Every day this year, I will be examining the artwork on a single comic book story. Today’s artist is Joe Madureira, and the issue is Battle Chasers #5, which was published by DC/WildStorm/Cliffhanger and is cover dated May 1999. Enjoy!
I didn’t read Battle Chasers when it was coming out, and I still have only read this one issue, and that’s only because I picked this up to check out Madureira’s art. It’s not really my thing, but it’s nice that Madureira was able to do it, no matter how slowly it took to show up. Let’s get to that art, okay?
Something about artists drawing stuff for Wildstorm around the turn of the century brings out the excess – this book is very Bachalo-on-Steampunk-esque, or maybe that was very Madureira-on-Battle Chasers-esque. Their styles are similar, as they both, by this time, were much more influenced by manga than earlier in their career (well, Madureira was always influenced by manga, but it is much more apparent here than earlier), and maybe it’s just the way both books were colored that makes them similar. Beats me.
Anyway, this is “peak classic Madureira,” I guess, before he went off into the video game industry for a while. When he came back, his style had shifted a bit, which we’ll see tomorrow, but Battle Chasers was probably his peak because he was doing what he wanted, unfettered by editors (okay, yes, Scott Dunbier edited this, but an editor at WildStorm, I would imagine, had a very different job than one at Marvel), and he got to go a bit nuts. He’s exaggerating even more – Calibretto in Panel 1 and Bulgrim in Panel 3 are ridiculous, but they’re also a giant mechanical thing and a djinn, I guess, so it’s not surprising that they’re a bit weird. Bulgrim in Panel 3 is especially crazy – Madureira gives him that gigantic neck and mountainous shoulders, which always look goofy to me (and it’s not the only character he does it on). Bulgrim also has the giant Madureira mouth, although his eyes aren’t quite as big as we might expect (probably because he’s evil). Madureira makes up for that with Gully’s giant eyes, which are even wider than we saw yesterday on Tabitha. Madureira’s lack of lips on Gully is a fairly standard manga trope, and it makes her even more of a manga character. I can see why Battle Chasers‘s schedule was so jacked up – Madureira doesn’t take any panel off, and the rich textured coloring (by Liquid!) is very nice, too. You can tell it’s a labor of love, and it’s not surprising that it took Madureira so long to get each issue done.
This is the next page, as Gully tries to help Calibretto and then gets peeved at the soldiers who fired on him. Yeah, you don’t want to piss off a girl with giant magic gauntlets, and Gully shows them what for. We see the nice details that Madureira has always excelled at – Calibretto’s beaten-up body is nicely drawn in Panel 1, including his shattered arm – and he packs a lot onto the page. Once again, we see that his art is becoming even more “manga-fied” – Captain Clavius in Panel 2 has the big chin and wide face that Madureira often gives his characters, but now he too has no lips. Madureira moves us from the upper left to the lower right well, and his layout is nice and balanced, with Panel 1 and Panel 8 acting as counterweights to each other and the middle six panels leading us down and to the left on the bottom really well. Madureira uses silhouettes nicely in Panel 8, as Gully puts her magic gloves on and bashes the ground. The fact that he hatches a little “outside the lines” of the silhouettes add to their velocity, which is a nice touch. I mentioned Richard Starkings’s showy lettering when I wrote about Steampunk, and it’s on display here, too, as we saw above and see her in Panel 8. I kind of have a soft spot for the lettering of this era, but it’s still fairly ostentatious.
So Cranius (yes, Cranius) gets sucked into the earth when Knolan casts a spell, and we get this page. Panel 3 is a fairly good example of Madureira hands – he tends to give his characters, especially the male ones, short, thick fingers – and we see in Panel 5 a good representation of an old man as Madureira tends to draw them. He loves giving men big bushy mustaches and beards, which tends to make them look more cartoonish, which is probably the point. I do like, once again, his use of silhouette in Panel 4 – the black really goes well with the hellish red. Of course, the crimson bands of Cyttorak – oh, wait, they’re not crimson! – are the highlight of the page, as the colorist uses their digital palette to the best of their ability, making the tentacles stand out brightly against the duller background. On paper this page looks fairly dark, which, as I’ve noted a lot this year, is an annoyance of a lot of digital coloring. It happened even 15 years ago!
Garrison fights Brass Demur (yes, Brass Demur), that blue-skinned fellow, and Madureira shows that he’s still pretty good at fight scenes even when both his characters look more like Barry Bonds than a normal human being. Brass Demur (I feel like a goofball just typing that) dislocates Garrison’s shoulder in Panel 1 but Garrison manages to sweep the leg, Johnny, in Panel 2. Madureira gives us a close-up of Garrison popping his shoulder back in, which makes Brass Demur cringe in Panel 5. He recovers, though, and charges at Garrison in Panel 6. Madureira is really going nuts with the exaggeration on this page, as both Garrison and Brass Demur have muscles piled on top of muscles, and we see how wide he draws Brass Demur’s torso, continuing his tradition of doing that. Brass Demur also has a giant neck like Bulgrim, although we can’t see it as well. Madureira does a nice job with the blacks on Garrison’s face as he tough-guys his shoulder back into its socket. All of the classic Madureira tics are here – the big, weirdly shaped mouths, the giant chins, and in Panel 6, we get a better glimpse of what we saw yesterday when Sean began screeching – Brass Demur’s back seems to loom up over his head, which is just bizarre. As I noted, this was something a lot of artists did back then (and you still see it today occasionally), and it just looks silly. But that’s the way it is!
Again, there’s a lot of dynamism on this page, even though Madureira is tipping into serious silliness with the exaggeration. I mean, look at Bulgrim in Panel 4. That’s just crazy. Madureira, however, shows that he still knows what he’s doing – the blacks on Bulgrim in Panel 1 are very menacing, and he does a good job with the diagonal in Panels 1-3, slowly moving us down and to the right, which pushes us to the right in Panel 4. He wisely places the impact point to the right, not only because he knows all about the Rule of Thirds, but because he wants to get most of Bulgrim in, and that means moving everything to the right where he can still get all of Gully in the panel and most of Bulgrim. This allows him to contrast their sizes, which is the most impressive thing about the panel. It’s a terrifically structured page, even though I just can’t get over that neck. I mean, really.
Bulgrim gets sucked back into that jewel thing (which makes sense, I guess, considering that he’s a djinn), and all is well in the universe … for this issue, at least. I wanted to show this page because of the fancy special effects in Panel 1, of course, where the colorist goes nuts with the reds and oranges. Panel 2 is nice, too, as Madureira provides a nice sketchy outline of Bulgrim as he gets sucked back into the jewel and the colorist does the rest. For the last time today, we see Madureira’s manga influence in Panel 3 and he amazing details in Panels 4 and 5, as Calibretto stands up. This isn’t exactly my cup of tea, but you can’t deny that Madureira really put a ton of work into it.
This is, weirdly enough, the only issue of Battle Chasers I could find when I went looking for it, and Red Monika isn’t in it. I know, right? Sorry, but you’ll just have to deal with it!
Tomorrow, I’ll look at a more recent Madureira comic, one he drew after his return to comics. Boy, that was a different look, wasn’t it? See more different looks in the archives!
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