Every day this year, I will be examining the artwork on a single comic book story. Today’s artist is Marc Silvestri, and the issue is X-Men #154, which was published by Marvel and is cover dated May 2004. Enjoy!
For the final two days of Marc Silvestri, I just want to point out that the technology may change, but his style stays pretty much the same. For me, it’s fascinating to look at how these technological changes affect his art. So first, I want to look at the final issue of Grant Morrison’s run on X-Men!
The Silvestri Face never changes, but Silvestri and his collaborators tweak it every once in a while. Joe Weems inked this, and either he or Silvestri added some rough hatching on Logan’s forehead and under his eye. The crispness of the line work, even with some of the old-school Silvestri sratching, is one thing we see more of as Silvestri’s art moves forward – the hatching itself is very clear, even the stubble on Logan’s chin. The crispness of the lines makes Logan look far more like a male model than a scruffy tough guy. Panel 2 makes Panel 1 look even odder, as Logan from farther away looks more “on-model,” and it goes back to the fact that Silvestri seems to get better at faces the farther away he gets. Logan’s chin juts out a bit more, and we can see the mutton chops that are suspiciously absent in Panel 1. Meanwhile, one thing that Silvestri began to do more as his career moved along was use sharper points, as we see with Jean in Panel 2. Yes, she’s all Phoenixed up, but it’s not just that, as Silvestri began to use harsher edges more in his art. Obviously, there’s a preponderance of hatching on Logan, but we’ll get to that below.
In a medium view, we get rougher hatching on Logan’s jaw to give us the impression of mutton chops, although they’re still not as prominent as they were in the farther view. This is classic Silvestri Face here, as Logan’s gorgeous bangs flip languidly over his face, while Jean’s hair, eyebrows, eyes, nose, and mouth all look like every other female Silvestri has drawn since the late 1980s. Silvestri does give her nose a bit more definition than some of the other women we’ve seen him draw, but the basics are the same. I’m not exactly sure what’s going on with Jean in Panel 1 – Silvestri draws her falling, but the way her legs are splayed is really, really weird.
One of the main complaints I have against excessive hatching is it often makes the characters look decrepit, so I guess it’s just as well that Cassandra Nova is excessively hatched, right? Look at that line work in the crows’ feet around her left eye and on her cheek – that’s commitment to hatching right there! In Panel 2, Silvestri has to use a lot of lines as Cassandra disintegrates, and it’s a fairly impressive moment – he does nice work opening her eyes and mouth wide, shrinking her irises, and blowing the top off her head. This comic has four (4!) colorists in the credits, but the digital explosion and the electrical fire encircling Cassandra is nicely done. This arc has the sheen of digital coloring that can be off-putting, but the work itself is quite good.
Of course, excessive hatching isn’t always good, as we see here. Silvestri piles muscles on muscles on Beast’s and Logan’s arms in Panel 1, and the dark inks only serves to highlight it, which is pretty ridiculous. The spot blacks on Beast’s torso makes it look like his ribs are caved in, which is unfortunate. On the left, Beak’s face is almost black, which is actually pretty cool – he almost looks like a skull, which makes him look more god-like – but his hand is inked so heavily that, like Cassandra’s face, it becomes decrepit. Silvestri does a nice job laying out the vertical panels on the right side of the page – Beak flies upward, and we see the others below him, Beast does his hand-waving thing, and Beak gets blowed up good. Once again, the coloring is very nice – the digital lightning behind Beast is nice but not intrusive, while the explosion around Beak works quite well. Silvestri isn’t doing too much that’s new, but the heavy inking and coloring tends to change the way his work is viewed.
One more time, we get a ton of hatching, which makes the pages look messy, which is both good and bad. This is taking place in a shattered world, so it stands to reason that we would have a lot of messiness, but on the other hand, it does make the art harder to process. On the sentinel in Panel 1, the hatching makes it look like a semi-destroyed relic, which it is. When we get to the final two panels, the hatching on parts of E.V.A. distract from where there should be more chaotic line work, as Beast is taking her apart. The black streaks on her silvery body are too much, especially when you consider that the back of her head, which is stretching out horrifyingly, ought to be where we focus. Because of the riot of lines that show up all over her, it’s harder to focus on the fact that Beast is destroying her, even though he tells us he is. This kind of “one-size-fits-all” mentality with regard to inking and coloring is frustrating in a lot of comics, because it doesn’t seem too difficult to figure it out. I still like the actual line work, but Silvestri and his collaborators aren’t doing themselves any favors by ignoring nuance. But that’s just me.
For our final day of Silvestri’s art, we’ll jump ahead another few years to check out the most recent art by him that I own … and I didn’t even buy the issue, as this just happened to show up elsewhere! Lucky me, right? You too can get lucky (not that kind of lucky, you perverts!) in the archives!
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