Every day this year, I will be examining the artwork on a single comic book story. Today’s artist is Joe Quesada, and the issue is Daredevil #10, which was published by Marvel and is cover dated March 2000. Enjoy!
Quesada’s run on Daredevil might be famous for “Guardian Devil,” the first, Kevin Smith-written arc in which Karen Page was killed, but “Parts of a Hole,” his second arc, is much better, art-wise, even though Quesada didn’t draw the entire thing (and which might be why it’s not as highly regarded). The art on this arc is Quesada’s peak, I think, although of course I haven’t seen all his work. But it’s pretty staggering, as we’ll see!
Quesada uses a lot of nifty layouts in this book, and the puzzle pieces are a long-running motif in the arc (it’s called “Parts of a Hole,” for crying out loud). I love that the “female” part of the piece near the top becomes the pupil in Matt’s eye, and how the nurse’s nose fits neatly into the piece down at the bottom. Meanwhile, notice the lips at the bottom – there’s less hatching than we’ve seen in the past, but they’re still good and plump. That’s just how Quesada rolls!
Here’s another tremendous layout, as Matt sits at his piano thinking about how messed up his life is (you’d think he’d be used to it by now). Colorist Richard Isanove, who can do nice work although I don’t love all of it, does a lot in this issue, and he paints the background very nicely, especially when we get down to the chalk outline of Lenny, where the yellows bleed into pink. Quesada uses the shadows very well to show the piano blending into the blood spatters. In the corner, we see Karen Page (I assume that’s Karen), and it looks like Isanove colored it directly from pencils (we’ll see more of this later on). And of course, we see that Quesada continues to use cartoony figures for a lot of his characters, as the shooters – the Murphys – are a bit exaggerated. This is just a very cool page.
This is a good example of how cartoony Quesada has become, which gives his stories a weird tension, as they’re usually very serious but they have a lot of exaggerated caricatures in them. Unlike someone else who used to do this – Todd McFarlane – Quesada’s stories don’t seem to have a very good sense of humor, which is perfectly fine, but it does make the cartoony style a bit odd. Maya is drawn as a beautiful woman, of course, and she’s not too cartoony, but Quesada does draw her face a bit broadly, with a bigger-than-usual mouth, while the men behind her are even more cartoonish, as Quesada draws their hair rather goofily and that dude on the left with those pants higher than we regularly see. This is actually a slightly sillier scene, as Maya literally stops traffic and causes actual accidents, but the fact that Quesada draws her a bit like a cartoon is interesting. I’ll speculate a bit about this below!
As I noted above, puzzle pieces are a motif in this arc, and here Quesada uses them quite well to create a 3 x 3 grid. Some of the pieces form wider panels, as we see in the top two rows, which reinforces the puzzle aspect of the scene, while the transitions from Panel 1 to 2 and Panel 7 to 8 are interesting. The way Quesada creates the puzzle pieces, it connects Matt to Maya really clearly in Panels 1/2, with the piece in Panel 2 jutting into Panel 1, while in Panel 7, Quesada switches Matt around on the axis of the panel border, which is fairly clever. Panel 9 is neat, as the final puzzle piece breaks free from the rest of the page as Maya leaves the office and breaks the connection with Matt. Meanwhile, we see again that Quesada is making Maya a bit cartoonish, and even Matt’s giant hand in Panel 7 speaks to this. Notice, too, that even in 1999/2000, we were getting this kind of coloring that is now common, with the over-rendering that creates that textured look that can look pretty good but also begins to overshadow crisp pencils. Quesada’s pencils remain sharp, but we see the blacks and the more nuanced colors coming in and beginning to soften the pencils a bit. I’m not a huge fan, but that’s just me.
Look at this wonderful page. Yes, it’s very busy, and one criticism you could make against Quesada on Daredevil is that his art is very, very busy, but I don’t care, because this page is awesome. The puzzle pieces fly around Matt until they coalesce into the puzzle of Fisk down in the lower right, and I love that he uses the same face on every piece until it becomes the Kingpin. He uses photographs on the documents that Matt scatters around – it appears Fisk is blackmailing Bendis, at least – and once again in the foreground, we get the drawing of Karen (?) with no inks. Matt sits in the upper right, and his shadow stretches from right to left to fill the chalk outline in his office. The way Quesada draws Matt holding the documents allows him to fill the chalk outline with Matt’s shadow, which is pretty keen. This is just a cool page.
The next three examples are another reason why I love this art so much. Quesada uses those rough pencils for flashbacks, and I’d love to know how much Isanove does on this page. The flowers by the grave are obviously painted in, and I wonder how Quesada created the flashback artwork – did he just use pencils completely, or did he use a brush? It doesn’t look inked, but did Jimmy Palmiotti (who inked the other parts of the book) have anything to do with it? I also love how the panel of Fisk in the present slides into Fisk in flashback, and the face is complete but split between the sharp, “present-day” artwork and the more sketchy “flashback” work. It’s very neat. In the late Nineties, we began seeing letterers go a bit nuts, and while it didn’t always work out, I love Richard Starkings’s and Comicraft’s lettering for Maya the Child. Some of the lettering on this book doesn’t work – you can see the many styles in these examples – but Maya’s “kid letters” are nifty.
Maya is dancing, and we get these two astonishing pages. Once again, we get those rough pencils that are, I think, colored directly from the pencils, which helps the inked parts stand out, as we see in Panel 1 of the first page, where the paint on Maya’s hand is bolder than the rest of the panel and even the page. I remember when I first read this issue, I turned the page to this one, saw that panel, and almost gasped in amazement. It’s stunning, as Quesada takes the time to think about the paint on her hand and how she would hold it and what effect it would have. The fact that he and Isanove put the white hand on her face so that it almost looks as if she imprints the hand she holds in front of her onto her skin is impressive, too. Quesada is still using sharp lines, of course, as the tape around Maya is clearly drawn but, as it unravels, Quesada starts using the thicker, rougher pencils on it. He turns the performance into a dream-like experience, eschewing details in some places and going with faint outlines and rough colors, but it makes the shadow-figures – which of course Maya couldn’t possibly create – stand out a bit more. I love Maya in the final panel, as Quesada draws her with plenty of muscles, which is logical based on her profession. Isanove does brilliant work on the backgrounds, using paint wonderfully, especially in the first panel of the second page, where the shaman captures the devil. I don’t know if Quesada, Isanove, or Starkings/Comicraft put in the letters when Maya’s taping her hands, but it’s very well done. I also like how Quesada shifts the way Maya looks – she’s much less of a cartoonish character when she dances, which is a nifty comment on how this is her “real” self while the one she shows the world in her regular life might be a façade. At least that’s what I think.
After this, Quesada moved into management at Marvel and didn’t draw sequential stuff for a long time. He wrote some comics and drew covers, but it would have seemed that his days of drawing interiors were over. But then he decided he just had to draw the most important Spider-Man story in history, so we’ll finish up with our look at his art with that. Be back here tomorrow, and be sure to find some cool comics in the archives!
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