Year of the Artist, Day 321: Nick Dragotta, Part 3 - <i>The Age of the Sentry</i> #6

Every day this year, I will be examining the artwork on a single comic book story. Today's artist is Nick Dragotta, and the issue is The Age of the Sentry #6, which was published by Marvel and is cover dated May 2009. These scans are from the trade paperback, which came out in 2009. Enjoy!

The Age of the Sentry is a fun comic with a lot of good artists, and Dragotta draws the main story in a fun, 1960s style. It's interesting looking at the different style and also see some things that aren't quite as fun and foreshadow some of his darker work in the future. So let's dive right in!

First of all, Ursus the Ultra-Bear is pretty awesome, in case you're wondering. Dragotta doesn't always use a six-panel grid in this comic (as we'll see), but this simple layout is a staple throughout, as if Dragotta wants to remind us of the old-school nature of the book he's drawing. Dragotta's layout means that it's easy to read, as we move across the page like we're reading a book. This allows him to place the sight gag of Lindy leaning in for a kiss and Rob ignoring her next to each other, which makes it work better. It's a clever little joke. Dragotta is inked by Gary Martin here, and while he's using clean lines, Martin does thicken some of the lines - Rob's muscles, for instance - so that Dragotta's work has some texture to it. It's a nice touch.

This is the next page, and we get to see two of the Sentry's arch-enemies, one of whom is a bit goofy. No guesses which one is which! The Void is a terrifically designed bad guy, and he reminds me of some of the characters in East of West, which is still years away. He's just damned creepy. Dragotta puts him into this four-color landscape and matches him against the white-bread Sentry, and the contrast is really nice. The fact that the Void is in black and white compared to Val Staples's wonderfully bright world around him is also clever. Dragotta does a keen job in Panel 3 with the Void's facial expression, too - he angles the eyes slightly downward, doesn't make them too wide, and makes sure his teeth are sharp, so that when Staples puts the red in, his creepiness is highlighted even more. It's a neat page because of the Void's presence.

Dragotta goes a bit crazy with Cranio's secret base, but you have to admire his (and Martin's, probably) commitment! I really like Panel 2 here, because we've seen and will see that Dragotta can do action quite well, so the fact that Sentry's punch looks a bit awkward is, I think, deliberate - the pose, the motion lines, and the cramped perspective remind me of the Sixties, and I wonder if that's what Dragotta was going for (I can't really explain it better than that - it just looks like a "1960s punch," if you know what I mean). Dragotta does a nice job turning Cranio into jagged shapes, too - in most modern comics, that would be done more with coloring, I suspect, and the edges wouldn't be as crisp, but because of the tone of the book, Dragotta makes sure to line everything and Staples uses flatter coloring to fit. In the background of Panel 4, we see Gorax, the creepy insect dude, and I like that it's just dropped in there (even though Cranio is narrating the same events), because Parker and Dragotta don't make this just a comic that looks like it's set in the olden days - it's also a good modern superhero story, so they know they can throw some bizarre stuff in there. The balance works very well, and it's nice to see.

In the previous example, the Void has that helmet on, so we didn't get to see his rockin' hat. Look at that glorious thing. It really completes the ensemble. We can also see the Void's bow tie, which is present in the above example but is very hard to spot. Staples makes sure it's red, which is perfect, and while I have railed against people wearing bow ties in the past, I'm certainly not going to tell the Void he looks like a tool. We see him more clearly here, as Dragotta gets rid of the holding lines so that he really is an absence rather than a presence, which is nifty. In Panel 3, underneath the joke about the initials, Dragotta does the old "brick wall" thing, with the bricks appearing as simple blocks while the mortar between them is negative space, an effect I always dig. You can also spot how Staples uses the tan on the Void's white shirt a little, making it more clear that the background stuff is just the two characters remembering earlier events. In the foreground, Dragotta and Martin use cleaner lines and Staples continues to use bright colors. It's a cool little trick, especially as Cranio is info-dumping pretty hard here.

There's not much to say here - I just like the panel. Dragotta gives us a bunch of Earths, strung out across the universe like a necklace, either leading us toward the Sentry or away from him, however you want to read the page. In the background, we get suns, comets, and exploding planets, with nice solid lines that makes the cosmos look more comic-booky, for lack of a better word. Staples does his part, too - in modern comics, it's far too easy to smear colors on a page like this and lose the strong line work, but Staples makes sure to respect Dragotta's borders, so even though he uses some digital tricks with luminescence for the suns, he doesn't go too far and generally keeps the bright colors inside the lines, which allows the black behind it to provide a good backdrop. Staples is a really good colorist, so this isn't surprising, but it's still nice to see.

Yes, more from the Void, because he's just so cool-looking. This is a nice fight scene, as Dragotta moves us across the page well, although I'm not sure about Panel 4 - the Sentry is punching the Void, but the angles are all off. Other than that, though, it's neat, as the Void avoids the eye beam, punches the Sentry, then strips to show the Sentry ... what, exactly? That he's nice and fit? Anyway, we get the weirdness of the Void in the first two panels, and then the meanness of Eddie in Panel 5, where Dragotta gives us a close-up that looks very "Dragotta-esque" - Eddie's forehead is a bit big, his nose is a bit long, and the way Dragotta tilts his head and narrows his eyes is something we'll see more of in his artwork. The line work, as it's been throughout, is excellent - the blacks on Eddie's face in that close-up don't make him look dirty, they make him look evil, and it's an even bigger contrast between him and the Sentry than it was when he was the Void. Staples again uses the glowing effect sparingly, which is smart, as it makes the glow pop a bit more but doesn't overwhelm the page. As we've seen throughout, Staples knows what he's doing.

Dragotta continued to evolve, and he also continued to get higher-profile work. Tomorrow we'll look at another neat mini-series he drew with a different idiosyncratic writer, but this time it's much more in the style that everyone thinks of when they think of Nick Dragotta (and you do think of him, don't you?). It's getting toward the end of the year, but you still have time to take a look at the archives!

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