Monday, March 29, 2010

Art Discussion Month 2010: Planetary/JLA: Terra Occulta by Jerry Ordway

[Continuing Art Discussion Month 2010. 31 days, 31 artists, a whole lot of discussion. The explanation behind my choice of comics and the archive can be found here.]

Planetary/JLA: Terra Occulta. Written by Warren Ellis. Drawn by Jerry Ordway. Coloured by David Baron.

The second of our three Planetary crossover books. In this one, Planetary are basically the Four, hiding the secrets of the world and letting drips and drabs escape for profit, while Bruce Wayne, Clark Kent, and Diana Prince look to take them down.

Jerry Ordway has a great classic look to his art. His figures look uniquely his. He's intricate in what he draws. Diana's hair, for example, has most of the strands drawn -- while not going overboard to the point of an attempt at realism. It's a middle ground. He uses techniques to suggest reality without actually drawing realist pictures. He'll use a lot of lines on the hair, but in patterns to create the illusion of distinct hairs without actually drawing them all.

Though he's inking himself, it looks like pencil art, his style. A judicious use of cross-hatching and lines to create shadows. A softer edge to his lines. One panel where Bruce Wayne, looking down and sad, tells Clark that he thinks Planetary had Clark's parents killed is stunning in the soft use of darkness, intercutting line patterns in the background, and a genuine look of sadness on Bruce's face. Ordway draws good faces. They're very expressive, very rarely in 'neutral,' always reacting to what's going on. It's definitely a case of being able to skim the book and look at just the art to tell what's going on. Very strong storytelling.

His action scenes are like that: expressive faces with very clear movements. Panel-to-panel progression is good. He usually maintains a little distance from characters to show their environment, using close-ups to emphasise what they're thinking/feeling. Rarely do you not see a character's whole body or, at least, the character from the waist up. That gives a sense of reality to the art and makes close-ups actually matter.

The action scenes get their own unique look. Jakita and Diana fight in tilted panels, while Bruce and Elijah are in regular ones. Clark/Ambrose is a mixture of the two. The tilted panels create a sense of movement and energy, but the purpose of both Bruce and Elijah, that practiced expertise lends itself more to a grid -- something more purposeful, more static. They fight like chess where there's energy, but more thought, while Jakita and Diana are warriors that just jump in and let loose.

David Baron's colouring looks like superhero colouring, though darker and more muddied. This is a dark world, not one for bold colours. Lots of browns, blacks, and blues. There's a depressing element to the colouring. Even with the Doors for transport, the colouring is a muted, dark shade of red... it's a dreary world because of Planetary.

Tomorrow, John Cassaday and Planetary/Batman: Night on Earth.