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Year of the Artist, Day 252: Stuart Immonen, Part 1 – Legion of Super-Heroes #53 and a few added bonuses

by  in Comic News Comment
Year of the Artist, Day 252: Stuart Immonen, Part 1 – <i>Legion of Super-Heroes</i> #53 and a few added bonuses

Every day this year, I will be examining the artwork on a single comic book story. Today’s artist is Stuart Immonen, and the issue is Legion of Super-Heroes #53, which was published by DC and is cover dated January 1994, plus I begin with a few panels from X-Men Annual #1, which was published by Marvel and is cover dated March 1992. Enjoy!

When I was thinking about doing Stuart Immonen (which, if you notice that I’m trying to track artistic development, I really couldn’t ignore Immonen), I decided to see what early work I owned by him. I didn’t have a lot prior to Final Night, so I went looking. I grabbed the issue of Legion of Super-Heroes because I remembered that great cover, and my comics shoppe didn’t have too many of the earlier issues. But I realized I owned X-Men Annual #1, which has a few pages of Immonen art. So I wanted to show a few panels of those pages. Now, I looked for his earlier work on Rock ‘N’ Roll Comics and Hero Alliance, which came out in 1991 and 1992, but I couldn’t find them. So while this stuff isn’t the absolute earliest Immonen work, it’s pretty close. Of course, Immonen is so good at shifting his style that I have plenty of stuff to show, but I do want to point out that I don’t have his really early work. (Luckily, Our Dread Lord and Master has you covered – go here to check out some earlier Immonen art!) But let’s take a look!

X-Men Annual is drawn by a bunch of different artists, and perhaps not coincidentally, Immonen’s work follows Adam Hughes’s, to the point where I’m really, really hoping this is actually Immonen’s art (I’m 99% sure it is), as his art at this time was very much like Hughes’s (which we’ll see more clearly in LoSH). He has that smooth line that Hughes has, and his faces resemble Hughes’s more than a little. He does a nice job revealing Longshot here, as Psylocke is reading someone’s mind and trying to figure out who’s leading the rebellion against Mojo (which, you know, duh, because it’s always Longshot). He brings Longshot into focus slowly, and he uses quadrilateral panels that fit together well as he leads us down the page in a parabola back up to Rogue. At the bottom of the arc, he puts Longshot’s gleaming eye, which is a nice touch. Harry Candelario, I think, inked this (the credits just list inkers, but I’m pretty sure Candelario is inking this), and he uses a light hatching touch to make the characters the smallest bit rough without going too far. Immonen uses nice hatching in Betsy’s eye as Longshot comes into focus, and Joe Rosas’s purple helps make the final image of Longshot pop a bit, which is neat.

Immonen is already pretty good at action, as Rogue flies in a swoop and challenges the flying craft coming at her. Immonen’s pencils are loose and flowing, and his motion lines in Panel 1 give Rogue a nice arc of the curve, while her stance in Panel 2 shows off her derrière, sure, but it also shows that she’s ready to fight, and Immonen shows that he is able to make the stance look loose and not stiff. Again, he uses motion lines and Rosas uses whites to show the movement of the flying machine. It’s more rigid than a person, but those little touches help it “move” on the page better. Immonen uses some crucial blacks on Rogue’s jacket (man, the 1990s were awesome) to show it bunching up as she bends her arms, and it’s clear already that Immonen knows what he’s doing.

He began working on LoSH in late 1992 with issue #39, but again, I don’t own those issues. So let’s take a look at issue #53, where his work had become even more like Adam Hughes’s!

As I’ve often noted, I just can’t get into the Legion of Super-Heroes. I’ve tried over the years, but something keeps me from fully enjoying it. Part of it is the ridiculous mythology and continuity, which seems, if possible, even more convoluted than that of the X-Men. Anyway, in preparation for this post, I read this issue of Legion of Super-Heroes, and … it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. I mean, I’m sure it makes sense if you’re a long-time Legion reader, but it’s referencing a bunch of other comics, and there’s time travel involved, and there are so many characters … man. I just no interest in getting into it. But, as we can see, the art is nice!

