BATBOOKS - OUT FROM NO MAN'S LAND
In the wake of the lettering column last month, people have asked me if I planned on doing a similar column for coloring. No. I don't have enough interest in it, perspective on it, or even an eye for it. When it comes to coloring, I might just as well be blind. I know what I like and what I don't like, but I can't explain it very well. But a book came out this week which leads me to discuss the art of coloring to the limited extent I can.
DETECTIVE COMICS #742 is the first post-NO MAN'S LAND issue, taking place a few months after the end of that particular storyline. Now that all that nonsense is over, I'm looking forward to re-joining the Batman books. This first issue, written by Greg Rucka and drawn by Shawn Martinbrough and Steve Mitchell is a nice start.
The part of it that has everyone talking, though, is the coloring. It seems to be the part of the post-NML press releases and coverage everyone seems to have ignored or skipped. I know I read about this in a couple of articles on the matter in the past. In addition to getting Chip Kidd to design the covers, DC coloring ace Mark Chiarello has decided to color-key the comics. It's something that's done a lot in Hollywood, but oddly enough it doesn't happen very often, if at all, in comics. Basically, you key the book off of a color or small set of colors. In this issue's case, it's blue and orange. That's all you see in this issue - blues and oranges. There are no browns or reds or greens. Furthermore, the coloring isn't overly saturated with gradations or sculpted coloring.
Let me backtrack here - one of the first colorists whose work really jumped out at me was Joe Rosas. He was doing color work on the Claremont/Lee UNCANNY X-MEN books and did some amazing things. This was in the days when computer coloring was just on the horizon, but not widely used yet. If you wanted three-dimensional coloring work, you had to use paint of some sort. All colors were flat and inside of straight lines. Rosas did some remarkable work with adding highlights and pseudo-sculpting by putting in little splashes of color here and there - sometimes just a small pink triangle to highlight a character's skin color, for example. In addition, his colors were bright. When Rosas followed Lee onto WILDC.A.T.S., he was gone by the second issue in favor of Joe Chiodo, whose work added a distinctly dark look and feel to the book. I don't think it was a good move, myself, but WildStorm wanted to keep everything in house in those days, I suppose. (Who's to argue with the results? WildStorm coloring is quite possibly the best coloring house in the business today.)
That same bright-color feel, utilizing different shades of the color and including geometrical highlights, is being used now in DETECTIVE COMICS. There's blue and there's orange and each have plenty of different shades to suggest shadowing, but without going for the obviously-computerized sculpted look. In short, I like it. It's carried out throughout the book evenly and doesn't distract me. This is an interesting experiment and I look forward to seeing how it works with future issues.
As for the rest of the issue - Greg Rucka's writing works fine for me. This is a crime drama, as we've come to expect from Rucka. It's BATMAN meeting HOMICIDE: LIFE ON THE STREETS, complete with "the box." (I think it would be interesting to see what Rucka would do with a straight super-hero slugfest, but I can deal with letting him write to his strengths. =) Martinbrough's art is a little more suspect, but not bad. The storytelling is fine and the characters are easily distinguishable. The blacks are spotted very well, but art itself looks very stiff in spots and is more on the iconic side of Scott McCloud's UNDERSTANDING COMICS triangle than the realistic corner.
One final note on this book: Todd Klein letters it. Whoo-hoo!
NIGHTWING #41 is the first issue of the title I've ever picked up. I couldn't bring myself to buy it when it first came out for a variety of reasons, one of which being the town of "Bludhaven." Ack! Could there be any sillier a name in the day and age of all characters incorporating "Death" or "Blood" in their names? I'm trying to rectify this now, though. I've bought the TPB collecting the first half dozen issues and am starting to pick this series up starting now. Why the sudden change of heart? In part, it's because I've recently rediscovered Chuck Dixon's writing and found how much I like it. The second reason is that Greg Land has left BIRDS OF PREY to draw this title, along with inker Drew Geraci. Land is one of the most underrated artists in comics today. His work shows signs of Kevin Nowlan and Alan Davis' work. It's smooth, simple, and wonderful to look at.