Every day this year, I will be examining the artwork on a single comic book story. Today’s artist is Ming Doyle, and the issue is Mara #4, which was published by Image and is cover dated April 2013. Enjoy!
Mara gave Doyle a chance to draw some more action, and while she still has some work to do, it’s clear that she is getting better at it. She also seemed to do some new things with her techniques, although maybe I just missed it in her earlier work. Either way, let’s get to the artwork!
On this page, Mara shows off her new abilities, and while it’s not a terribly exciting page, Doyle does some nice work on it. Panel 3 is very cool – she is very precise with her line work as Mara deconstructs the truck, and while I have no idea if that’s how many parts a truck would break into, Doyle remembers to put bolts hovering above the body and other nice details. It’s pretty cool.
Panel 1, though, is utterly gorgeous. Mara is floating in a tank of water (I guess; it’s an isolated panel in the book, so we have no context for it), and Doyle does a tremendous job with it. She uses a lighter brush stroke with Mara than we’ve seen her use on previous days, and I’m not sure if this is something new or if I just missed it on her previous work. On the left of the panel, there’s some brush strokes that make the scene the tiniest bit dreamlike but also define the curvature of the tank. Mara’s hair floats above her, and Doyle uses beautiful thin lines and spot blacks to create that gorgeous mass. In earlier work, Doyle used fewer lines to draw hair, preferring instead to ink large blocks and let the colorist do the rest, but this delicate work is excellent. She uses the brush on Mara’s jawline and shoulder, too, giving this a more hazy look, which is appropriate given that we’re looking at it through glass. The brush work on this panel is exquisite, and it’s nice to see Doyle using it.
This splash page shows some nice development in Doyle’s style. It’s not surprising that Doyle draws Mara as a beautiful but “realistic” woman – we’ve seen over the past decade or so a movement toward drawing figures in a less idealized fashion, especially in non-superhero comics – but she still does a wonderful job with it. If we start with the top, Doyle once again does a wonderful job with the brush strokes in Mara’s hair, giving it a lustrous sheen without using blacks excessively – she uses bands of black and presumably colorist Jordie Bellaire adds the lighter hue that complements the black, so while it’s not as precise as the previous page I looked at, Mara’s hair is also dry and not floating above her. Doyle makes sure that Mara’s hair is spread out above her, not so that the drawing is more sexy, but because women with long hair do this so they’re not lying on top of their hair. Moving down, we see Doyle using fewer inking lines on Mara’s clothing, and even when she does use hatching, it’s far thinner than we’ve seen before from her. She gives the tiniest bit of definition to Mara’s nose, but other than that, she keeps her face clear except for the few strokes on the left side of her face, which is tilted away from the light source. The folds in her shirt are thiner and fewer than we’ve seen. The delicate ink lines on her arms and legs accentuate just enough of her curves and bones without standing out too much. Doyle captures the pensive look in her eyes very well as she contemplates the bullet in her hand (said bullet was fired at her, but as she’s now a superhuman, it didn’t do any damage). With this drawing, as with the rest of Mara, we see Doyle trying to be a bit less harsh with her lines, and it’s working quite well.
Not everything Doyle does in this series works, and this is an example of that. While her use of lighter brush strokes works quite well on Mara, it doesn’t work as well with the commander. The hand in Panel 1 is okay, although Bellaire colors it a bit too brown and uniform – it should have slightly more shades, at least. Doyle’s softer lines aren’t great – take a look at your own hand if you don’t believe me – but they’re not terrible. However, when we see the commander’s face, the softer lines become more of a problem. Doyle’s soft hatching around his eyes, along the cheekbone, and along the jawline don’t quite have the effect she wants, because it makes the commander’s face look a bit too much like it’s covered in make-up rather than the face of a man with a long, presumably hard career behind him. On his forehead, we get some stronger creases, but because Doyle doesn’t use stronger lines for his eyebrows and lips, those fade a little under Bellaire’s colors, and the commander looks a bit less distressed than he ought to. His very bright blue eyes are disconcerting throughout this scene, partly because Doyle makes his pupils so small, which allows more room for the blue. The brush strokes are certainly well done, but as we’ve seen, Doyle is comfortable with thicker, blacker lines, which I think would have worked better with the commander, even if just to distinguish the way life has treated him against the way Mara has experienced life.
As I’ve mentioned before, young artists often have trouble with action – making the body more fluid is tough, and so it’s often the last thing artists master. Doyle has gotten better over the course of her short career, and in Mara, she needs to do more action than in her earlier work, and we can see her development. These two panels are pretty good. The plane is tracking Mara and the soldiers are shooting at her (the “gun” hanging from the plane is too far away to see clearly, but it seems a bit strange), and in Panel 1, she looks up and shields her eyes, which seems natural both because she might be looking up at the sun and also because the bullets are kicking up a lot of dirt. Doyle bends her knees, a smart move as it gives Mara a bit more stability, and she looks both surprised and ready to defend herself. Panel 2 is a bit better – the bullets actually strike her and Doyle draws her recoil quite well. She still has her hand at her forehead, but she’s brought her right hand up toward her face. Doyle leans her backward just a bit and twists her body slightly, and it’s enough to show that the bullets have staggered her a bit. Doyle nails her facial expression – she’s looking down at the bullets hitting her, and the contempt on her face is marvelous. The figure work is still good, but Doyle is getting a bit better at showing bodies in action. The worst thing in this and our next example is that the guns look like they’re firing rays of light. It’s unclear whether they’re supposed to be lasers or actual bullets, and we don’t get much help from Doyle, unfortunately.
This is the next page, and it’s another pretty good action scene. In Panel 1, Doyle drops our perspective so Mara seems much more imposing and the helicopter above her looks smaller, giving us the impression that Mara is about to crush the puny weapon, which is, of course, what’s about to happen. The way she lays out the panel creates the triangle that leads us up to the helicopter, and she foreshadows Mara’s flight straight up one of those lines to her intersection with the machine. In Panel 2, Doyle does something clever – instead of showing Mara, she shows us the plume of dust she lifts by the speed with which she flies, and here Doyle’s nice soft touch in this series works quite well, as the short, light strokes help give us a good impression of flying dirt. The bottom two panels also show some maturation in the artwork, as Doyle does a nice job with the “camera angle” in Panel 3 – it’s a fairly standard superhero pose, but it still works well, as Mara’s fists are largest because they’re “closest” to us, but that helps emphasize the violence she just carried through. Doyle’s smudging around the edges of the explosion is very nice, too. In Panel 4, she shows the aftermath, and while Mara is once again just posed, it’s a pose that we can believe someone would strike after they just destroyed a helicopter by punching through it – she’s looking back at the explosion, her legs slightly bent, apparently ready to turn and dish out some more damage. Doyle draws smoke trailing from her, which is a nice touch. This isn’t a tremendous amount of action, obviously, but it does flow a bit better than we saw two days ago, when Doyle was drawing Nightcrawler. We’ll have to wait and see if Doyle continues to develop that aspect of her artwork.
Tomorrow we’ll check out one more Doyle story. I don’t read Quantum & Woody in single issues, so I don’t have an example of that artwork yet, but that’s just the way it is. The story I will show is a bit more horror-oriented. Come back and see what it is! In the meantime, you can peruse the archives!