Immonen, here inked by Ron Boyd and colored by Tom McCraw (who also wrote the issue), is still channeling Adam Hughes, and he’s quite good at it. We’ll see other faces below, but Glorith’s face in Panel 2 is very Hughesian, while the lush, thicker-than-the-lines-might-imply hair is also very much in Hughes’s style. Immonen’s figure work is very nice, and we can see that he’s already an accomplished superhero artist, as he’s able to move us around the page easily and make his characters appear to move easily as well. Glorith turns in Panel 2 toward the reader but also from the left to the right, which leads us to Laurel swooping down out of that panel and into the dinosaur, which she pushes out of the way. Immonen adds a lightning bolt leading us diagonally down the page toward Glorith, and her word balloon takes us to the right, where the woman in the black shirt – whose name I don’t know – is punching the giant blue creature in the chin. It’s a really well-designed page, leading us down to the final panel, where Ayla is getting crushed as she tries to shoot off some lightning. Immonen does nice work with the spot blacks on the page, shading Glorith’s face in Panel 2 to make her a bit more evil, while backlighting her in Panel 3 when the lightning strikes, which makes her both more evil and more dramatic.

Immonen uses negative space well here, as something strange happens to Glorith and she “explodes,” casting light out to illuminate the people near her. Immonen erased the holding lines he used on the page so that Glorith becomes a void full of stars, while the characters around her are defined only by the shadows the light casts on them. I love when artists do this – it’s such a neat effect, and it shows how well spot blacks can be utilized in comics. Notice that Immonen uses streaks of white emanating from Glorith, but they blend easily into the folds in her cape, so that the light and the ripples in the cape are one. It’s a very clever trick and makes her entire figure one gestalt image. Even though we can’t see her face, we can feel her agony due to the shape of her body and the large sound effect behind her.

Immonen does some nice work with the action here, even though he gets a bit cramped in the third row. Glorith fades in Panel 6, and the only reason it’s clear that she’s doing so is because we’ve seen her do it before, as the laser blasts tend to block our view of her fade-out, even though Immonen makes sure to draw fewer lines and McCraw colors the background through those lines. There’s other nice work on the page, though. Panel 1 again shows what happens when things get lit up, as Glorith is almost all chunks of black as the blast hits her. Immonen does a nice job with the choreography of Panels 2-5, as she twists around and is knocked backward by Helmet Dude (I can’t find his name in the book) and then causes Jo Nah to flip over her. Panel 4 is another where it’s tough to see what happens, exactly, but because the panels flow well, we infer that Glorith is knocked backward and onto the ground. Panel 8, on the bottom of the page, is part of the recap of Glorith’s career that was caused, it seems, by that blast we saw in the previous example. Here, Immonen uses that Zip-A-Tone-esque style that I want to call pointillist, but I’m not sure how it’s achieved. He does this at the bottom of several pages, and the style plus the black-and-white is a nice way to highlight that it’s a flashback. Glorith, I should add, looks a lot like Chris Sprouse drew her. Sprouse drew a few Legion issues around this time, so perhaps Immonen was aping him a little.

A few things stand out here. In Panel 1, Immonen again uses spot blacks to great advantage, and Glorith stands over Celeste, whom she’s aged with her powers. Immonen, in the close-up in Panel 3, does a nice job with very little space to make Glorith look crazy – it’s not really the eye, but the clenched teeth helps sell it. In Panel 4, we get a nice punch by Laurel, moving us from left to right and from the bottom left corner up to the top right, with her smooth movements and flowing hair creating a good diagonal line. Immonen again shows skill in depicting the way folds work on clothing, as the blacks on Laurel’s jacket are placed nicely, and while the floss that covers her ass looks a bit uncomfortable, that was a big look in 1993. What are you going to do?

The comic comes full circle, back to where Glorith “exploded,” as that dude – Devlin – grabbed her and his powers reacted weirdly to hers. Both Devlin’s face in Panel 2 and Glorith’s in Panel 4 are very Hughesian – the mouths especially – but even the line work on, say, Glorith’s glove in Panel 3 is reminiscent of Hughes. Immonen does a nice job with the Kirby Krackle in Panel 4, which leads to the explosion we saw above, and then we get one final panel of flashback, with the superb dotted inking technique (can we call this the Chaykin Method, maybe?). Immonen’s strong lines combined with the dots really makes the art stand out, and while the figures still look like the others Immonen drew in this comic, the different way he drew the panel shows that he could be versatile. Obviously, this would become clearer as he got further into his career.

Immonen, as we can see, was already a pretty strong superhero artist, so the fact that he was in demand for the rest of the Nineties isn’t surprising. He drew a lot of Superman comics, and I don’t own those (I am not the biggest fan of Superman), but I do own quite a bit of his other work. I’m really trying to decide what to show tomorrow, because I have Days 3-5 pretty much locked in. It will be another example of this kind of art, but which comic? Man, it’s tough. Oh well. Come back tomorrow and I’m sure there will be something here! You can always comfort yourself with stuff that has already been posted by looking at the archives!

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