Every day this year, I will be examining the artwork on a single comic book story. Today’s artist is Joe Quesada, and the issue is Amazing Spider-Man #544, which was published by Marvel and is cover dated November 2007. Enjoy!
In 2007, EIC of Marvel Joe Quesada decided that Peter Parker really ought to make a deal with Satan to save his decrepit old aunt instead of letting her die with dignity, and he also decided the story was so important that Artist Joe Quesada needed to draw some of it! And so we got the abomination that is “One More Day,” which I avoided like the plague. Now, however, it’s time to check out Quesada’s art on the first chapter, as these two issues (#545 concludes the epic) might be the last time we get to see a full Quesada-drawn story!
In this issue, Quesada is being inked by Danny Miki, someone whose work has never really clicked for me. His line feels too weak to me, and we can see some of that here. Quesada, as we can see, is still drawing the characters a bit cartoonishly, and his use of unusual angles – Panel 1 in particular – makes the figures look even more so. His lines aren’t as crisp as they used to be, and Miki’s inks certainly don’t help. Yes, Miki over-hatches Aunt May, which makes her look even more ancient than she usually does (I’m going to think this is deliberate, as no one looks their best when they’re in a hospital bed), but otherwise, he’s somewhat restrained. What lines are on the page, though, are somewhat weird, as they look almost random in places. The wrinkles on the doctor’s face are haphazard, while the folds in Peter’s shirt and the doctor’s coat aren’t crisp but they’re not textured, either. Richard Isanove is still coloring Quesada, and his rendered work on this issue is unfortunately not very good, and we see a bit of that here. His efforts to smooth everything out seem to fall short, which leaves us with a strange hybrid of styles. It’s kind of weird.
Peter goes swinging, and we get more of the same, although Isanove gets to open up the coloring a bit more. Quesada and Miki give us that incredibly detailed webbing – I wonder how they did it, because it seems like it would take forever to draw it, and this isn’t even the most detailed example! – and we also get some cartoony birds flitting around our hero before he drops onto the roof of Tony Stark’s place. Notice, again, the odd line work, especially in Panel 1. On Peter’s back, the folds in his clothes look far more three-dimensional than they should, and it looks like Quesada and/or Miki used too many lines and Isanove added too much texture to it. It takes Quesada’s usual dynamism – and he was always a dynamic artist – and calcifies it a little, so that Peter doesn’t look as fluid as some of the action scenes we’ve seen Quesada do in the past. Plus, look at the hatching on Peter’s hands – the excessive line work really ages them, and it’s actually a little horrifying. It’s a bit of a bummer.
This is what we get when we combine Quesada’s more cartoonish style with modern techniques, which don’t really fit with his kind of pencil work. Peter’s giant eyes are creepy, sure, and inexplicably, Quesada and Miki don’t give him any lashes, which makes them even more alien. But they might work if everything around them weren’t so ugly. This is supposed to be a dramatic moment right before Iron Man smacks into Peter, so I get why Quesada and Miki use so much black, but it really hurts the drawing, as there’s simply too much of it. Isanove’s techniques don’t fit here at all, which compounds the problem. The thick blacks and the rendered color turns Peter’s nose into a mushy mess, and while we can see his lips, the lack of color on them makes his mouth hang open stupidly rather than in surprise, which is what the artists are going for here. This is one of those instances where Quesada’s style just doesn’t fit with the tone of the book. This issue is deadly serious, and occasionally, Quesada’s style is a bit goofier than that.
Now, for those of us who think Peter’s organic webbing is a bit too close to … um … some other kind of … you know, bodily fluid, the fact that Peter shoots it all over Tony and completely covers him with it is, well, it’s a bit icky. But this is still a nice page, as Quesada and Miki go nuts with the details, showing every little strand of webbing and creating a nice spider web surrounding Tony. The perspective is pretty cool, too. I still don’t love the way the artists draw Peter’s clothing – it still looks like a clash of styles that’s not working, but it’s an impressive moment nevertheless. Isanove adding the glowing chamber on Tony’s chest is a nice touch.
Here’s more of the same, with an overuse of blacks, but not the nice, crisp black chunks we’ve seen so many artists use, but a mushy black that fades around the edges. I certainly get what the artists were trying to do, but it just doesn’t work very well. Peter doesn’t look like the same person from Panel 1 to Panel 2, and the vague inking just makes his skin look aged. Obviously, this is a stylistic choice, as we notice the tight lines on the webbing, while Tony’s face in Panel 4 looks a bit better than the faces on the rest of the page. Quesada’s and Miki’s blacks in that panel are just a bit stronger, so Tony doesn’t look as decrepit as Peter. Again, you could argue that Peter has been through so much that he’s not looking his best, but the artists do this almost randomly on other characters, so I don’t think that’s it. But if you want to think that, feel free.
Quesada still lays a page out nicely, and there’s some solid work here. The shadows are used well, as Tony is bummed and the darkness in his place reflects his mood. I have noted before that I don’t love when artists don’t seem to remember that Tony is wearing a suit of armor, but Quesada, I think, does a decent job with it – it’s bulky and rigid, and Miki’s relatively strong lines give it a metallic look. The photograph that Tony looks at is a good way to use Isanove’s coloring – like we saw yesterday – as it appears to be colored from the pencils, which gives it a different look from the rest of the page and evokes the nostalgia that Tony feels. The inking still isn’t perfect – Jarvis is another old dude, but he still looks older due to the deep furrows on his face – but this isn’t a bad page.
Like so many other artists I’ve looked at this year, I don’t think Quesada’s work translates well to the digital age, although it’s not as bad as some of the work we’ve seen. While I think his work on Daredevil is a creative peak and that was certainly in this modern era, in my opinion Jimmy Palmiotti is a better inker than Danny Miki, so that definitely helped, and Isanove hadn’t become the modern, heavily rendered colorist he is today, so that helped, too. But it probably doesn’t matter – Quesada is seemingly too busy to do more work, so it’s moot to speculate on which inkers and colorists would be best suited to work with him. I still dig a lot of his art!
Tomorrow I’ll start a new artist – I think I’m going to show someone you might not know even though he’s worked on some high-profile books and with high-profile creators, but he never seemed to become a superstar. But I might change my mind before that! Come back and see who I choose! In the meantime, find famous and not-so-famous artists in the archives!
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