Jordie Bellaire colors Agatha Harkness

There were a couple of Marvel sequences recently that made me think “this is why I read comics.” Even though the pages are in two different series with two different artists, they are both colored by Jordie Bellaire and they both feature the white-haired witch, Agatha Harkness. In both cases, we see how a limited palette shows off what Bellaire can do–and how heavily Bellaire contributes to the integrity of the stories she works on.

Scarlet Witch #1 opens quietly with Vanesa Del Rey’s dark, scratchy lines soaking up Bellaire’s moody colors. Agatha, in ghost form, is talking with her protege Wanda.

Agatha is dry, sardonic, and all in blue gray. Her coloring matches Wanda’s sad eyes. Wanda’s red dressing gown strikes a minor chord with the magenta of the room. These rich bloody colors work with James Robinson’s dialogue to drench the panels in a feeling of privacy and the bond between two women.

In The Vision #3, we go back in time to when Agatha was alive. She and her familiar are performing a ritual to see into the future. The mood immediately shifts with time and place because the colors are so subdued after pages and pages of the Vision family’s bright green hair against their red skin. The Agatha panels start quietly enough.

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The dimmer palette accentuates Gabriel Hernandez Walta’s inking in a way the earlier pages, bulging with color, don’t. It’s a sort of nakedness. Tom King’s narration carries through the scene, moving at a different pace–on a different path–than the pictures. The boxes have been magenta all along, but  now they seem to presage Agatha’s appearance.

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As the Agatha panels turn vicious and bloody, the red/magenta juxtaposition appears again–and again it speaks to intimacy between Wanda and Agatha.

The carnage reminds us of another supernatural white-haired woman Bellaire colored: Alice in Image’s Pretty Deadly by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Emma Rios.

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With a few colors, Bellaire both heightens Rios’s lines and stays out of their way. It’s one of those things that looks easy when done right–but if everybody could do it, these books wouldn’t stand out from the field as much as they do.

 

Release the Quirky-Cute!

I was a little punchy when I wrote this review.

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Originally published at Newsarama

Captain Marvel #8
Written by Kelly Sue DeConnick
Art by Marcio Takara and Lee Loughridge
Lettering by Joe Caramagna
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by Lilith Wood
Rating: 8 out of 10

Whether you love cats or find them unsettling, you’ll appreciate how Kelly Sue DeConnick turns a running gag into its own clever storyline in Captain Marvel #8. The action heats up and the visuals get more bodacious in this issue, which is the second-half of a set piece show-casing guest artist Marcio Takara. DeConnick and Takara release the quirky-cute, along with some risky space business, some beautifully gross anatomy, and a few tugs on the heart strings. This fun but poignant issue advances the character development of Carol Danvers and friends, and positions the story to go anywhere from here.

In Captain Marvel #8, the word count falls after the previous issue’s quieter, more conversational introduction to Takara’s art. The two-issue arc began with DeConnick taking Carol down a peg or two with nightmares, the inconveniences of transit on a borrowed ship, and three insubordinate companions (including her cat, Chewie). Things start to get wild when Rocket turns out to be right about Chewie actually being a rare animal called a flerken. At the beginning of Issue #8, Chewie has lain eggs, and some unsavory parties are descending on Carol’s ship looking for a good deal on flerken.

DeConnick has the confidence to make playful storytelling decisions, but she keeps things smooth and continuous for readers. This flerken set-piece accommodates a guest artist well, and reaffirms my impression of DeConnick as the curator of the Captain Marvel experience. Regular artists need to take a break, but sometimes it feels like editorial teams don’t respect the destructive power of the guest artist issue. DeConnick provides an illuminating little detour that is its own discrete unit and sets David Lopez up well to come back in for a fresh arc.

Takara was a good choice to fill in for David Lopez. His art is distinct enough to give readers a taste of something new, but they won’t have the jarring feeling that they’ve become part of a social science experiment. Like DeConnick, Takara seems to understand how to support whimsy with structure. His lines are loose but economical, spontaneous-feeling but intentional-looking. His clean, intuitive art leaves a lot of the definition work to colorist Lee Loughridge, and lets DeConnick’s writing round out the emotional tone. In Captain Marvel #7, Takara showed he can make a subdued issue beautiful. In Captain Marvel #8, he gets to go crazy on some floaty space goo, Chewie’s freaky auto-evisceration abilities, and of course some Captain Marvel pyrotechnics.

