Every day this year, I will be examining the artwork on a single comic book story. Today’s artist is Mark Texeira, and the issue is Black Panther #2, which was published by Marvel and is cover dated December 1998. These scans are from the trade paperback, which came out in 2001. Enjoy!
I’ve only read one trade of Christopher Priest’s Black Panther (I know there’s at least a second one, but I don’t know if Marvel gave up after that), and it’s a good comic. I’ve heard the entire series is good, and I really should track down the rest of it. But that’s not important right now! What is important is that it’s Texeira on art, although Joe Quesada is credited with “storytelling” in the credits. Does that mean that Quesada laid the pages out and Texeira penciled them? That’s probably it, but it’s a weird credit, especially because the credits page has Texeira doing “art,” which usually means everything. Alitha Martinez gets a credit for “background assists,” which is also fairly vague. But I still wanted to show this, because it’s really the culmination of the Nineties Texeira style and it also shows a slight shift to his newer style, which we’ll see tomorrow. So it’s a good transitional comic.
One thing you might notice is the “softer” line work, which contrasts quite a bit with a lot of Texeira’s earlier Nineties work (I mentioned Stalkers yesterday, and here’s an example of his work on that book). Avalon Studios colored this, and I imagine it’s pretty much all digital, which, as we’ve seen quite often this year, tends to “soften” the line work. Texeira’s line, especially at this point, is hard-edged enough that it tends to work against the coloring, which isn’t a bad thing, as it adds some tension to the art, and we get a little of that here. Black Panther is drawn starkly enough that the softer colors don’t blunt him, and the car in Panel 2 is also drawn with harder lines, so the paint job doesn’t blunt it very much. Certain parts of the art are softer – the wheel in the lower right is a bit squishy – but the digital paints allow us to get the luminescence in Panel 1, which is pretty neat, and the flames in Panel 2, which work pretty well. As much as I don’t love this kind of coloring, occasionally things work better with it.
Okoye and Nakia (Okoye is sitting in the car) are … well, you can read all about them in the caption box. Artistically, they’re fairly typical “Texeira females,” as we saw little bit two days ago and now see in all their glory. We can’t see their faces too closely, but Texeira’s female face is in full effect here. I really like the way Texeira draws women, frankly, because he tends to give them those thick(er) legs – his women tend to look like they’re more muscular and can kick some ass (as the Dora Milaje prove they can do quite often). Texeira is still drawing thick lines on figures like T’Challa, and while he still uses a lot of muscles, T’Challa is a bit less cartoonish than Megalith was yesterday. Texeira uses a lot of blacks, which is a good thing when you’re dealing with this kind of coloring. The blacks help mitigate some of the softness of the colors, and we get pretty good pages like this.
Part of what makes this first arc so good is Priest’s sense of humor, as embodied by the point-of-view character, Everett K. Ross, Black Panther’s contact in the State Department. I won’t get into how Ross ends up hanging out with Mephisto, but their interaction is hilarious, typified by this page, where Ross ends up wearing “the Devil’s pants.” Obviously, Texeira drew Mephisto probably twice and possibly even once and then copied him seven times (he moves only in Panel 7, and that’s just his hand, so I imagine Texeire just changed that much and nothing else), but we can still see the Texeira touches on Mephisto, with the heavily lined musculature, for instance. He doesn’t have a lot to do with Ross on this page, but he does it well – just the way Ross looks around in Panels 4-6 is well done, as is his surprise in Panel 7 and his appreciation in Panel 8, leading to the close-up in Panel 9. Texeira narrows his eyes and crinkles his brow, showing his anxiety at the thought that he might have, indeed, sold his soul for a pair of pants. It’s a hilarious page, and while Texeira doesn’t have a lot to do, he does help sell the joke, which is all you can ask for!
Even as it appears that Texeira is using more photo references for his characters (when Manuel bites Ross’s ID, it just looks like a photo reference, although it’s just a feeling on my part), he still makes them recognizable as “Texeira faces.” We get the wide mouths and often gritted teeth, the relatively sharp eyebrows, and the prominent chins. Texeira, as you can see, usually does nice work with his characters interacting – even though we can’t see their faces straight-on in Panel 2, the disdain in Manuel’s eyes and the faux-toughness on Ross’s face is evident, and Texeira does nice work with Manuel’s sharkishness in Panels 3 and 4. Notice again that the silhouettes in Panel 5 help make the digital coloring look better – the blacks dominate the page, allowing the soft lighting to come from the luminescence around the characters and even suggests a foggy or hazy night. Texeira’s hard lines and blacks again work in opposition to the coloring, but that’s what allows it to work.
Ross ends up at a bar where there’s mud wrestling, because of course there is. He’s rescued by Zuri, a friend of T’Challa’s father, and everyone gets arrested. Texeira doesn’t use as much black on this page, and the results suffer a bit. I guess in Panels 1 and 3 it’s supposed to be a bit messy, as there’s mud everywhere, but it’s still messy. Panel 2 works better, as the coloring in the background makes everyone hazy while Black Panther and his ladies stand out a bit. One thing I will never love about digital coloring – at least this kind of digital coloring, as digital coloring is widely diverse – is the way the colorists tend to lose any sort of nuance and just layer on the hues. The arms and leg wrapped around Zuri in Panel 3 are a good example of this – the colors just look sloppy, and we don’t get a good sense of the actual limbs, just brown blotches. Obviously, this doesn’t account for all digital coloring, even in this comic, but it seems like it crops up too often, even today, almost 20 years later. Meanwhile, you might notice that Texeira isn’t using motion lines anymore. I’ve noted in the past that I really don’t mind motion lines and even like them in many instances, but from what I’ve heard, artists don’t really like using them and try to get away from them if they can. Texeira obviously didn’t think he needed them anymore. I tend to disagree, but that’s just the way it is.
As we moved into the new century, Texeira continued to evolve, and for the final post in his series, I’ll check out a comic that shows his new style fairly well. It’s still Texeiran, but it seems like he was taking more advantage of modern technology, and it seems to benefit him well. So come back and check it out, or lose yourself in the archives!
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