Every day this year, I will be examining the artwork on a single comic book story. Today’s artist is Chris Bachalo, and the issue is X-Men #189, which was published by Marvel and is cover dated September 2006. Enjoy!
After Steampunk, Bachalo didn’t exactly go completely to a new style, but he did start to ease back a bit, although some of his work (Ultimate War, anyone?) remained kind of indecipherable. As he began working on Marvel’s X-books (in the “real” Marvel U., that is), from Morrison’s run to some of Claremont’s stuff to this longer story with Mike Carey, he began to become a bit clearer, although he could still be opaque when he wanted to be. He can’t help it!
I’m not going to get into the “Children of the Vault,” the villains in this arc, because they’re not terribly memorable. I just want to point out the way Bachalo’s figure work has evolved. He’s still using swirls – the dude on the far left has them on his upper arms – and his faces are still like the way he’s been drawing them for a while. As I noted yesterday, though, his females are becoming “younger” in style, and we see that here. Aguja (the blonde) and Serafina (the black-haired girl) look far younger than their counterparts. Obviously, part of that is because Bachalo gives Aguja twin ponytails, which infantilizes every girl who wears her hair that way, but he also draws them far slighter than even Sangre, who’s not a terribly large dude. Serafina’s profile shows Bachalo’s penchant for slightly larger cheeks and a tiny nose, making her look a bit more baby-ish. Her small breasts and thin frame also help create that impression. Bachalo, despite still using a lot of details, is becoming a bit more abstract with his figures – he’s using more basic rectangles and circles, as we see with Sangre and even the women. It’s an interesting progression from his earlier work.
This page is a bit cut off on the left, but you can still see what we need to see. Northstar is in a hole somewhere, and the glowing woman visits him and offers him a way out. Bachalo has drawn figures like Northstar on the left of the page before, but it was becoming increasingly common in his art – solid, simple blocks, with very little detail, turning the body into an abstract construct. On the woman’s face, we see no hatching whatsoever – there’s a small splotch to indicate her nose, but not much else. This is a “classic late Bachalo face,” the kind he still uses today. Notice, too, how sharp the border of her hand is – this is another thing Bachalo has done more and more as his work slides a bit toward the abstract. Like many Bachalo comics of the 21st century, this book was inked by a gaggle of artists – six are credited – so I don’t know if Bachalo himself drew the lines on her body or if one of the inkers did, but the line from her navel up her belly to her sternum is a new Bachalo tic, as we see it on many of his females who happen to keep their bellies bare. How else can you tell they’re sexy?
Northstar goes and gets Aurora, who’s hanging out in a hotel room talking to herself (presumably, as that is something she does). Once again, Bachalo draws her a bit “younger” – her face is wide but her nose and mouth are small, giving the impression of baby fat. Bachalo has stopped hatching faces at all, relying more on the movement of the characters’ mouths and eyes for expressions. Bachalo’s storytelling skills are better than they were in Steampunk, but there’s still a bit of confusion in the bottom row – Northstar obviously busts down the door, but we don’t see him, and the close-up on the gun doesn’t help us because we have no idea what happened. Did Northstar move the gun before Aurora could pull that trigger? That seems most likely, but on the next page, we see that he caught the bullet, so if he was close enough to move her hand away from her temple, why did he catch the bullet? Again, it’s not the clearest way to depict this scene, but it’s not the murkiest, either.
Obviously, you’re not allowed to draw Wolverine without a lot of lines on his face and body, so Bachalo (and his inkers) do so here. The ruggedness of Logan contrasts with Rogue’s somewhat delicate look, which is the point. In Panel 4, we get a somewhat classic Bachalo face, as Logan’s nose is a bit more squat and his face is wider than it was in Panels 2 and 3, and then we get the two panels with Rogue, where once again there’s very little linework on her face. Bachalo draws with the now-standard wide face and tiny nose, and he straightens her eyebrows (which somehow extend OVER her bangs) and moves her eyes toward Logan just enough to show her weariness with his posturing. This is the way Bachalo does body language these days, and it’s not a bad move. It’s certainly cleaner than what he was doing earlier in his career.
Bachalo continues to be a bit more abstract today, and for our final day, we’ll take a look at one of his more recent issues to see what else he’s doing now. Come back tomorrow to see what’s going on, and never forget that there are plenty of archives to trawl through!