Though we say, off the cuff, that we’re “reading” a comic book, the truth is of course that there’s far more to the comic medium than mere words and dialogue. From covers to pencillers to inkers and colorists, the industry is built on the backbones of artists. Though there are a few who I’ve found terrible, many are simply passingly good. But over the year several have routinely impressed or pleased me.
Alex Ross may be the artist who has most impressed me. His covers aren’t merely gorgeous; they tend to be iconic. They put Marvels on my watch list, led me to pick up Astro City, and are among the few variants I understand paying ridiculously beyond sticker price to get hands on. It blew my mind to read Kingdom Come and discover the embarrassment of riches that is an entire book drawn by the guy.
J. H. Williams III
Williams is one of the most recognizable artists in the industry, one of few whose work probably sells as many books as the writer attached to it. I was introduced to his work on Batwoman but it’s his recent work in Sandman: Overture that catapulted him toward the top of this list.
I’ve praised her several times throughout the year, but Bellaire’s coloring work was the first to really make me stop and notice. First on Mara, but then throughout the year on books like Pretty Deadly, Captain Marvel, a couple Vertigo one-shots, and several covers.
I wrote earlier that Locke & Key speaks for Joe Hill’s writing prowess. But it wouldn’t speak half as loudly were it not for Rodriguez’s beautiful art. From the many memorable characters to the intricate keys to the architecture of Key House itself, Rodriguez brought the horribly beautiful world to life in a way I won’t soon forget.
A while back, when getting angry at the industry for all the things it does I hate, I tried to make a list of the things in comics I love, the things that made me happy. And while that list remains incomplete, the thing at the top, the one sure to make me smile, is the work of Agnes Garbowska. Her signature, adorable style tends to find itself at home in books I’m not likely to be buying, but following her on social media provides regular doses of large eyes and smiles (not to mention the occasional dog).
No matter how you feel about the subject matter of Red Hood and the Outlaws, it’s hard to deny that Rocafort’s art was a major draw. When he left that book, his absence was immediately felt. Rocafort’s style is striking and bold, and though I’ve spent the majority of the year admiring it from afar (on covers), seeing his work always gives me pause.
I’ll get this out in front: when I first saw Bachalo’s art, I actually commented to the effect that it was some of the worst I’d seen. It almost put me off of Uncanny X-Men to hear he’d be the main artist. But then I read an issue, and my conversion began. Over the ensuing months, I’ve come to strongly appreciate his style, both in Marvel and in Sandman.
Somehow, my first exposure to Ramos was his work with Paul Jenkins on a little project called Fairy Quest: Outlaws (which, by the way, is fantastic and you should seek it out). I immediately fell in love with his cartoony style, somehow childlike and mature simultaneously. I’m looking forward to his project (again with Jenkins) Revelations due next year.
Morning Glories has routinely been touted on this blog as one of the best things on shelves, and that’s due in large part to Eisma’s graphic storytelling. This is a book that doesn’t shy away from wordless panels and pages, and its convoluted, Easter egg-ridden plot is mirrored in layered artwork. From the vast range of emotions to the various actions and violent episodes the Glories and Truants have endured (and perpetrated), Eisma’s talent drives this book.
J. Scott Campbell
Sure, the man is known for cheesecake and is a hallmark of Escher Girls, but I’ve always appreciated his exaggerated style. I’m not about to hang up a Fairytale Fantasies calendar, but every once in a while I’ll spring for one of his variants.