You ever look at comics with multiple artists and wonder how those specific artists wound up working on the book? Not your average time-strapped “Get that shit done as soon as fucking possible” comics, but the planned multiple-artist comics where those different artists are actually meant to entice readers rather than fill them with dread over the uneven visuals they’re about the experience. Ever wonder about those comics? While there were story reasons for Brandon Peterson and Carlos Pacheco doing the art that they did in Age of Ultron #6-9, why those two artists? Why, when looking for two artists to pick up where Bryan Hitch left off, did everyone involve decide that those two were the logical choices? Was it simply availability? That exact right combination of “Isn’t drawing anything right now,” “Someone Bendis likes/wants to work with,” and “Big enough name that it doesn’t seem like a step down?” I don’t know. Then again, I don’t know how they pick artists that draw entire projects themselves, so…
What I’m getting at is this: why was Butch Guice chosen as the artist to depict the rewritten Marvel Universe that picks up exactly from Hitch’s work in Avengers #12.1? Out of all the available artists that could step in and draw eight pages of Age of Ultron #10, what was it that made Guice the clear choice? I can see why Alex Maleev was chosen for his pages (any chance Bendis and he have to work together, they take) or why Peterson and Pacheco drew their pages (they were already artists on the series) or why David “Artist of Ultimate Spider-Man” Marquez and Joe “former EIC and big name artist who rarely draws comics except for big moments like the Marvel debut of Angela, I guess” Quesada did their pages. But, Guice, I can’t exactly figure out. Why him?
I guess where I’m having a problem is that, when envisioning the eight pages he draws, I picture an artist that stylistically similar to Hitch. Someone who, picking up where Ultron did not disappear, would render the world in a similar manner, but distinct enough that we can recognise that Things Have Changed. Maybe that artist is Guice to some. I could see that if I squinted really hard and didn’t really focus on the pictures in front of me. Looking at the final four pages of Avengers #12.1 and the eight Guice pages, it’s hard to see them as two alternate versions stemming from the same moment. It’s not just like the director of the movie changed, it’s like the entire cast and crew was replaced. And that’s with the same colourist doing the pages!
On one hand, Paul Mounts changing his style to fit the line work of Guice is technically impressive and, usually, what you want to see from a colourist. He gears his work to supporting the specific style of the line art he’s colouring. On the other hand, visual consistency when the new pages continue directly from the old seems like it might be a larger priority. Granted, it’s hard to colour Guice the same way you would colour Hitch. Hitch’s realism-based line work lends itself to surprisingly bright colours. While his art may be tied to colouring that uses a lot of gradients and visual effects by the colourist, it also resists overly dark or drab colouring. The best colouring on Hitch’s art is colouring that seems ‘realistic,’ but is actually just a modern version of the four-colour comics of yesteryear. Just as Hitch’s art seems ‘realistic,’ but is really just giants in costumes hitting one another. The obvious superficial elements distract you from what’s really there.
Guice’s line work, though, lends itself to drab, real world colours that seem like the lamer brother of the colours that Hitch’s art get. Examining the end of Avengers #12.1 and Guice’s pages in Age of Ultron #10, you can see a lot of similarities with a heavier use of grey and a lack of sunshine. However, the colours on Hitch’s art are warmer and, oddly, more hopeful despite it being the depressing “We’re doomed” ending. Guice’s pages show the defeat of Ultron, but have a visual mood that’s far more depressing where even the bright explosions and energy outbursts seem like they can’t wait to have the brown injected and go hang out with the cool Vertigo kids. It is incredibly strange that Ultron escapes looks brighter and more hopeful than Ultron is killed.
So, again, why Guice?
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