunken chin, and while the Hulk’s philtrum is always large, Asrar scrunches up his nose to make it even bigger. Once again, we get the large brow ridge over his eyes, making them tiny and black, adding to the sneer. Asrar doesn’t used finely etched lines, but the thickness of his blacks makes Hulk’s face harder. He can still do finer work, as we see in Panel 2 with the crystals, which is a nice contrast to the organic characters, who look more roughly-hewn and more solid.
A lot of artists move slightly toward abstraction as they get more confident with being able to show things with fewer strokes, and Asrar isn’t an exception. Despite still using light hatching on Tony’s and Bruce’s faces, Asrar doesn’t overdo it, especially on Tony’s face. Tony is chewing an apple, so Asrar moves his mouth to his left and simply shades his lower lip and rounds his cheek on that side. The right side of Tony’s face is away from the fire, so Asrar uses more blacks on that side, which allows him to simply use blacks where Tony’s eye would be. In Panel 2, he uses a bit more definition for Bruce, but he still keeps it simple – he lets the shading take care of most of Bruce’s mouth, and the blacks from the nighttime forest darken the back of his head. It appears he or Daniel is using whatever digital trick is used to mimic Zip-A-Tone in the shadows on the left sides of the panels. It might be from the actual paper, but I imagine a computer can do the effect in much less time and cost. I like Zip-A-Tone, so the appearance of it – no matter the source – in this comic is pretty keen.
The final page is another good example of the way Asrar is becoming a bit more angular and abstract. Obviously, he has to be slightly more detailed with Tony’s armor, but the hard lines and chunks of black he uses on Bruce make him look more rigid, even though Asrar has no problem with flowing action. Daniel, pulling out his color wheel, uses orange and blues to excess on this page, drenching everything in a nostalgia-tinged sea of oranges and yellows, with the ocean an almost painful blue. The last panel is neat, though, as the sea and the sun appear to be watercolors, which softens the tone of the story as it ends, creating a “happy ending feeling” as we exeunt. It’s pretty clever.
Asrar continues to work on superhero books that I want to read but don’t want to pay $3.99 for (Wolverine and the X-Men, for instance), so I’ll probably always be a bit behind him as I wait for trades. He’s getting better, though, and I’m very curious to see how he keeps evolving. Tomorrow we’ll begin another artist, someone who burst onto the scene a little over 20 years ago and has become almost too artsy for superhero comics! Fret not about waiting for tomorrow, though – there’s a lot in the archives to keep you busy!