Codename: Action #1

comiXology summary:
Codename: Action #1. During the height of the Cold War, unknown forces scheme to heat up a global conflict. As key officials on both sides of the Iron Curtain are replaced with doppelgangers, the infiltration threatens to disrupt the precarious state of world affairs. The security of the Free World depends on a young secret agent, one assigned to shape the world’s masked heroes into a force with singular purpose and unyielding resolve!

I actually don’t know anything about Codename: Action as a title-title. I saw a solicitation announcement for it reading another Dynamite comic and thought this was a cool looking cover. (And hope you’ll agree.) What I do know is that this Codename: Action #1 cover by Jae Lee is a masterwork of elegant design and the use of negative space.

On Jae Lee…

Jae Lee, Jae Lee… What can I say about Jae Lee?

Lee hit my eyes and imagination in the early 1990s. I loved his work on a now-defunct WildC.A.T.S. title (“filling in” for a different J. Lee if you grok). In those pre-Internet days, I had to ask actual humans at the counter where I could find more Jae Lee. I bought all of it, and combed every local comics store to assemble his Namor work. I’m not sure if he was my “favorite” comics artist (or even my favorite “Lee”), but I do remember that when I was writing down my goals for a high school illustration class, I dropped his name as a role model.

Lee is one of the most distinctive artists on the planet, which is why he is so often tapped as a cover artist, more than an interior artist. He’s not the most facile storyteller, but his line work is unparalleled in its intention and precision. Part of being, there are so few lines.

I mean, there are probably fewer total lines on this Codename: Action #1 cover than the average square inch of the average Rob Liefeld! Any doofus can put a giant splotch of black on a panel or flood the gutters, but for my $1.99 almost no one touches Jae in terms of making something as 75% black as this look actually delicate.

And that foot!

It probably isn’t a surprise to you that BDM and I have bumped heads more than once over the years RE: what makes a good comics artist, or even just a good artist. As striking as his portraiture has always been, Lee has drawn criticism over his ability on hands and feet.

Personally, I love the interplay between the dancers’ hands… The combination of her consistently implied details versus the strategic line overload of his palm.

I wonder what BDM thinks of that foot. There is no mist rising up covering it; both the dancers have actual hands (and not claws).

But even if it were just claws / mist… It’d probably still look great from across a comics store.


Mortal Kombat X #26

comiXology summary:
Mileena vs. Skarlet! Reiko vs. Kotal Kahn! The brawl for it all continues as a surprise new character joins the fray!

I’m a sucker.

I’m a sucker for a bunch of things.

I’m a sucker for a bunch of things in the same way that BDM has 15 or so movies in his “top 5” favorite movies.

Things I am a sucker for:

Juxtaposition – If you put unlike things together in an artful or internally-logical / consistent way, I will like it (or at least you will get points for it). Here we have a character that is 95% super sexy [and meant to be gazed on that way]… Trim figure, barely-there top, shiny leather pants… But, oh yeah, monster mouth. Ew. Gross. Yet…

Surprise! – I was always more of a Street Fighter guy as a kid than a Mortal Kombat guy, but I played some Mortal Kombat; sure. Back twenty or so years ago when these characters were first coming out, Mileena was more-or-less a sprite of 1-2 other ninja girls, except she had a sash over her mouth. The sash was — gasp — to cover up her gross monster mouth. This was only to be revealed via Special Move ™. Surprise! Now a couple of decades in, Mortal Kombat-consuming audiences know about her monster mouth and she is not even wearing any cover-up here. So the surprise is in the slavish depiction of her opposite number on the cover. He sees that she is a monster (not just some slim-if-deadly ninja doll). But he is still mesmerized, on his knees. Surprise!

Jae Lee – When I took an art class at age 17, on the first day the instructor gave us a questionnaire about what we wanted to learn / accomplish in that art class. I vividly remember writing some approximation of “to learn to draw like Jae Lee” on mine (which was probably horrifying to the instructor, who though American, changed both his first and last names to the French approximations, accent marks and all). I recounted that story to BDM some time in the ensuing twenty years and he remarked “I take it learning to draw feet was not high on your list” … Hmmm, awesome cover or no, Jae did not make with the feet here, did he?

This is a digital comics cover; and while I am not a regular consumer of Mortal Kombat X, my take is that it is the cover for both #26 and #27; it had me doing a double-take, which is saying something given it was a tiny icon on a browse page and not even a real magazine on a real newsstand. Like I said, I’m not the usual audience, but I not only clicked, but upon recognition of a style, I clicked and further clicked to confirm that it was in fact a Jae Lee… Up to and including writing up this piece.

From a style standpoint (and this might go back into the “juxtaposition” section) it really got me thinking about how Lee broadened his execution here. The Mileena figure on the left is pretty classic Lee. Sharp lines, very graphic use of blacks for outline, accent, and deep, opaque spaces that can be interpreted either as shadow or color (black). But on the right, the opposite character is finished in a very different way. Note the ink work on his headdress… That’s very “brush” rather than “pen”. Ditto on his musculature. Notice how she is all smooth and he is all feathery muscle-wise? While I would not go so far as to say the figures are from two different pieces, they seem quite differently-finished to me. I don’t know that that is a weakness (I think the piece overall is plenty striking and effective), I do think that it is pleasantly noggin-scratching for those of us who kind of stared at this cover for half an hour. Mayhap Lee is stretching his skills a little, in a way that most audiences might not even notice; he manages to do his usual thing while still channeling a mote of Alex Raymond (perhaps for future invocation).

Either way, looks cool.