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 Rex Mundi #18, which was published by Dark Horse and is cover dated June 2009. Enjoy!
Ferreyra took over drawing Rex Mundi in 2005, and during its run both Emissary and Lazarus were published, so I guess part of the slowness of Rex Mundi coming out had to do with writer Arvid Nelson and not Ferreyra. I thought about showing Lazarus, because both it and Ferreyra’s work on Rex Mundi show significant growth, but I had to make hard choices, and I decided to show this instead. That’s just the way it is!
I’m not sure how Ferreyra does this art – a lot of it looks colored directly from pencils, the lines are so light, but other parts look pretty thickly inked, so maybe he does a mixture of both, considering he’s in charge of the art from start to finish. So in Panel 1, the background looks simply painted in, with Ferreyra using watercolors to suggest the greenery and snow on the surrounding mountains. In the foreground, the castle is drawn more clearly, but Ferreyra still remembers where the sun is, so the light shines weakly over the funereal scene. The flames in Panels 2 and 3 are again probably painted in in the final stages of the art, but because Ferreyra does all the work himself, it’s blended in with the solid pencils well. Ferreyra uses a lot of blue/yellow complements in this portion of the comic, as we’ll see below, and we get hints of that here.
I told you we’d see more blue/yellow complement, didn’t I? Ferreyra gives us the blue night sky, the blue castle, and the blue rocks in the background, set against the stark reds and yellows of the flames in the foreground to make everything pop a bit more, and notice how he draws the characters in the big panel with a sharper line as they set the trees aflame, and then in the bottom row he softens things a bit. The glow of the fires light up Julien and Genevieve, so Ferreyra uses paints more than inks to highlight the folds in their clothing and the shadows on their faces. He does this often throughout the book, and because he does it at “appropriate” times (rather than all the time, like some colorists), it makes the colors work better.
Ferreyra does a nice job with shadows on this page. In the first panel, the characters are backlit by the headlights on the truck, which makes the scene more eerie. The way the headlights reflect off of their bodies creates the shadows on the ground and the walls, making the soldiers look more surrounded than they really are. The women attack them with farm implements, and again we see the really nice work with shadows highlighting the distress of the victims and the rage of the attackers. Ferreyra, sticking with his blue palette, keeps everything dark but crisp, punctuated by the bursts of violent yellow and sprays of bloody red. In Panel 3, we get the twilight in the background, again providing a complement for the blues in the foreground, while the women finish their work. Ferreyra again uses lots of shadows instead of hard inking lines, so that the women look a bit more like wraiths as they wreak their vengeance. The composition of that last panel, with the old man in the center surrounded by four women, all with their weapons raised and blood streaming from the blades, is really well done.
This is a stunning panel of the emperor sitting on his throne. Take it all in. Ferreyra gives us stained glass windows that may be Photoshopped in, but even if they are, they’re integrated into the entire scene so well it doesn’t matter. He uses light streaming in through those windows to guide us to the giant throne, which dwarfs the man sitting in it as his nascent empire falls apart around him. We get a bright yellow light source in the center of the panel, which offsets the cool blues that dominate the scene. Ferreyra has shown as he gets better as an artist that he takes place very seriously, so he designs the room wonderfully, with the water isolating Lorraine even more, the bridge with its molding along the top giving it a slightly medieval feel, and the steps leading up to the throne forcing everyone to gaze up at the emperor. Along the side, we see the impressive façade with the beautiful archway, imposing columns, and pensive statues. The emperor sits alone in the center of a room that, due to its size, design, and coloring, feels like a tomb. Even the light through the large windows struggles to reach him. This is one of my favorite panels in the entire comic.
We see the catacombs under the castle better in another issue, but I just wanted to show a bit of it. Like the throne room, Ferreyra takes time to design the room very well, with amazing details. He adds depth to it with the rope in the lower right and the gargoyle above that, and he gives us context for its size with the tiny characters in the center. The care he puts into each panel in this comic is what amazes me, and this is just one example of it.
Here’s one more scene that shows how much Ferreyra thinks about details in his work. Yes, the soldiers get killed, but the fact that one of them gets part of his hand blown off somehow makes it more visceral, like it really, really hurt to get shot. Ferreyra doesn’t shy away from horrific violence when it’s merited, and he’s so good at the details that it makes his violence more powerful. He does a nice job with the reddish background in Panel 1 – the violence creates the background color, as where this encounter takes place is poorly lit and green, as we see in Panel 2. Ferreyra is a good colorist partly because he knows that sometimes it’s okay to be “unrealistic” – colors in a comic should help with the tone, not just show things as they really are, and Ferreyra understands this.
So that’s Rex Mundi. You really should read it. Tomorrow I’ll check out an actual horror book that Ferreyra did recently that shows some more of his evolution. You know you’ll be back, if only to check out the archives!