Sunday, March 28, 2010

Art Discussion Month 2010: Planetary/The Authority: Ruling the World by Phil Jimenez

[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/The Authority: Ruling the World. Written by Warren Ellis. Pencilled by Phil Jimenez. Inked by Andy Lanning (with thanks to Phil Jimenez). Coloured by Laura Martin.

Phil Jimenez draws thin people very well. When I think of his art, I think of thin people. In Ruling the World, he's also the first artist to draw the casts of Planetary and The Authority who wasn't either series's original artist. That's saying something. (Though, that's just me remembering this book coming out before The Authority #13. It may have come out after, but, whatever, it was obviously started before. Jimenez wins on the technicality at the very least.)

This is an interesting little team-up book wherein neither group really crosses paths. In Judgement, Rhode Island, a big octopus/squid monster is unleashed by the Planetary group by accident and the Authority clean it up. It had something to do with eggs and HP Lovecraft. Then, an insane man kills the people sorting out Doc Brass & company's supercomputer that plugs into the Bleed and unleahses an alternate version of the Authority that are lizard people and conquer realities. The Authority and Planetary stop them in a separate manner, never really working together.

Jimenez's layouts stand out, because they're not too similar to that in either of the main series involved here. He doesn't do a lot of widescreen shots ala The Authority, something that's also carried over to Planetary to an extent. That's a function of the plot here, which seems a bit more jampacked than an issue of either series. A lot is going on, so Jimenez does layouts with staggered panels, panels that overlap a little, panels overlaid on larger images. Not many pages follow a strict grid, which is unusual for a Warren Ellis comic. Even the pages that go for the grid look have figures breaking panel borders. The overlapping panels do give the book some forward momentum -- that there is so much that it just pushes you forward.

In some cases, the overlapping smaller panels give the impression of quick jokes or quick camera shots. Not something to linger on, but something that's there and you move on quickly. A woman bringing the Planetary trio coffee says something back to Elijah's remark about something or other -- what it is doesn't matter, but it's got a bit of a laugh in it, so it gets a small panel. A visual cue to its importance.

Jimenez does good facial expressions. There's a bit more smiling than I'd expect, but you don't get the same look on different characters' faces really. Smiles look different on each, for the most part. He's also good at drawing smiles that show just the top row of teeth -- something a lot of artists don't do even though it's more realistic.

He uses cross-hatching for shading, but sparsely. It doesn't overwhelm the art at all. You can think of people who overuse it, no doubt, well, Jimenez does it right. Faces will have it under their cheek bones, maybe towards the side of the neck, and that's it. Very minimal cross-hatching.

The detail in the art is stunning. Coupled with the page layouts, some pages are a little too busy, I think. A little too packed. It's almost information overload. That's a risk with this sort of style, but he's good at holding back in the right places, going minimal on backgrounds when there's too much on the page already. Not always 100% successful, but more than not.

There's one page that stands out as an oddity. It's a Planetary-centric page. They're on the Carrier, the Authority's HQ, and the layout is like this: nine panels. Five tiers. The first, third, and fifth tier contain one panel, each showing a different member of the Planetary group with a long, rectangular light blue shape behind their heads, all focused on from the shoulder up, top of the heads cut off. The second and fourth tiers all contain three panels, each the same size, each showing the regular action going on. The first panel of the page, featuring the Drummer's solo panel has him talking, but the other two character-specific panels don't. They kind of fit into the flow of the page, but it also wouldn't look wrong without them. They add short beats, but not essential ones. It's an odd page since it's the only one designed in that sort of way.

Laura Martin, colourist for The Authority and Planetary colours this issue and it looks good, but not as good as either book. The colours aren't as subtle and detailed as they are on The Authority and not as bold as they are on Planetary. Jimenez is a bit more workmanlike than Hitch or Cassaday, so that makes sense. Sorry, I shouldn't be referencing the other books since this should stand on its own, but it's hard given the nature of it. It's well-done, but, like the writing, never feels completely cohesive or at home with what's going on. Not sure where to fall between the two books.

Tomorrow, Jerry Ordway and Planetary/JLA: Terra Occulta.