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Year of the Artist, Day 264: Marc Silvestri, Part 3 – Uncanny X-Men #218 and #255 and Cyberforce #1

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Year of the Artist, Day 264: Marc Silvestri, Part 3 – <i>Uncanny X-Men</i> #218 and #255 and <i>Cyberforce</i> #1

Every day this year, I will be examining the artwork on a single comic book story. Today’s artist is Marc Silvestri, and the issues are Uncanny X-Men #218 and #255 and Cyberforce #1, the first two of which were published by Marvel and are cover dated June 1987 and December 1989, and the third of which was published by Image and is cover dated November 1993. Enjoy!

“Man, Greg,” you might think, “you’re really pushing it with this cheating here. I mean, three comics over six years? Really?” Well, good folk, you’d be right. Originally I was going to show one issue of Uncanny X-Men and just move on, but I decided to show two instead. Then, while I was going through the comics I have in a stack that I featured in my late, lamented series Into the Back Issue Box (yes, it’s still late and lamented a day later!) – as I knew I had Silvestri’s work on Web of Spider-Man in there – I happened to find Cyberforce, which I also featured in that late and lamented series. I was going to skip his Image work because I had forgotten I owned it, but I decided to throw it in at the last minute because I know what I’m doing for Days 4 and 5. See, it’s all very simple and believable. And let’s be honest – once Silvestri perfected his look, he didn’t really change all that much in these years, so when I get to 1993, it’s more about the new technology than anything!

Ah, the simple comfort of the Silvestri Face. If you haven’t read this issue, I challenge you to tell me which X-Men this is. I bet you can’t, because they all look like this! Even Storm looks like this! Okay, it’s Dazzler. Like I wasn’t going to show you an X-Men issue that didn’t feature three of my favorite comic book characters!

Poor Alison is buried underground (that has to suck), and Silvestri does nice work showing where she is and how Betsy finds her. Silvestri is being inked by Dan Green here, and as we move through this post, we’ll see that his work is looser and sketchier than even a few months earlier on Web of Spider-Man. It makes me think that his raw pencils were fairly loose, and Art Nichols tightened them far more than Green did. I’ve seen some of Silvestri’s pencils, but not from this time period, so I’m not sure if that’s right. Even with the looseness of the art, Silvestri and Green do nice work to create the idyllic countryside under which Alison is buried, and while no one will ever accuse Silvestri of being the greatest artist with faces, in Panel 6 Alison is nicely drawn as she decides to be patient. I don’t know if Silvestri or Tom Orzechowski drew in all the sound effects, but they’re very neat and help create a sensory atmosphere that Alison needs to “transmute” the sound into light so Betsy can find her.

I mentioned Joy’s boots yesterday, and now Rogue shows up wearing them! BOOTS BOOTS BOOTS!!!! At least her feet are comfortable, because with that piece of fabric riding up her ass crack, I’m not sure if her butt is. And wouldn’t you have liked, just once, if Claremont showed some self-awareness of his writing tics and had Longshot or Psylocke say, “Yes, we know, Rogue, we’re your motherfucking teammates and we know your issues!!!! You’re covered in head to toe in clothing, so join in the group hug!” I just think Longshot wanted two more boobs pressed against him.

Man, I’m loopy today, aren’t I? Anyway, Silvestri and Green do a nice job with Longshot’s leather outfit, using nice thick blacks and a lot of white to imply both the material and how it’s stretching when Longshot hugs Alison and Betsy. I’ve never been a fan of the way he draws Longshot’s face here – I can’t put my finger on it, but he looks weird. He looks old for some reason. Maybe it’s his pointy chin in Panel 3. All old people have pointy chins, don’t they?

And remember when the X-Men seemed to, I don’t know, actually enjoy each other’s company? Good times!

