Every day this year, I will be examining the artwork on a single comic book story. Today’s artist is Ken Krekeler, and the comic is Dry Spell, which was self-published and is cover dated October 2011. Enjoy! (Oh, and there’s a NSFW panel below. Just so you know!) (Plus, I’m going to SPOIL some of this, but not all of it. It’s not too old, and it’s been re-released, so I figure I should warn you.)
With Dry Spell, one of the best graphic novels of 2011, Krekeler took a pretty significant step forward both in his writing and his art. I’m not here to discuss writing, though, so let’s focus on the art. We’ll see below that he’s still using models (he lists four of them in the credits of this book), but he’s getting better at integrating them into the larger scene and his coloring is much better in this than it was in The Colodin Project. So let’s get going!
As we saw yesterday, Krekeler’s use of models doesn’t mean he doesn’t do a good job getting his characters to interact, and he does an even better job here. Tom was once a supervillain, and Wally knows that, even if Tom says he doesn’t quite remember his past. Krekeler does a good job with the body language between the two men, as Wally is coy because he thinks Tom is faking it (which Tom totally is). Unlike what we saw yesterday, Krekeler uses heavier inking lines on both men, making Tom look a bit more rumpled – showing what a schlub he’s become because he’s not out supervillaining anymore – and making Wally look a bit more officious. Krekeler uses a yellow/blue complementary color scheme, but he doesn’t overwhelm the page with either, muting the brightness of the colors to make this feel more like an office. He uses shading quite well, just enough to add some nice nuance to the conversation, which, along with the way his figures are posed and the facial expressions they use, make this page tenser than it would have been otherwise.
Wally convinces Tom to go to a club and meet some other supervillains, and we get this scene. Once again, we get the well done work with the models, as Krekeler’s inks help make them look rougher and more … “lived-in,” I suppose, so that even though we can tell he’s using models, he fits them much better into the narrative. The colors, however, are really well done. It’s in a club, so of course there will be neon and flashing lights, so Krekeler uses watercolors to smear the light across the background, making it even more hallucinatory. His palette – a base of pink and red – is lurid, so while the background is slightly nauseous, Krekeler can use analogous colors in the foreground to bathe the characters in gold and a sharper red, turning them into more god-like beings. In the middle of this, Krekeler places Tom, with his incongruous blue-green suit, standing out like a sore thumb among the people who are more casual about who they are. It’s an interesting way to show that Tom is still suppressing his true nature.
So of course Tom and Melissa end up having sex, because they used to do that sort of thing and why not, right? This isn’t quite an example of what my wife and I call “movie sex” (meaning that people have sex in really uncomfortable places and bend in really weird ways and yet it’s always the greatest sex ever), but it’s close. Krekeler does a nice job with the whole page, though. He uses special effects to make both Tom and Melissa glow, which as it doesn’t seem to be coming from any light source implies that they’re glowing with pure power, while Melissa’s eyes shoot out lightning as she (presumably) has an orgasm. This is a good use of the special effects you can get with computers. Krekeler uses violent reds in the background, equating sex with violence somewhat subtly, and the way he uses a thick brush to get the spatter effect is very nice. He alters the font for when Tom is narrating, which is a good idea, as we see here that the font he uses is a bit more evil (for lack of a better word) than the regular font. It’s a neat switch.
Tom becomes the Black Baron again and goes on a heist with Melissa and some of the other supervillains, and things go wonky right from the start. One of the Ion Twins leaps backward and fries two guards as she’s coming down. Krekeler does a good job with the first figure, and it’s interesting how he jumps to Melissa and Tom in Panel 2, as it stretches time just a bit (which is always happening in comics, but it’s used to good effect here). While the Twin is spiraling over the guards’ heads, Tom and Melissa are discussing her display, so we imagine her arc. Krekeler doesn’t do a great job with the way the Twin comes down in Panels 3 and 4, because if she keeps spinning and lands on her feet, she should be facing away from the skeletons, but let’s just chalk it up to creative license and leave it at that, shall we? Again we see what a good inking job will do with digital art that is partly created by using photographs of models. He blurs the two guards in Panel 3, showing their disintegration, and it looks very cool. When the skeletons fall, Krekeler adds lines of tattered clothing and flesh from the one on the left, while the skull on the right smokes grimly. While he’s still getting good poses from his models, he’s using them well, too. Meanwhile, the entire robbery scene is colored in this sickly green, which helps later make the red of blood pop more and also implies that the order of the world has shifted to a more bizarre place where the supervillains are back (the superhero of this world never went away). This neon green always adds an aura of luridness to comics, and it works well for Krekeler here.
Tom decides that he’s sick of hiding from the world, and so he goes a bit nutty. The combination of Krekeler’s inking and coloring helps blend the city in the background, which is (I think) Photoshopped onto the page, into the rest of the scene. He’s using red to show how angry Tom has become, but he also uses the lighting effect to make some of the art glow, again showing the power within Tom. The layers of colors don’t interfere with the storytelling, but enhance it, so that even though Tom is a bit obscured in some of these panels, the implication is that he’s bursting with rage and power, ready to unleash it on the unsuspecting world. Krekeler again gives us the evil lettering, with the narrative captions uneven and frayed, giving us another peek into Tom’s mind. It’s not a pleasant place.
Dry Spell is currently being serialized by Action Lab Comics, so if you missed it the first time around, I encourage you to hunt it down, because it really is excellent. For tomorrow’s final Krekeler entry, I’ll check out his current comic, which is one of the best books out there right now but which almost no one is reading, which sucks. If you’re interesting in finding other comics you might enjoy, don’t forget about the archives!