Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The PURGE: Marvel Comics Presents #49

I still recall purchasing this comic book.  It could not have been more exciting.  My (then) favorite artist drawing my all-time favorite hero and a popularity-juggernaut mutant.  The cover alone was staggering to my teenage brain.  Well balanced, striking, with both characters large and bold against a background of webs, this thing practically leaped out into my hands.

The interiors were equally awe-inspiring.  Honestly, apart from a few issues during the Return of the Sinister Six storyline in Amazing Spider-Man, this might be some of Larsen's best work from this era.  I'm going to spend this entry gushing about the art, so be forewarned.  The story (and the additional stories in the comic) are really secondary to the quality of the artwork put out in the feature.  Briefly, some bad guys have kidnapped a young mutant and it is up to Spidey and Logan to liberate her.

Maybe it's Joe Rubenstein's inks, which are a perfect compliment to Larsen's pencils, or maybe Larsen was just on fire at this point in his career, but in these scant 8 pages are some of the best drawings of Wolverine and Spidey I have seen from this era of comics.  Check out this panel of Wolverine and Spider-Man bursting into action:

Spider-Man's anatomy is absurd, a trademark of Larsen's tenure on the character, but it's a good absurd.  It's dynamic and spider-like, only with half the appendages.  And check out Logan at front.  Sure, that left thigh is kind of crazy, but man, what a splash!  He's mad, he's ready for action, and he's just busted through the ceiling of a seaside warehouse.  This one panel alone tells you this is going to be one hell of a rumble.

Since Marvel Comics Presents is basically Wolverine's comic at this time, the web-head takes a back seat in the action, but he does get one exceptional solo panel that is less exaggerated and more traditional, but no less striking and awesome:
It should be noted that Larsen also wrote this story and honestly handled the webslinger's zany dialogue without overdoing it, or relying on instantly outdated topical humor, something so many writers seem incapable of doing.  But that shot of Spidey above is classic.  As a kid I would have given anything to have drawn a Spider-Man that good.

Again, the real focus here is Larsen's Wolverine.  It doesn't matter whether it's larger action shots like these:

or smaller incidental panels like this one (I apologize for the dreadful lighting):

Larsen really nails the character.  The costume is exaggerated a bit as is the anatomy, but never so much that it becomes the over-stylized mess that permeates the work of artists today, like this:
Sure, Larsen likely opened the door for travesties like the one above (sorry Ramos, you are capable of better work than this, I've seen it), but his work had more restraint and skill.  Those action panels of Logan fighting the claw woman, whose name escapes me, are exciting and dynamic.  I wasn't a huge X-men fan at the time, but work like this got me really excited about the Wolverine character.  Larsen just made him look so cool!

And while we are talking about Erik Larsen art in MCP, check out his amazing inks on the legendary Steve Ditko's pencils from this Human Torch story from MCP #83.  Honestly, this is as good as Ditko art had looked in years.  Larsen manages to add the dynamic touch that Ditko's plush dummy figures need to really pop.

I'm not trying to ding a true legend, I mean the man is responsible for Spider-Man, but his later stuff has trouble holding up to the work of the then-masters like Larsen, Lee, and McFarlane.  Look at that last panel, the close-up of Moth's face.  That is only possible through Larsen's inking skills.

I've always thought Erik Larsen was one of the best, most consistent talents in the industry and looking back at his work in Marvel Comics Presents only confirms that belief.  Needless to say, I'm keeping this run of comics.  Thanks for looking back with me!

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