Silvestri has always been good at action, and the looser style he and Green used on UXM helped make his action look even better. The use of ragged lines and even what appears occasionally to be unfinished lines might be a mark of laziness (I don’t think it is, but I can see why someone might think it), but it gives the misc-en-scene a sense of messiness, which in action scenes works very well. So the shattered window and the crumpled truck help make Juggernaut’s strength more impressive. He and Green use nice, long lines on Pyslocke’s sleeves, making them more diaphanous and contrasting them nicely with the thicker, brutish lines on Marko’s outfit, implying through clothing Betsy’s relative weakness compared to Marko, which allows her telepathic counter-attack hit with more force. From farther away, Silvestri’s facial expressions are actually better than when he goes close in – in Panel 1, Betsy’s shock registers well, while in Panel 4, her fear and anger does too. In Panel 6, Longshot’s hint of a smile is well done, as it gets across his cockiness very nicely. Silvestri also does a good job in Panel 2 with Marko’s hand – it might be a bit out of proportion, but its size gets across just how screwed Betsy is (until Longshot saves her, of course).

Here’s another nicely laid-out page. Rogue is trying to stop a train from crashing into a giant hole, while Alison and Betsy are trying to stop the Juggernaut. (By the way, this page could be Exhibit A as to why these three characters are among my favorite comics characters.) So Silvestri has to get a lot onto the page – Alison leaping onto Marko’s shoulders and cutting the straps keeping his helmet on; Betsy blasting him with her beautiful, sexy brain; and Rogue stopping the train. He does this in ten (10!) well designed panels. We get Alison looking down into the hole and leaping off the edge, a long shot of the train showing how close it is to the hole, Alison landing perfectly on Marko’s shoulders, then a nice view from track level giving us a peek at Rogue doing her best Superman impression, Alison blasting the straps away and jumping clear just as Betsy knocks Marko out, a nice view of Marko unconscious, and then the pebbles landing on their heads and the final joke by Rogue, showing that she stopped the train just in time. The movement across the page is fantastic, and Silvestri manages to create a lot of tension in two different scenarios. The choices he makes with regard to the train are very nice, too. The overhead view establishes where the train is; the track-level view shows us the wrecked track, Rogue in position, and the ties flying away as she tries to set her feet; and the third view subverts our expectations of the final stop on the edge, as we don’t see it but instead see Rogue’s humorous reaction to it. Meanwhile, once again Silvestri’s facial expressions are better from farther away, as Dazzler looks a bit vacant in Panel 1 but by Panel 6, Silvestri darkens her eyes and makes her look more determined. Finally, his body language on Rogue in Panel 10 is very nice, as she’s half-sitting on the edge of the hole, her head down (showing off that glorious skunky mullet!) and her entire body looking drained of energy. This is a wonderful page, on that would last probably three pages in today’s comics world.

Two years after this, we got issue #255, and if you’re wondering if we still see “Silvestri Face,” I give you Lorna Dane:

Oh, Silvestri Face: you’re so reliable.

This is another great issue from Claremont, as Freedom Force fights against the Reavers on Muir Island, and as it’s one of those comics I read a lot back when I first started buying comics, I love it and know it very well. If I could own one page of original art, it might be this one, as this is one of my favorite moments in comic book history (I didn’t vote in the “Most Memorable Marvel Moments” poll Our Dread Lord and Master was running, but this would be near the top of my list). The Reavers are chasing Pyro and Mystique after killing some of the other members of Freedom Force, and Silvestri draws a really nice Panel 1, showing how bad things are and how their time is up. He gives us a nice close-up of the two, with Claremont’s dialogue leading us to Panel 3 (and not being as grating as it can be, even with the “luv” thrown in there). In those first two panels, Silvestri and Green give us pretty solid lines, and even though Pyro’s leg looks weirdly bent in in the first panel (is that his left leg twisted that far inward, or is it just the explosions on the ground around him?). The word balloons lead us to Panel 3, which is where we see Skull-Buster get blasted off his feet. As you can see, the layout isn’t exactly perfect, as we see him explode before we see him in Forge’s sights, but it’s such a great FUCK YEAH! moment that I’m willing to forgive it. As we’ve seen, Silvestri’s looser lines help create a lot of chaos, and Skull-Buster’s guts exploding out his back is a good chaotic moment. The flow of the panel leads us right down to Forge, who’s pointing his gun back the other way, to the right and off the page. As cool as this issue is prior to this moment (this was before everyone became cynical about comics creators killing people off, so the fact that Claremont was laying waste to a bunch of ancillary characters was motherfucking gripping), with this page, it really got awesome. Claremont and Silvestri were really firing on all cylinders during this run.

