“No one on this galaxy helps anyone... unless it’s to an early grave.”
To this point, Angel Medina’s art has been good, sometimes even great. But, in this issue, with regular inker Bob Dvorak and colourist Ray Murtaugh, it seems to rise to another level of consistent quality. This is, for the most part, the art team until this point and, yet, this issue looks better than the four that have come before it. The line work is crisper, panels pop more, character expressions are more evocative... I just looked ahead and the next issue looks like a step back, so maybe it’s just a random bit of better printing/an issue that’s held up physically better over the past 26 years?
Either way, Dreadstar #45 is a pretty great looking comic. In some spots, it looks like the art is following a trend I would notice later in the run when other artists came on board of seemingly trying to be the next Steve Rude. As the artist of Nexus, one of First’s top titles, it makes sense that many artists working for the company would emulate him (it would make sense for many artists working in comics period to emulate him), but it was surprising to see even Steve Epting show a style/bits of line work that were modelled after the work of The Dude. You can see that in a few panels here and there in this issue. Mostly in the narrow eyes and cleaner line work.
To this point, if Medina’s art suffered in one area, it was in an overabundance of lines. Where three lines could do the job, he seemed to use twelve. This issue is much cleaner, much more economical, especially in the faces. The scenes in the middle where Dreadstar fights a robot still suffers from this to a degree, but it makes more sense there given his age and his various experiences: he shouldn’t look as fresh-faced as Iron Angel or even Skeevo.
His facial expressions for Iron Angel continue to be the best visual storytelling in the book. She’s such a bundle of emotions with no filter that Medina can really play up how she’s feeling and reacting to what happening. There’s a five panel sequence where she appears in four of them and, in each, a different expression is used, and all work incredibly well. She goes from bored/lost in thought to mildly annoyed to pure anger to completely frustrated/flustered. Throw in Junior’s blank/innocent expression and Skeevo’s wide-eyed giggling and it’s some fantastic cartooning.
His action sequences are quite good as well. My favourite one of those features a robot Vanth is fighting in the foreground with our perspective above and behind it for two panels: Vanth about to hit it and, then, it jutting out a small gun-like appendage and him being surprised. The next panel jumps behind and below Vanth as he gets blasted. A small inset panel focuses on his face as he recovers followed by another panel from the original perspective (above and behind the robot) as he smashes it. The use of perspectives is something I really enjoy. Or, there’s the use of tall, vertical panels when the entire group falls down into a pit and struggles to make their way back up. Not exceedingly complicated, but a nice use of layout and panel selection to complement the situation.
On the writing side of things, the Junior subplot advances, Dreadstar destroys a robot, Teuton sneezes, and they meet Lord Palafox. Tomorrow, I’ll maybe talk about some of that stuff.