Year of the Artist, Day 181: Gabriel Hardman, Part 5 - <i>Star Wars: Legacy Volume II</i> #1

Every day this year, I will be examining the artwork on a single comic book story. Today's artist is Gabriel Hardman, and the issue is Star Wars: Legacy Volume II #1, which was published by Dark Horse and is cover dated March 2013. These scans are from the trade paperback Prisoner of the Floating World, which came out in November 2013. Enjoy!

In recent years, Hardman has been writing a lot of comics with his wife, Corinna Bechko, and I wonder if this will mean we'll see a bit less of his artwork. But he still draws comics, and so for our final day, we'll check out his art on the first issue of the rebooted Star Wars: Legacy, starring Ania Solo!

Early on, we get a nice fight between Master Val and the Sith Lord, which Hardman depicts almost without words - Hardman, as an artist, knows the value of the writer getting out of the way occasionally. He gives us a lot of small panels after the big one to kick off the fight, which mimics the "shaky cam" and close-in shots of innumerable annoying movies but, because of comics' static nature, works quite well on the printed page. He leads us well across the first two pages, with Val and the Sith leaping around and the Sith using his freaky mind powers to crash space ships and make Val's hand hurt before he knocks the lightsaber out of Val's hand (which is, unfortunately, a poorly colored panel, so you can barely see the outline of the saber as it flies away). Hardman implies that the Sith hesitates at the bottom of Page 2, which of course is fatal in a fight, and he gets it in the back from the mysterious masked dude. The pages are bookended by the Sith leaping down at Val and the masked dude killing the Sith, which creates some nice symmetry on the pages. Hardman's rough inks make the fight a bit more brutal, while Rachelle Rosenberg uses blue to make the two combatants, with their red skin or red armor, pop a bit more. The fact that the masked dude's lightsaber is also red makes the final panel tie into the rest of the fight, as it illuminates Val's (non-red) face well.

Ania Solo and Sauk find a lightsaber, which isn't as cool as you might think it is. Hardman does a nice job with the seedy look that imbues a lot of Star Wars - one of the best things about the original movie was how shabby everything looked, keeping with the idea of it being a Western set in space - as we get the clunky ship with a lot of rough blacks on it in Panel 1. Ania and Sauk's clothing is also roughly inked, making it look tough and worn, as befits two people living on the margins of society. Hardman uses fewer lines on Ania's face than he does even with other females, which makes her look a bit younger and innocent (even though she's not that innocent) and might also be a result of Rosenberg's slightly flatter colors on this book than Breitweiser's, say, on Agents of Atlas. He also does a nice job with Sauk, showing his reticence and worry in Panel 4 and anger in Panel 5 even though Sauk is, you know, an alien. That has to be tough, but Hardman does a good job with it.

Panel 1 gives us a nice establishing shot, as Hardman makes the sandstone structure imposing and oppressive, much like a lot of Star Wars architecture. He also draws rough clouds of dust as the authorities herd Ania toward the center of the panel for the showdown. Ania shows us how tough she is, as she blasts the dude trying to take the lightsaber. Hardman does good work in Panel 3, as once again, he doesn't ink Ania's face very much, but her thin eyes and set mouth give her a steely look, while the smudge on her cheek is enough to show that she doesn't mind getting dirty. Hardman uses blacks well in Panel 4, as the blaster shot lights up the victim and shades him around the edges, making his death a bit more dramatic as it throws his face into sharp relief. Hardman, it should be noted, remembers to put Ania's hand next to her holster in Panel 2, so her draw feels natural. It's a well composed scene.

Hardman and Bechko continue to write the series and Hardman provides some of the art, but I imagine that soon enough, he'll be moving on to something else, given the impending shift of the franchise to a different publisher. I like Hardman's art, though, so I'm always interested in what he's drawing. He and Bechko are getting better at writing comics, too, so it will be neat to see what they do next.

It's hard to believe I'm halfway through the year (for me, as these are harder to write than the series I did two years ago, it's more like "Man, I'm only halfway through the year?!?!?"), but I am, so tomorrow I'm going to return to the King and go through his 1970s work, where I think he did his best work, artistically. After that, it's back to Ditko, with his 1970s work. I said I'd go back to those dudes! Even if you don't think they're the two best comic artists, they're so influential that spending just five days with them didn't seem right, so I'm coming back around! Be sure to check out their work - and others' - in the archives!

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