Hey now! It's high time I picked up this Scenic Route decade-crawl of JRJR's work. Let's have a look at his work from the first decade of the 21st century. He was probably best-known as a Spider-Man artist during the decade itself, but we'll look at all of that in a separate Spidey-centric post. As before I won't be looking at everything he released in the years between 2000 and 2009, just the stuff on my external hard drive. Which is to say, most of it, but incomplete.
Until about a month ago, the only bit of JRJR's 2000s work I'd seen was -
which I bought as it came out. It started life as a 6-issue mini-series but was expanded to 7 issues when Neil Gaiman (its author) got to issue 5 and realized he needed more room. Kirby-concepts tend to do that to people. It's an appropriately cosmic and globe-spanning tale, doing justice to and arguably even improving on the original series *, and JRJR's work (as inked by Danny Miki and Tom Palmer) rises to the occasion.
|* I've never read the 1985 series, so I can't comment on that one. Or anything post-this-series. Feel free to let me know in the comments what your favorite Eternals saga is.|
As always I'm here not to talk writing so much as to take the Scenic Route through JRJR's art over the decades. It's difficult not to notice, though, the storytelling even in these isolated, non-chronological screencaps below. The man knows how to lay out a page, not to call attention to itself - though it certainly does - but to the unfolding story.
|Mixed in with his customary flare for denoting super-powered, demigod-like folk.|
Next up, JRJR (with Klaus Janson)'s and Reginald Hudlin's take on:
I've discussed elsewhere my enduring affection for Don McGregor's Black Panther stories from Jungle Action and Marvel Premiere, as well as the original Lee/Kirby (and Kirby's odd return to the title in the 70s) stories from Fantastic Four. Outside of those, though, my exposure to the Wakanda mythos is scattershot. This version - a soft reboot, I suppose - is enjoyable, but how it ranks up against the other takes on the character I can't say.
The art is either augmented or overwhelmed by Dean White's colors, depending on your taste. For me, it's a bit of both.
|Here I'd say it improves considerably an already great picture.|
|Elsewhere, not so much.|
|Mostly, I think it's beautiful.|
Next up, two of the most wonderfully kinetic entries in the just-lying-around-all-storyboarded-up-and-waiting-to-be-the-most-enjoyable-TV-ever-made sweepstakes:
ENEMY OF THE STATE
AGENT OF S.H.I.E.L.D.
These 12 issues (Wolverine v3 20-31) are written by Mark Millar and inked by Klaus Janson Jr. In the first arc, Wolverine is seemingly brainwashed by HYDRA and the Hand and becomes Public Enemy Number One. The action is relentless: a typical sequence involves a mass melee with severed limbs flying about before, say, dropping from a S.H.I.E.L.D. aircraft carrier in the South Pacific into a frenzy of sharks.
An entire three-hundred-and-twenty-five issue series could be done of just Wolverine fighting sharks, and I'd be happy. These panels are as close as I'll likely get; let's split the difference.
As mentioned here: "Romita Jr. got an opportunity to illustrate almost every A-list hero Marvel had to offer over the arc(s)."
That's Kitty and Rachel Summers in that last screencap. Not the versions I used to know, of course; to me, Kitty looks like Illyana Rasputin in that pic, and Rachel like Rogue. Part of me thinks Marvel or DC or any caretakers of long-established characters should go back to distributing (and enforcing) official visual designs for long-established characters, like Marvel did with JRJR's Dad or DC with José Luis García-López. But only part of me - mostly I like seeing traditional designs adapted into different artists' milieu.
|Unless said artist sucks, of course. Which we're in no danger of here!|
Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. features a deprogrammed Logan getting his revenge on the Hand.
It's incredible fun. The art, the action, the one liners, the little beats here and there, the plot twists, the villains, the heroes, the violent blend in-between encapsulated by Wolverine - all of it.
|Rebuilding the S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier must be a lucrative business. I wonder who has the contract?|
In both story arcs Elektra plays a central role.
|Including almost an homage to a similar sequence from DD: Man Without Fear.|
|Her partnership in carnage and intrigue with Logan feels totally natural.|
We'll finish this overview with JRJR's work on:
I asked the guy who got me into 70s Hulk what he thought of both John Romita Jr. and - knowing he's been an active comics reader all these years, making monthly trips to the comics shop despite hating most everything published since the 70s - what he thought of this run on Hulk. His answer: "you have to understand, the Hulk is my favorite character, and Armaggedon is my favorite Hulk villain, and JRJR drew Armageddon with his brains coming out of his ears." Fair enough.
|I guess it is kinda brutal.|
This run on Hulk (written by Paul Jenkins, author of the notably excellent Wolverine: Origins among his achievements) is probably great. I can never tell with Hulk. Anytime I read any non-70s take on the character (excepting the bits of Peter David's run that I've read from the 80s) I just want to read the 70s issues again. That's not a comment on the non-70s stuff, just an ongoing confession. A cry for help? Maybe even a test...
I digress. It's a perfectly cool run on the book, with Bruce/ the Hulk mostly in Richard-Kimble-Fugitive mode. And as I say a lot during these posts, I'm only here for the pics, so hey, comin' atcha.
|Throughout most of the arc when Bruce is on the road, he's haunted / soothed by the vision of a seductive woman while doing his metronome meditation.|
|It comes to the fore in a compelling way during one almost-wordless issue where Bruce meets an autistic girl on the bus and they form a brief psychic connection.|
|I wish I could say "And this issue was written by Stephen King" because of that description, but alas. I bet it'd be his favorite issue of this Hulk run, though. (And deservedly so - it's great.)|
Some other thoughts:
|(1) As per usual, JRJR's non-superheroics scenes are some of the best-drawn. Always the mark of a comics professional, for your humble tour guide.|
|(2) Equally as-per-usual, Doc Samson shows up to get slapped around.|
|And (3) there's this nice unreliable-narrator Frankenstein sequence, as well.|
|Reminded me of the similar sequence from Tales from the Black Freighter.|
And Marvel's big event series from 2007:
WORLD WAR HULK
WHO'LL STOP THE RAIN?
|I only grabbed a couple of examples, but JRJR's big on the rain.|
NEXT: Your Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man!