- Mon Dec 17, 2018 4:17 pm
Got a huge package of Arkhaven/Dark Legion product yesterday, including my copy of Flying Sparks. After my disappointment with Richard Meyer's Iron Sights, I'm glad to be able to report that the second ComicsGate-related book I've had the opportunity to peruse is an absolute five-star piece of work. Congratulations, Jon!
Big, big kudos to Jethro Morales, whose storytelling chops and stylized art are thoroughly professional grade. He makes the book a joy to read. I can't decide who he reminds me of more: Walt Simonson or Stuart Immonen. Not that it matters; I love both guys and their styles are not wildly dissimilar. Morales' flair and grace make this my favorite DL offering since Chicago Typewriter.
A digression about the inks: I'm curious how Jethro works. (You certainly won't figure it out from the credits, which simply read "art".) There's a notable difference between his fast and loose, heavier inks (a la Simonson), and periodic appearances of what looks like tighter, fine pen work, as in the first few pages of chapter 3. The latter style reminds me more of Immonen. Neither approach looks much like his work with JDA on Ember War, which is more cross-hatchy and nowhere near as appealing and dynamic as the first two. My guess is that, as is common in the industry, he's using at least two different juniors to ink some of his work in order to keep on schedule. I'm assuming the heavier, Simonson-style inks, which I like best, are his own. That will have to remain speculation -- unless Jethro or Jon are telling.
In any case, these minor style variations on Sparks are not obvious enough to complain about, and they do not in any way affect my enjoyment of the product, which is simply wonderful. Morales is great with human interaction panels, note-perfect with body language and highly expressive in eyes and mouths especially, yet he is also exceedingly strong on the dynamic stuff necessary for the superhero punch-ups, and he knows when to tilt horizon lines to make a page interesting. The splash pages are terrific -- the street carnage and buildings in chapter 2 being an especially fine example. Jethro also has a keen sense of when to put in background detail and how to make certain panels more effective by minimizing unnecessary visual clutter.
The book benefits from a consistent lettering style and lovely coloring: loads of bright tones and 3-D modeling that works well with the inks. All told, it's a very attractive package. Jon Malin's cover is perfectly fine, and I wouldn't mind seeing more work from him at either Arkhaven or DL if he's interested, as I like his work generally. That said, given the superb work he has done on the interiors, a Jethro cover would have been a nice touch. No biggie ... maybe next time?
A word about Jon Del Arroz: the man can write. Like Vox Day's work on Alt*Hero, he knows how to tell a story effectively without excessive verbiage and unnatural dialogue. Some of the tropes are a little cliched: everybody has secrets of course; the too-convenient professor who builds marvelous inventions but has few scruples about testing them out on young girls in incredibly dangerous situations; the all-knowing would-be right hand man ... you know the drill. But this, after all, is superhero comics, and we expect those things, so it's all fine. JDA creates a nice, tight narrative with just the right number of moving parts, his characters are likable and his dialogue smart, funny and believable.
My copy showed up in mint condition. Paper stock is perfect for a graphic novel: not too shiny and thick enough to hold ink without making the colors murky. Minor quibble: would love to see consistent logo/trade dress for the DL brand, and I do like to get text on the book spine where it fits, as it makes it easier to find on a bookshelf. As I say, minor.
All in all, great work, guys! Frankly, I can't wait for the next installment, as we're left with a cliffhanger.