I would show Silvestri’s work on Wolverine, but it’s more of the same, and I did want to show a little bit of his early Image work before I move on to this century. So let’s skip to 1993, when Cyberforce came out. This is a pretty terrible comic, but does that extend to the art as well as the awful, awful story? Let’s see:

Silvestri started to get a bit lazier with his figure work as he got to be more of a superstar, unfortunately. There’s nothing too awful about this drawing of Velocity, but does she really look like she’s running fast? She’s not on the ground, and her right leg is pulled up so far that it’s hard to believe that she could get it onto the ground in time to take another step. Her thigh looks really long, too, which is strange. Silvestri seems to twist her waist a bit, too, which makes the entire pose look more painful. Silvestri is inked by Scott Williams here, and I don’t know if the pencils look tighter because of that or if Silvestri took longer to draw it. Either way, it’s much more “solid” than the stuff we saw above, although Velocity still looks uncomfortable.

Velocity has a typical Silvestri Face, but one thing I haven’t mentioned is the MALE Silvestri Face. This is because, as I noted a few days ago, men are allowed to be much more varied in the way they’re shown in comics and still be considered attractive and manly, while women are usually slotted into a very narrow frame of what’s “attractive.” But that doesn’t mean that artists won’t default to a standard male face (as was famously ridiculed about John Byrne years ago), and Silvestri does it somewhat often. Ripclaw could easily be Mr. Sinister’s twin brother, as we get the pronounced cheeks, the manly jaw, the thin eyes and wide nose, and the permanently gritted teeth (seriously – his teeth are always clenched in this comic). Of course he has a pony tail – it’s 1993, people! Meanwhile, the tighter pencils make Ripclaw’s attack on Velocity a bit stiffer than Silvestri’s action scenes in Uncanny X-Men – yes, we get the motion lines, but Ripclaw and Velocity look more posed than moving, which is too bad. At least Silvestri draws a nice ass on Velocity, amirite?!?!?

This has to be the most Silvestri panel (and-a-half) in comics history, right? Dude with wonderful flyaway hair, grim facial expression, giant arms, and great abs? Check. Woman with cascading bangs, Members Only jacket, and amazing ass that she sticks way out for no discernible reason? Check. Super-duper classic Silvestri Face in the inset panel? CHECK! Everything about this screams “1993,” and while it’s really, really dated, it’s just Silvestri Silvestring! Don’t hate, appreciate!!!!

Hey, look at Ripclaw – his teeth are clenched! (Told ya.) One thing that bugs me about “Image Silvestri” is that he seemed to take things to the extreme, which wasn’t surprising as so many early Image dudes did the exact same thing. Silvestri on Uncanny X-Men didn’t draw women standing like that, but by this time, it seemed like that was his default stance. Misery has nice hair, actually – I love that Silvestri and/or Williams makes it so scraggly and crazy, but why is she sticking her boobs out like that? Silvestri draws her with her torso out and her butt thrust backward, which looks really uncomfortable. If he just drew her standing normally, she’d still be pretty sexy, so I have no idea why he drew her this way. It’s just part of the trend in comics in 1993, which even I, as a comics neophyte, could see wasn’t a great look. Notice, too, that Williams and/or Silvestri is falling in love with hatching more and more, another unfortunate trend. The examples from UXM above this had a lot of lines, of course, but the pages still seemed less busy. Here, it’s just too much. Oh well.

Silvestri seemed to drift quite a bit in the mid- to late-1990s. He drew stuff, but it seemed like he was more interested in being an executive. He did return to Marvel, however, and tomorrow I’ll look at some new millennium work and check out how he had changed in the intervening decade. Come on back and see it! And remember: there’s so much groovy stuff in the archives!

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