“For the first time in ages, he feels like he’s at home.”
For the first of two issues, John Calimee comes on board to the pencil the issues with this, the third issue to feature his art on an Iron Angel back-up strip. Back when I mentioned artists whose work looked like it was very influenced by Steve Rude, Calimee is who I was thinking of. There’s that same linework that’s both very clean and elegant, while also making strong use of shadows and black spaces to suggest shapes and depth. Of the two full issues he draws, this is the better one (issue 58 looks less polished) and does a great job at meshing ‘pretty’ art with action scenes that are effective.
In the arctic wasteland of the Piskayne homeland, the ship is broken down and Teuton (and his minder) catch up with the gang, resulting in a big brawl between him and Dreadstar. Calimee’s version of Dreadstar is quite good and works with the setting of the story: he looks calmer and more at peace because of Calimee’s style, but also because the climate of the arctic is like that of where he grew up. He’s very much in his element, and that extends to his fight with Teuton. He doesn’t want to fight Teuton, taking every opportunity to convince him to stop fighting and remember that he’s his friend, but it’s also a ‘safe’ place for him, especially when he’s not trying to kill someone. Hand-to-hand combat is his specialty and killing being off the table makes it more enjoyable, even if it is his friend.
One the best visual sequences happens early over the course of six panels on two tiers (four and two). Vanth is meditating, shirtless, in the snow, wind blowing around him. The perspective pushes in to show the right side of his face and, then, just his eye – and, then, what he sees: the silhouette of the sword of power, energy crackling around it – and, then, it’s destroyed, and we return to the original perspective, but Vanth is in the process of getting up and holding the side of his head, stating “unnnhhhh... Well... That wasn’t promising.” It’s simple storytelling, but Calimee handles it perfectly, choosing the exact right images and perspective for a quick moment that communicates everything you need to know about where Vanth’s head is at.
The most impressive feat Calimee pulls off is making Debardinis almost look not completely ridiculous. Angel Medina’s design of the character never really worked for me. Calimee streamlines it a bit and gives the character personality in his face, while adding an expressive element that was previously missing. It’s still not a good design, but Calimee almost makes it work.
Of course, Teuton is dispatched... by falling down a giant hole in the snow/ice and the issue ends with the group encountering the Piskayne mystic they’ve been searching for, Ondru. Overall, it’s a solid issue that manages to take a bit of a step up with a fill-in artist.
Tomorrow: the power returns.