Every day this year, I will be examining the artwork on a single comic book story. Today’s artist is Lee Moder, and the issue is Shinku #2, which was published by Image and is cover dated July 2011. Enjoy!
Shinku is a Japanese vampire comic, in which the title character hunts down Japanese vampires because they deserve to be killed just like vampires from Europe or America, dang it! It’s an excellent comic, and Moder’s art is terrific. Let’s check it out!
We’ll get into Moder’s line work below, but I love this panel because of other things – the angle is tremendous, as Moder places Shinku and Davis in the center of the panel, looking down at them so we not only see them, but the layout of Asano’s building. The thrust of the panel moves us from the lower left into the center, which implies the upcoming intrusion of Shinku into that building – the balcony on which she stands “touches” the building, and therefore acts as a salient in Shinku’s war against Asano. We see on this page – as we’ll see on others – the tremendous coloring job by Michael Atiyeh, as he uses digital tools very well in this book to create a painted look – the balcony is lit by the pink neon sign behind Shinku, so the reflection is a bit haphazard, but still strong. It’s also stands out nicely among the relatively bland coloring of Asano’s hotel and the street below. It’s a neat choice by Atiyeh.
As we’ve seen, Moder gradually became more cartoony over the years, and with Shinku, he evolves again, as his style is still bold, but he and inker Matthew Waite don’t give us lines as thick as we’ve seen over the past few days, which helps a bit with Atiyeh’s coloring. This is the kind of digital coloring that works – Atiyeh uses a lot of nuance in the hues, which works well with Moder’s line work instead of overwhelming it. We still get the strong borders of Shinku’s body, the parallel lines down her side, and the bold and shaggy hair style. Moder doesn’t skimp on details, either, as we see from the bottom panel, as he makes sure to draw in the windows on the buildings and the bruised surface of the moon. Moder also shows that he’s never lost the ability to move us around the page, as Shinku gets her bow together, selects an arrow, and fires. He does some interesting things on the page – the feathers in the arrow flying off in Panel 6 is nicely done – and even Panel 7, where the arrow is moving the “wrong” way, is still well done because Moder draws the arrow’s trail back to the right, where our eyes move. Atiyeh again does gorgeous work with the colors, as he uses all those nice analogous colors – red, blue, and purple – to make the scene blend together, keeping Shinku in the shadows somewhat while we can still see everything she’s doing. It’s nice work from all concerned.
This two-page sequence (which is the end of a slightly longer sequence, but let’s stay focused on these two!) shows how well Moder remains at action, even as his style evolves. The action in Shinku is tremendous – Moder really does a nice job showing what he needs to in each panel, and they flow so well that we get a true sense of motion as we read the pages. Ron Marz, who wrote this, tends to stay out of Moder’s way a lot, which is something a lot veteran writers still don’t do very well. This allows Moder to stage the fight well, while Marz is able to add in some dialogue that simply punches up the scene a bit. I don’t know if Marz or Moder added the two people waiting for the elevator, but it adds a nice sense of humor to the comic which shows up every once in a while, and also gives the reader a bit of an outsider perspective on what Shinku is doing – I mean, if you were waiting for an elevator and the doors opened and you saw that, you’d probably have the same reaction (and if you didn’t, I’d worry about you). The fact that Marz and Moder “step outside” the point of view of Shinku helps the book’s tone quite nicely. They do it with Davis, who doesn’t want to have anything to do with killing vampires, but after the initial shock, he’s kind of an “insider” already, so this scene breaks that tension a bit. Moder does a nice job with the fight – Shinku drops into the elevator, slashes and then stabs the one dude, kicks the other, and then slams her sword into his chest. The characters are positioned well inside each panel, as we see in the final panel, where Moder lowers the point of view angle so that we’re looking “up” at Shinku, making her more dominant. Atiyeh, as we’ve seen, has been using red in interesting places, and here he uses “normal” colors for the walls and on the ancillary characters, which makes the red of the blood stand out really nicely. In the earlier scenes, he used red to set the mood, and here he delivers on that mood, as the vampires get exsanguinated with extreme prejudice.