DeConnick and Takara make this issue funny and rambunctious enough to provide cover for the sweet, heartfelt parts. Carol tries to make wise decisions, but circumstances force her to learn from the young Tic, the obnoxious Rocket, and even her own stubborn cat. The isolation of Carol in space with a small assemblage of other oddballs has given us a chance to know her better. The fact that she alternately grows and is humbled is a large part of why this Captain Marvel continues to be so beloved. New readers jumping on here will be just in time to get excited for whatever’s next.

Captain Marvel is Easy to Love, Damn it

Kelly Sue DeConnick is like one of those girls you want to be contrarian and not like, but then you’re assigned to be lab partners with her in chemistry and you CAN’T NOT LIKE HER. Because she actually is awesome.

I mean, I’ve never met her but I spent time with some of her comic books.

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(Madame Eleanides is venerable AND awesome.)

This was my Capt. Marvel #6  review on Newsarama from a couple weeks ago:

Captain Marvel #6

Written by Kelly Sue DeConnick
Art by David Lopez and Lee Loughridge
Lettering by Joe Caramagna
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by Lilith Wood
‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

Captain Marvel #6 has one superhero but many heroes. Carol Danvers finally gets to use a little more firepower, but the issue doesn’t quite have the spectacular visual release of the big battle we were promised. Instead, the issue divides itself between military tactics, an uprising, passive resistance, and what’s left of diplomacy for the struggling peoples of Torfa. It’s a solid ending to the first arc, and sets Captain Marvel up to fight another day.

In this issue, Kelly Sue DeConnick continues to balance gravity with a sense of play, and makes the limitations of the standard six-issue story structure look easy. She neatly ties together all the threads of her story, as Captain Marvel and the people of Torfa have their showdown against the Spartax emperor J’son, and the problem of Torfa being a poison planet is resolved. With fun details and carefully chosen moments, DeConnick has made us care about a lot of new characters in just six issues, and this arc ends as it began – with Carol saying a tough goodbye to good friends.

David Lopez’s lines are as clean and classic as Captain Marvel’s flight suit. His visual storytelling makes room for DeConnick’s abundant use of banter and throw-away gags. Lopez helps to establish comedic timing and lets physical comedy and dead-on facial expressions flicker through his panels. The flip side to his sensitivity to humor is an ability to convey more serious feelings, and Lopez’s art comes to the fore at moments when DeConnick’s writing quiets down. One of these times is when the Torfan leader Eleanides commands the civilians around her to disobey the Spartax soldiers by sitting down. When a prominent Torfan dissenter accepts this command, the reader feels the quiet, serious significance of her compliance.

Loughridge’s colors highlight the contrast between a lone superhero holding off space ships above, and the muddle of people down on the surface of Torfa. The shadows of the figures show that it is the golden hour, with thick sunlight coming in sideways. The skin tones and clothing are mostly dull greens, grays and yellows against a yellowish earth and sky. There is a scuffle of diplomacy, fear, defiance and passive resistance. It’s not as obviously heroic as what’s happening above, where Loughridge uses bolder colors and more contrast for Carol’s maneuvers against the Spartax fleet. The battle colors echo the red, blue and gold of Carol’s suit, and each color is fortified. The red is warm, the blue is deep, and the gold is thick and yolky. It might be a suicide mission, but it looks gorgeous, noble, and exciting.

Even though we see Captain Marvel heroically buying time for Torfa by keeping Spartax ships at bay, we never feel immersed in her action scenes. The story always cuts back to other places and events too quickly. In some ways this feels like a missed opportunity for such a muscular creative team, but the story has been about a lot more than action. In the most dynamic panel, Captain Marvel bursts skyward with an explosion behind her and she thinks “this is the closest we get to closure.” She’s referring to the deaths of everyone on the Ring World, and J’son’s willingness to sell out Earth to the Builders during Infinity. Even in the heat of the most climactic moment of this climactic issue, she’s acknowledging it’s not closure, and there might not ever be closure.

The good news is that Captain Marvel is still just getting started on her restless space adventure and now that she’s thwarted the Spartax emperor, we can expect some dust ups down the road. Hopefully some of her new friends will be along for the ride, as they are as good a ragtag interspecies team as there ever was. DeConnick, Lopez and Loughridge work well together to show how people work together, so I think we’ll see more space camaraderie. I hope we see Carol change as a person — her decision to go into space was somewhat escapist, but I have a feeling DeConnick will keep putting her in the middle of situations that feel a lot like real life.