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I’m in love. No really. There’s this guy and I see his art and my heart starts to beat just a little faster. My legs go all wobbly and my stomach rolls around. His name is Ashley Wood. This guy, he’s everywhere. His art is sneaky. And he’s done a lot of things over the years. These days you can find his scribble scrabble on the pages of Hellspawn. Ignore it, because his own offerings are diverse and soon to be plentiful.
Firstly, I recommend Uno Fanta. It’s his art book. You’ll get a feel for the man and see some things he doesn’t draw often enough: robots, cats and babes. With simple line work, he expresses bombastic pleasure. It is explosive. Sepia tones allude to orange crush and root beer watercolour. Glossy, big, and hardcovered, Uno Fanta is a luxury item, a gorgeous beautiful book that will give you shivers. One page is a mass of scribbles that slowly morph into a picture of a man with a gun. There’s fury in those strokes. At the same time, some of his pictures are barely a whisper, a suggestion, or a shocking contrast: pure whites on dirty blacks and greys. And a ton of variety too. There is so much to look at: portraits, sexy things, UFOs, robots and people, people, people. Some of the people are characters of his own. How I long to see these characters with their own comics. With brief blurbs about their background Wood has whet my appetite for more. For sure influenced by Dave McKean and Bill Sienkiewicz but still a voice all his own, Wood’s art is here to stay.
But that’s not all. Recently I found a two page story in the 911 Emergency Relief book. So sparse and grey. Simple and to the point, it was realistic and harsh. I suppose that’s why we see Wood busting hump on Sam & Twitch and such things. He’s good with the darkness of real life. It still manages to be a little dreamy too. The panel placement was hard to ignore. He challenges you with his line work. It’s almost zen.
Currently he’s been doing some of the X-Men comics. He just did the Uncanny X-Men annual and it was marvelous. I kept looking at it, wondering what hardcore readers thought of it. I was smitten. Even his superhero comics make me drool. I pored over those pages to the extent that the reading was secondary to the art. Don’t get me wrong, Joe Casey writes an interesting story about designer mutant drugs, but it was Wood’s art that made that comic difficult to put down. Sigh, it has to be love. It’s disgusting, I know, but Marvel just amazes me these days.
I know I’m committing a mega sin (or at least I feel that way) promoting Marvel—like they even need promotion—but some of the stuff they’re doing these days is just great. Like Daredevil: Yellow. God, how I loved that comic. Jeph Loeb is probably one of the most eloquent writers in comics today. His writing is sharp, concise and to the point. In his previous work there has been a major theme distracting from the meat of the writing. But Daredevil: Yellow is just amazing character development. It’s a very human comic. Each issue blew me away. Loeb wrote some beautiful things without being flowery, sappy or as corny as a superhero. It’s the origin story of Daredevil—which I guess a lot of you have read, but I hadn’t and Loeb’s take was perfect. I also like the fact that it takes place before all that Elektra stuff. Now the art, man the art could not complement the writing more. Tim Sale and Jeph Loeb have worked together on about four other projects, most notably Batman: Long Halloween and they’re probably the best team in comics. Sale’s art work is fine, delicate and sophisticated. Reminiscent stylistically of Batman: The Animated Series, Sale’s work is also expressive and big. Kind of makes one think of Norman Rockwell. One of my favourite panels was Daredevil catching the Owl. It spanned over two pages and was just splash after splash of red ensnaring an obviously startled and already caught Owl. The art made it an action packed, exciting read. Each time I read an issue of that five issue mini series, I would shake my head and exhale out a “Wow.” I’m not kidding.
Back to Ashley Wood: he has his own series coming out called Popbot. It’s apparently an experiment in absurdism which at some point will be written by Sam Keith, the creator of Maxx, I think it’s an appropriate pairing. It would be more fun if they were both illustrating it, though. So keep your eyes peeled for this guy and some of the stuff Marvel has been doing. You may be pleasantly surprised. •