As I said yesterday, it’s interesting that, at this point in his career, when Jim Starlin does a creator-owned work like ’Breed III, he does all of the art (pencilling, inking, and colouring), but, when he’s doing work-for-hire, he only does the pencilling. When discussing the inking, I said that one of the strengths of Andy Smith’s work in Thanos vs. Hulk #1 is that the finished product looks very close to how Starlin’s line work looks when he inks himself. Smith is excellent at helping Starlin’s pencils look as much like his art when it’s finished. I don’t know if that’s what people think a good inker should do, but, in this case, it’s what I’m glad to see happen. Somehow, Frank D’Armata is even better at replicating Starlin in colouring than Smith is in inking.
To say that Jim Starlin has embraced computer colouring would be an understatement. The man loves it. There seems to be nothing he loves more than filling backgrounds with computer-generated images and patterns. The space that Banner occupies and space itself in this comic are nothing but computer colours and patterns. Some comics would show space as darkness with intermittent blips of light; D’Armata follows Starlin’s example and makes it bright and colourful, an endless view of phenomena as far as the eye can see. Psychedelia is an integral part of the foundations of ‘cosmic comics’ as the inner space was as much a part of the works as outer space. That’s reflected in the more psychedelic version of space we get. It’s an ordered version drawing upon actual phenomena and not as ‘random’ as psychedelic art can be (superficially at least). It’s more like different pictures taken in space have been smashed together and shaped to create a wondrous backdrop that presents exactly how Starlin merges the inner and outer...
Normally, I’m not a big fan of D’Armata’s work, nor colouring where the heavy reliance on computer effects is evident. But... it’s Starlin. As with every technique, in the right hands or in the right context, it can work. I think Starlin mixes elements well enough that it winds up working. His figure work has enough of a ‘classic’ feel that mixing it with modern colouring produces an interesting effect. That he often features locations/characters that demand a muted, dull colouring scheme like Blastaar’s ship. That’s all browns. He loves to mix in locations that go the exact opposite way of the ‘cosmic’ space he also loves to show. When we see Blastaar bring in the Hulk in the Negative Zone, the bleakness of the planet they’re on with the beauty of the sky/space around them only makes it seem more desolate, more like a terrible place to live. Another part of ‘cosmic comics’ is the heightened reality, the heightened emotions, the heightened contrasts. D’Armata captures those contrasts well in the glory/psychedelia of space and the bleakness/downtrodden nature of the physical locations we see. In many ways, space is idealised through the colouring choices; the ships, the planets, the places where people actually live are just depressing, while the world of space – or of the mind as shown with Banner, are crackling balls of energy and crazy patterns and endless beauty.
One of the more interesting colour choices is how the Hulk’s green skin is dulled a little by the energy/space around him in Banner’s mental sphere. The strong blues/purples make his green pop less, visually signifying how he’s weaker in that place. In the real world where it’s all dull browns, his green is damn near neon; he is a physical creature that stands out and dominates in those bleak physical places. In the realm of the mind, he’s the one that’s faded and dull. Banner, in the other hand, stands out in that environment, while he almost fades into the background in the real world. Conversely, Thanos’s blues and purples make him seem like part of the environment both in the real world where he sits in front of a large window overlooking the blue/purple energies of space and in Banner’s mental world. He fades into the background in a way that suggests that he is a part of the environment around him; he is near elemental. He is cosmic.