Year of the Artist, Day 309: Mark Texeira, Part 5 - <i>Moon Knight</i> #14

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 Moon Knight #14, which was published by Marvel and is cover dated March 2008. Enjoy!

For the last day of Mark Texeira art, I wanted to check out his work on Moon Knight, because it's excellent art on an excellent comic (he drew a Moon Knight mini-series in 1999, but while it's entertaining, it's similar to his other art of that time period, so I didn't show it). While I was looking at this art, though, I noticed something I forgot - Javier Saltares laid the pages out. Texeira and Saltares have a long working relationship - Saltares penciled Ghost Rider in the early 1990s, and Texeira was inking him then. But Texeira's pencil work on Moon Knight is so cool and so indicative of his current style that I'm sticking with it ... even though I won't write too much about the layouts, I suppose.

The first thing you might notice is that the lines are much "softer" than we've seen from Texeira in the past. I'm tempted to say that his work these days is colored directly from pencils, but I'm not sure if that's the case or if he's just using different tools and colorist Dan Brown is doing something different with the coloring process. Some of the work looks inked quite well, but other parts of it doesn't. If I can speculate some more, perhaps Saltares laid this out fairly lightly and Texeira skipped the pencils altogether, going straight to inks. Whatever is happening, it's nice artwork, as the "softness" of the work seems to work in opposition to Texeira's usual hard lines in a better way even than yesterday's entry. Texeira's strong lines become strong chunks of black in many places, and Brown's hazier palette works within the scene - the snow tends to make everything hazy - and also in the rest of the book, where the coloring is similar. As usual, Texeira doesn't have any problems with the action, and we see that he's pretty much left motion lines behind, although it's interesting that the blood spraying from the punk's mouth in Panel 5 acts a bit like a motion line. This is more subtle than anything we've seen from Texeira so far, and shows nice growth as an artist.

Brown uses a blue/yellow complement in this issue quite a lot, as we see here, but he does try to make it more subtle than a Michael Bay movie, which is nice. The soft light falling over Marc and Marlene in bed isn't a harsh yellow, so it doesn't stand out too much, but it still makes the blue pop a little. We don't see too much of Marlene's ... face here, but we'll see more typical female "Texeira faces" later on. However, we do see enough of her ... face to tell that Texeira is still drawing women in much the same way as he's done for almost 20 years - not that there's anything wrong with that, as I noted yesterday. What really stands out in this sequence is the inking, if it is indeed inking. Texeira uses spot blacks very nicely, but he also uses nice thin lines on parts of Marlene's and Marc's hair, making Marlene's look a bit lusher and Marc's a bit smoother. The blacks really are tremendous, giving us a hint of the old-school Texeira hard lines without ruining the effect of the new-school Texeira art and Brown coloring. It's a nifty trick. Don't worry about Bushman in the back of Panel 3 there - he's a hallucination. Yeah, this Moon Knight series could get a little bonkers sometimes.

Another aspect of Texeira's art on this book us not only the use of spot blacks - I mean, a lot of artists spot their blacks, and it's a good skill to have - but how he uses the shading, as we see here. In the panels where we're a bit farther away from the characters, Texeira uses regular blacks. It makes the bigot in Panel 3 a bit more moronic, because the blacks help highlight his goofy-looking chin. In some cases, the blacks might absolve the artist from concentrating on facial features, and we see a bit of that here, but in Panel 5, when Texeira shows the doofus more closely, he shifts from chunks of black to shading with hatching, which means he has to fill in the facial features a bit more, which he does nicely. In Panel 6, when Rob faces off against the dude, we get lighter shading and hatching again, but it's not so light that it becomes excessive line work in the mode of some others we've seen this year. It remains shading, and it adds some nice nuances to the page. It's interesting how Texeira does this, because it looks simple but helps blend some of his more cartoonish tendencies with a solid realism.