Moder gives us a nice “3-D” panel for the first one, as Shinku bursts into Asano’s inner sanctum and kicks more ass. His figure work is dynamic – Shinku’s hair flies upward, her right arm is arced upward because she just launched a bunch of throwing stars, and she has her sword out wide to sweep it through anyone’s throat. Atiyeh, again, covers her in red, which makes her look more like a horrible angel. The throwing stars come in from the left, leading us across Panel 2 as they find their targets, and Moder does a good job showing how the vampires move when they’re hit. Shinku runs toward the left in Panel 3, but Moder still makes sure our eyes move from left to right – the sword leads us slightly upward, above the two vampires, one of whom is a bit pissed off. Shinku stands on the right, and while Moder can’t fit her completely in the panel because of its size, it still is an interesting choice, as it makes her look bigger than the page itself, dominating the pathetic vampires, who can’t believe what’s happening to them. Once again, we see that Atiyeh’s coloring works well with Moder’s line work, as Moder puts in a few folds in the vampire’s track suit in Panel 3 and Atiyeh adds darker shades to create more wrinkles. He’s using the white that we’ve seen a lot of other colorists use to create the leather of Shinku’s outfit, which is quite nice.
The use of bold, somewhat angular lines doesn’t always work well with fluid action, but Moder does it quite well, as we see on this page (and others, of course). I love Panel 1, where Shinku somehow bends her body to kick the crap out of some of Asano’s vampire goons. Shinku flows over the page, spinning around, leaping up by pushing off on the chest of the vampire, grabbing her sword, and running out the door with a parting barb. I mentioned earlier that Moder and Waite don’t use as many thick lines as we saw Moder use earlier, but that doesn’t mean they can’t do it, and Asano’s heavily lined face in the final panel is well done, as it shows his consternation that Shinku was able to get so close to him and that she escaped. The variation of line weight is always nice to see.
This is a flashback sequence, and while the idea of two tough guys running at each other in a field is a cliché, the creative team does a nice job with it. I assume Moder uses the same drawing for the first three panels, because why wouldn’t he, and then they head toward each other, with the final panel – the arc of blood – a fairly standard way to end this kind of confrontation (before the inevitable shot of someone without their head). In the first panels, Moder does beautiful work with the waving wheat, and then he shifts the point of view so that we’re not looking at the two men from the side, but from behind both of them in Panels 4 and 5. That breaks up the stereotype just a bit, which is nice. As nice as Moder’s and Waite’s line work is on the page, Atiyeh’s beautiful colors make it even more stunning. The wonderful reds in the sky are, of course, supposed to remind us of blood, but it still works because it’s not quite the same shade that Atiyeh uses for the blood, so it’s still the sky. It even makes the blood stand out more in Panel 6. It’s just another solid choice by Atiyeh.
Shinku shipped its fifth issue two years ago, and despite the fact that it was meant to be an ongoing, I don’t think it’s coming back. It’s too bad, because it really was a superb comic, with Moder working at the top of his game and Marz doing some very nice work (I’m not sure if it was his best work, but it was pretty good). Come back, Shinku!!!!
So that’s Lee Moder’s work. In the past two years, it doesn’t appear as if he’s done much work, which is too bad. But he’s drawn some neat comics, hasn’t he?
I’m not sure what’s coming tomorrow. I have a super-duper special edition of “Year of the Artist” coming up, but it might take me a little bit to put it together, so I doubt if I’ll post it tomorrow (I’m writing this on the 18th of October, and I still want to stay at least a week ahead of the game). But it’s coming! In the meantime, I have to figure out a new artist. I’ll do it, I promise! Fret not, though – there’s plenty of cool stuff in the archives!
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