I think I’m going to make this kind of a feature.

July 16, 2009 at 3:42 am (Comic Books)

Each week, I’ll review a comic that came out which inspired thoughts. Sounds like a great deal for visiting a comic blog, right?

After Wednesday Comics’ for the most part stutter step which may or may not deserve more mention, I instead turn to the impeccable but impeachable

Captain America #601

One can, and one will, make a startling comparison to begin this review: Framing sequences in comic books resemble dialogue in porn movies. Purely utilitarian, with no function except to tell a story in the “present” to have occurred in the comic’s fictional past.

Take this comic for instance, for instance, whose framing sequence has absolutely no moment of character change occurring, or, heck, is anything except primer for a war hero’s story. Nick Fury begins huddled around a television screen watching the exploits of heroes

Cap 601 Nick intro

and Bucky walks in to unload the motherlode of diverting combat story. It’s practically Nick Fury’s fantasy come true, at this point, and he responds, ready to play.

(In order to prove how hard Nick Fury is to please, after Bucky tells the story, we see Nick Fury turn away from the computer, dead bored from Bucky’s story but still kind enough to let him think he listened to the whole thing:

End parenthetical note.).

If all of this seems weird for me to mention, it’s because the dots have not all been connected, yet. I mention the true, but seemingly meaningless comparison of the two to demonstrate Brubaker’s stellar knowledge of both unique genres and the incredible facets during their interaction. Wait for the costume change, and then it’ll make sense.

I now don the Postmodern Barney Costume. It’s still purple, but only the purple that everyone but you seems to think is really purple. And now, the latest edition of Subtext… what subtext?

The sly smile of each to other in a lonely Shield Helicarrier after hours, Nick Fury staying up late to “watch videos” all by himself, even the sentimental forgetting panels as the two young heroes become one iamge instead of two, yes, it seems that a quiet night is exactly what both want. But what if they want to be quiet to each other? Bucky turning out to be more than the experienced, innocent boy Nick Fury always thought he was. The good guys took him on, “the whole team”, even, Bucky says to demonstrate his experience. “That musta sucked”, Nick so truthfully stated, hands advancing forwards towards the nubile superhero in front of him, gun drawn ever so casually.

It is enough to make one reviewer blush. Fortunately, for the sake of one’s cheeks, Colan did not get the subtext memo, and illustrated Bucky’s butt in shadow.


And Gene Colan deserves more mention than the slighter rubescence of its most grateful audience. Ancient comic artists, dragged from the past to illustrate the characters of their earlier careers almost uniformly perform a ridiculous rite of auto-homage, where their classic style is resurrected, dusted off with modern coloring techniques, and presented as something remotely related aesthetically to the original.

Just look at Thor: Lost Tales of Asgard or Curt Swan’s Whatever Happened to The Man of Tomorrow (not that stylistic aging is a bad thing for that comic, but Curt Swan just did a marathon through his entire career during those comics). if you want to see how much the former masters depend on the coloring techniques of their time for their style. Or look at Miles’ Davis’ self sampling Doo-Bop to see how he fares with an inorganic drum machine behind him instead of an organically juttering and sprinting session drummer.

The sole exceptions, of course, are Frank Miller when returning to Batman because he flew over three cuckoo’s nests, and Jack Kirby on Captain America in the sixties, with the Falcon in tow during the seventies, him because he flew under three cuckoo nests and adopted a quick style to churn out more books with more vivacity instead of less with more realism.

So the question remaining for this comic are threefold: one, how will colorist interact with Colan, will Gene Colan simply turn in a moment of remembrance instead of a remarkable new work, and would that second question really be that much of a problem if he was?

The answer to all questions is uniformly positive: Dean White (credited with “color art”, a recurring theme, if spoonerism, of comics I’ve reviewed recently) colors each pool of pencil and empty paper in elegant tones, making each section of color rounded off, the entire page an apparent charcoal composition executed with inhuman control:

The second question, of him returning to his style instead of expanding it? While Colan still retains the supposed scratchiness of his more famous periods, it is a style that gains much from being dusted off. An artist more famous for what didn’t get put on the page than what did. According to his fan-sites biography, “He’s the only artist today whose work is often published directly from his pencils”, and from the man himself on various inkers he worked with: “[The drawing] started with me, and as far as I’m concerned, it ended with me. I was just hopeful that the finished product would look close to what I did.” Just looking at his sketches, it’s clear how much this aids the effortlessly flowing draftsmanship. For example, look at on of his cityscapes. He’s practically rubbing his finger on the paper, using graphite as expressive as charcoal:

And, besides the much more supportive modern inking/colorization techniques that follow Colan’s detailed pencil shadings more faithfully, Colan also continues to elaborate and stylize his page construction, turning in pages composed with an eye for clean storytelling and murky boundaries, the page as a mansion of movement instead of camera’s viewpoint:

Just looking at the page earlier discussed in levity, he has five separate panels in the comic, all spiraling downward less and less, and all conveying a sense of the third dimension. Nick leaning closer to the left page, Bucky standing outside of his panel, not to mention the off centeredness of the two television screens bumping over one another, all reveal this as no mere page in a comic: it’s a veritable diorama!

Cap 601 pg 2 full

It’s enough to make the other comic on the stands today that just begs to innovate with panel usage, Wednesday Comics #2, absolutely jealous with its prudent adherence to traditional page construction. (Well, Gene Colan and J.H. Williams III, of course, who would have elaborate frames around each page in etioliated ecstasy, but the train digresses: choo choo).

Err, regardless. Colan?

Still the man.

Brubaker, too, in all his anagogical glory.


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