Saltares, I suppose, is the reason for this nice action scene, at least the way it's laid out - I wonder if he or Texeira came up with Panel 4, because that's a clever way to show both characters - but the actual line work is darned good, too. Panel 1, with its black and white, is a good contrast to the rest of the page and also reminds us of Moon Knight's somewhat Manichean outlook on life, while Texeira's silhouette of the rifle is a nice touch, standing out well against the white background. We see again in Panel 4 that Texeira is trying different things, as he uses that half-silhouette of Moon Knight reflected in the window, which Brown colors in a wonderfully restrained fashion - the dull white and brown of the reflection almost looks like crayon work. Texeira wisely uses blacks to shroud the bad guy, with the bottom part of his face shaded by the imminent impact of Moon Knight's feet. His expression is very nice, though - Texeira cocks his eyebrow in surprise, rage, and regret, before we get the nice final panel of his silhouette crashing out the window. It's a nice layout, and Texeira's work on it is very neat.

Moon Knight is getting just a tad more violent in this series, and he appeases Bushman - who he believes is an avatar of Khonshu, the Egyptian god who raised him from the dead ... listen, Moon Knight just has a pretty complicated back story, okay? He's just like Dr. Heinz Doofenshmirtz in that way! Anyway, he appeases Bushman by wrenching that dude's ear off. You know, just like the Quakers do.* Texeira, obviously, goes with the silhouette route to show the crucial moment, not necessarily because Marvel was squeamish about it (this was about a year before you could buy a Marvel comic showing the Blob eating the intestines of the Wasp, after all), but because it stands out nicely on the page, especially when Brown uses the nice bright red in the background. Texeira's Bushman isn't quite as horrific as David Finch's was in the first story arc, but he's still pretty horrific, as Texeira gives him those wide eyes and wide mouth (Moon Knight sliced the skin of his face off ... look, it's complicated, okay?!?!?) so he has a skull-like visage, but he still manages to show some expressions on Bushman's face. It's nicely done. And I love the final panel, where we get no holding lines on Moon Knight's cape and Brown colors it that soft white/gray. It's a terrific image.

* Seriously, people, look out for Quakers. You can't trust them!!!!!

This page is here because it shows the female "Texeira face" in its glory! We still don't see all of Marlene's face, but the newscaster is very much a Texeiran woman, with the heavy-lidded eyes with plenty of black around them; the thin, sharp brows; the small nose; and the thick lips. It's unusual that Texeira doesn't give her high cheekbones, but there's a hint of them in Panel 5. Again, I have no problem with this - I just wanted to show that Texeira is still drawing women this way, even though he's changed his style a little. Also, Tony Stark looks a little bit like Howard Hughes. I wonder if that was deliberate on Texeira's part.

There's a lot of nice work on this page, and I'm not talking about the young lady wearing the skimpy clothing. In that panel, notice how Texeira again uses that shading to show the weak winter light coming into the room - Texeira uses some hatching on the girl, but not too much, and the shading assists the hatching very well. Texeira uses the thin black lines to show the shadows from the blinds, which is quite neat, and he uses blacks in the background very effectively to highlight the figures but also to remind us that it is winter, so of course the light isn't going to be strong. The blacks in Panel 4 are really nicely done, as Brown rims the figures in lighter colors, backlighting them and showing how weak the light is. Finally, Texeira adds the stripes to Killer Shrike's face in Panel 5, which helps highlight his dead eyes and grim mouth (oh, yeah, that's Killer Shrike). The mood on this page is nicely communicated, and Texeira has a lot to do with that.

Texeira has continued to do work, but I haven't gotten much of it because I haven't been terribly interested in the books he's drawn (no, not even Space Punisher, although I might get that at some point). I still like his work, though, so I'm sure I'll pick up more of it in the future!

Tomorrow I'm going slightly old-school, as the next artist began his career in the Seventies, man! Can you handle the bell bottoms? Of course you can!

Hey, remember the archives? Sure you do! Give them a look!

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