Every day this year, I will be examining the artwork on a single comic book story. Today’s artist is Nick Dragotta, and the issue is Vengeance #2, which was published by Marvel and is cover dated October 2011. These scans are from the hardcover collection, which came out in February 2012. Enjoy!
Vengeance is a pretty cool mini-series, and Dragotta’s art on it is excellent, and it shows a lot of what he would do in East of West, which is where we’ll finish up tomorrow. Plus, it’s written by Joe Casey, so you know it’s going to be weird!
As we’ve seen, Dragotta has always been pretty good at action, but in the past few years he’s gotten really good at it, and Vengeance shows that off well. On these two pages, America Chavez fights a bunch of demons while not taking very good care of the In-Betweener, whom she flings about like a rag doll. On the first page, Dragotta gives us an establishing shot of Chavez and the In-Betweener surrounded by the demons, and then uses a nity 12-panel grid to show the violence of the fight, the rescue of the In-Betweener, and the frantic calls from the Ultimate Nullifier and Angel. Despite the small panel sizes, Dragotta still gets in some nice drawings – the punch and kick in the first two panels, and demon chomping on Chavez’s shoulder in the third, and Chavez grabbing the demon by the throat in the last panel on the page. In Panel 1, we see some nice touches – Chavez’s and the In-Betweener’s hair is flowing in the wind, as is America’s top. On the second page, we get a more standard five-panel stack, but Dragotta’s figures flow really well across the page – his Chavez is big and tough, but very fluid as she fights, and the way he draws the spindly In-Betweener is quite nice, too. Panels 1 and 2 are really well done, as Chavez turns and Dragotta draws the In-Betweener spinning around her as she clutches his ankle. The close-up in Panel 5 is terrific, too – Dragotta remembers to draw her communication device in her ear, he draws tendrils of hair flowing across her face, he puts a lot of scratches and sweat on her skin, and even gives her tears, as the wind is whipping at her. This is a very cool sequence to start the “present-day” section of the issue (after a brief flashback to World War II).
Dragotta can also do quiet moments, as we see here. He cocks America’s hips in Panel 1, which is odd (not so much in Panel 2, because her arms are crossed), but I love that he draws with thick legs and wide hips and waist, and also that she towers over the Ultimate Nullifier, who’s fairly tall himself. But his facial expressions are really nice here, as the Ultimate Nullifier gets grumpy in Panel 2 because the In-Betweener is sitting in his chair, and Dragotta draws him making side-eyes to Chavez and crinkling his mouth in displeasure. Chavez, meanwhile, smirks beautifully, both at the Ultimate Nullifier (maybe) and because she’s proud of herself for doing the job. Dragotta also closes Angel’s eyes in Panel 4, which is a small detail but seems to fit her dialogue, where she’s being a bit snarky. It’s just a little thing, but it makes the scene work just a bit better, which is keen.
As this is a Joe Casey comic, it’s going to be a bit weird, and Dragotta embraces the weirdness with the Black Knight’s design. It looks like she put it together by visiting several thrift stores and maybe an old Hollywood prop shop, which is part of its charm. It doesn’t look terribly protective, either. Dragotta is inking this book himself, and he knows where to spot his blacks to make the armor at least look like steel, but it still doesn’t seem like it’s particularly smart to not have more protection. I just love the design, and Dragotta appears to have enjoyed himself on this series doing fun stuff like this.
As you might recall, I love when comics artists do some different things, so the fact that Dragotta alters his style just a little for the flashback panel when the Young Masters – Executioner and Egghead, in Panel 1 – are talking about Bullseye (the body on the slab) is pretty keen. Executioner wants Egghead to show some respect, and we get the Benday-dotted panel with Bullseye kicking Daredevil, which is cool in itself. Brad Simpson, who colored this, uses basic flat colors with that bright yellow background to make the panel stand out even more (I can’t be sure, but it looks like it’s the tiniest bit off-register, too, which is also neat). It’s another one of those little things that artists (and writers, if it was Casey’s suggestion) can do to make a comic work better.
Lady Bullseye shows up and wants Bullseye’s corpse, and we get these three pages in which she kicks ass, takes names, and decapitates (like most comic book characters, Mako got better). It’s a terrific fight scene, as Dragotta shows that he’s firing on all cylinders. His figure work is exquisite, as Lady Bullseye moves easily across the pages – she’s never stiffly posed, and she looks like she’s in constant motion. The first page is a bit busy, but Dragotta makes sure he shows the glowing orb in Lady Bullseye’s hand in the upper left, and as she flings it, we never lose track of it until it connects with Egghead’s chin. The fact that it begins small, becomes very large, and then shrinks again, plus the fact that it moves against the momentum with which Lady Bullseye imbues it when she throws it, makes it a bit hard to follow, but because Egghead is talking about it, it becomes easier. Dragotta twists her wonderfully in mid-air so she comes down with a swipe of her blade that splits Executioner’s gun in two while also leading us to the second page. There we get a slightly more standard layout, but still a very dynamic one. Executioner and Lady Bullseye continue to move very well, and Dragotta shows how she can take him out even though he’s so much bigger (and presumably knows how to fight a bit, given that he’s a villain). Simpson uses “unrealistic” colors in a few panels to highlight some of the more violent collisions between the two, which also helps set the panels apart from each other, as Dragotta is using a more chaotic layout and not really using gutters, so the panels are laid on top of each other and have just the thin black borders. On the third page, he does a really nice job with the hatching, as the smoke causes haze that obscures Mako as he approaches Lady Bullseye and also sets up the scratchy silhouette when Lady Bullseye slices his head off. Dragotta didn’t want to show the gruesome moment, so a silhouette is the way to go, but he also does a good job blending the lines on his fin with the lines that occur because of the haze. The progression on the page is well done, too – we get an inset panel of Mako approaching, then the thin panel with his silhouette and the highlighted white eyes and teeth, with Lady Bullseye noticing what he’s doing, and then Dragotta slows the action down, which is something comics do well without drawing too much attention to it. Mako is very close to reaching her, but we get two more panels – Lady Bullseye grabbing her sword, and Mako’s eyes widening a little from the earlier inset panel – before we reach the backward stroke that takes Mako’s head off. Of course, we can see the dramatic moment the instant we turn the page, but storytelling-wise, Dragotta still does a wonderful job leading us down to it and increasing the tension as he does. It’s a brutal and brilliant climax to a very cool battle.
The final issue of Vengeance came out in December 2011. In 2012, Dragotta drew several issues of Hickman’s FF before he and Hickman launched East of West in 2013. You know you want to come back and check it out! And you know you want to check out the archives!
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