Every day this year, I will be examining the artwork on a single comic book story. Today’s artist is Juan Ferreyra, and the issue is Emissary #2, which was published by Image and is cover dated June 2006. Enjoy!
Not long after Small Gods ended, Ferreyra started drawing Rex Mundi, and then a few months later Emissary showed up. I don’t know the chronology of when he drew these – he inks and colors Rex Mundi himself but he doesn’t here, so perhaps this came first but it took a bit longer to publish? Anyway, the reason I picked this to show is because Ferreyra didn’t ink and color this himself, so I wanted to check it out before we saw his subsequent work, where he inks and colors all of his work. So here we go!
Ferreyra is quite good at different “camera” angles, as we see here, with an overhead shot of Emissary, the Christ-like hero of the book, holding a fighter jet back with the sheer power of his sexiness (I assume; he is rather sexy, after all). Then Agent Bright asks him politely to come down, so he does, pulling the plane with him. Angel Marin’s coloring, as you can see, isn’t too great – it’s a flashback, but there’s no good reason for it to be drenched in brown (yes, sepia tones are for olde-tymey stuff, but this isn’t olde-tymey, just a flashback), and while it’s not muddy, it’s just kind of dull. Marin does add that sheen to things, which isn’t a bad idea for a flashback, but overall, the color scheme isn’t great. Ferreyra does a nice job with the overhead shot, and Emissary’s facial expression in Panel 2 is nice because it’s so impassive. Clayton Brown inks this, and I’m not sure if he uses the very thick lines on the plane in Panel 1, which adds a great deal of solidity to it, presumably to offset the more fragile lines of the humans in the scene. It’s not a “Ferreyra” kind of thing, which is why I wonder if Brown does it or if Ferreyra did it to switch things up. The spot blacks on the page are nicely done, from the shadows in Panel 1, some of which fade to cross-hatching around the plane’s intrusion, to the way Emissary’s face is shadowed in Panel 2 and the plane is darkened in Panel 3. The blacks add some heaviness to the scene, which makes Emissary’s presence all the more mysterious. It’s pretty keen.
Ferreyra, as we can see, is still doing well with facial expressions. Bright is impatient in Panel 1 because Agent Lee isn’t getting it, while their frustration in Panel 5 is funny and palpable. The interesting thing about the inks and colors is that it robs Ferreyra’s work of some of its nuances. In Small Gods, his grayscaling was able to show shades of emotions on the characters’ faces, but Brown’s straight-forward inks and Marin’s unsubtle coloring take that away a bit. There’s some shading around Bright’s and Lee’s eyes, but otherwise, the smoothness of the coloring makes them a bit too shiny. Ferreyra or his inkers don’t use a lot of hatching on the characters’ faces, which is fine, as Lee’s face in Panel 5 is more interesting because there’s just a small hint of line work, but that means the shading has to work better. Here it doesn’t too much, which is too bad. The close-up of Emissary in Panel 3 is actually not bad. The shadow over our hero’s eyes are nicely done, and the hatching around his nose and chin is done pretty well. Even the shading is a bit more nuanced, which perhaps isn’t surprising given it’s a close-up, but it highlights how slightly boring the rest of the coloring is.
In Panel 1, Emissary is just creeping me out. His smile is just a bit too wide and smug, but Ferreyra gives him a bit of humanity with it, even though it’s an odd drawing. I wanted to show the bottom three panels. I assume Marin added the gaseous swirl in Panel 1 and the hazy glow around the book in Panel 2, and while I’ve had issues with special effects in comics, I think this works pretty well. Emissary is some kind of magical being, so it’s not too intrusive to use these kinds of effects, and they don’t dominate the issue. The biggest problem with it is that Marin doesn’t do anything with the way light would play off Emissary’s outfit as the book materializes. You’d expect shadows, but Emissary’s outfit stays static. Too bad.
One problem with this comic is that it’s so over-rendered. Look at that soldier in Panel 3 as he bares his teeth at Nick. Marin’s thick colors are too muddy for his face, so while it’s not Ferreyra’s greatest facial expression (actually, it’s not a terrible facial expression, but it certainly doesn’t fit what the soldier is saying, which makes me wonder if the script was changed after the art was done), Marin’s palette makes it worse. In Panel 6, we get a close-up of Nick as he thinks about his next move, and it’s another poorly colored panel, with too much muddy brown and very little contrast – Nick’s bottom lip is almost non-existent because the only thing that defines it is the shadow underneath it. In this case, I’m not sure if Ferreyra or Brown added all the black, but while it works fairly well in the example above, here it obscures a bit too much and allows Marin to get away with keeping the colors murky. I read an interview in which Marin talked about using “realistic” tones to fit the fact that the story is set in the “real” world, but that’s a mistake too many colorists make – trying to use “realistic” colors because the story is set in a less comic-book world, ignoring the fact that this is, in fact, a comic book. The greens on this page, for instance, could be a bit brighter to offset the muddy browns, and it would still be “realistic.” As it is, it’s just not that great a job, unfortunately.
So far, I haven’t shown a ton of action from Ferreyra (fret not – it’s coming!), but here we get some, as Phil gets gunned down by a religious fanatic who believes Emissary is Jesus. The page is laid out pretty well – we get the close-up shot of the dude blowing someone’s head off (I don’t know if Ferreyra decided to not show the gore or if Jim Valentino, who came up with the character and was overseeing the production, didn’t want him to, as Ferreyra shows in later comics that he has no problem drawing lots and lots of gore), Bright and Lee reacting to the shot, a long view of the man shooting and people scattering, Phil getting shot, a medium shot of Phil bleeding out, and then a close-up on Nick as the dude comes up behind him (the issue ends on the next page with the dude pulling the trigger and the bullet speeding toward Nick). So it’s a well-designed page, and Ferreyra does a nice job with the way the characters react. Phil’s face in Panel 4 is a rictus of pain and surprise, and Nick’s stricken look in Panel 6 is well done. It seems like both Brown and Marin were getting bored with the talking heads of most of the first two issues, because they both do good work on this page. Marin still uses too many earth tones, but the special effect of the gun blast in Panel 1 is nice, while Phil’s slightly luminescent sweatshirt in Panel 4 seems to make him a more inviting target. Brown’s inking is a bit more varied, too, as we can see in the final panel. There’s worry lines on Nick’s forehead, and good hatching around his mouth as he watches his friend die. Even though Nick’s lips are still not colored very well, Brown’s inks on them make them stand out a bit better. Even his shirt is inked better, with the extra hatching making it more of a garment with wrinkles rather than a shirt with lines on it.
I know I was picking on the artists who weren’t Ferreyra in this post, and I don’t know how much Ferreyra is to “blame” for some of the sloppier artwork. It’s not that the art on Emissary is terrible, because it’s not. It’s when we place it in comparison to what Ferreyra had done with grayscales on Small Gods and the brilliant way he was coloring Rex Mundi at about the same time as this came out that makes it look a little worse. But I wanted to check it out because I think it’s the last time Ferreyra was inked and colored by someone else. Everything from now on is all about his development as both a pencil artist and a color artist, and tomorrow we’ll take a look at his amazing work on one of my favorite series of this century! You won’t find it in the archives, but you’ll find other cool stuff!