Rating: 3/5 – New artist on board starting this issue as story moves off Earth.
A new artist, CP Smith, comes on board this issue, replacing Ben Templesmith. J. Michael Straczynski addresses the art change in the back matter saying that Templesmith was too busy to continue, how lucky they were to have him for 4 issues, and that since the story is transitioning to a new phase with this issues “Nothing Ever Interesting Happens in Heaven” storyline where the lead character Joe transitions off Earth into the metaphysical realms, Straczynski maintains that it’s appropriate that the art style change as well.
Comics are a combination of art & story. I tend to follow writers but I also recognize the importance of art in this visual medium. If I don’t care for the art I have a hard time sticking with a story even by a writer that I’m a big fan of. On the other hand, I can buy a comic by a favorite artist and lust look at the art, concentrating on the visuals and skipping the story for the most part.
This is not to say that I don’t like the art of CP Smith. It’s just fine in and of itself, but it’s a hard transition for me coming off of Ben Templesmith who is one of my favorite artists. Ben really captured a unique feel for this comic, the story of an ex mob enforcer who, on his last job in that profession, was fatally wounded and the love of his life was killed. An angelic force offered him the opportunity to come work for them putting his skills as an enforcer to work fighting for the ‘right side’ and every time he is killed in a righteous cause he would be reunited with Laura for 5 minutes before being resurrected to do it all over again. Pretty interesting stuff and Templesmith’s art fit this perfectly, to my eyes.
CP Smith’s art is not as good a match with the story in my opinion. I like that Joe is on a mission traveling on to the after-realms, through purgatory and on towards heaven, but the “we need a different art style to represent the different twist in the story” is really just playing the cards JMS has been dealt and making the best of it. Had Templesmith been willing/able to stay on the book, I’m sure JMS would have happily kept him on, but this was not meant to be.
I really liked the story twist in this book and there were some really cool scenes, particularly surfing the river Styx with Charon, but I could not help imagining how those scenes would have looked drawn by Templesmith. This is a great series, but it lost something vital for me with the artistic change, and that’s not a knock on CP Smith’s ability, just my own personal reflection on how his art style worked for me in telling this particular story.
There’s a really good recap of the story to date on the inside front cover of this book and you can jump right into the action on this issue. That may be better than starting with #1 if you’ve not tried it out before as you won’t get used to Templesmith and then have the change-up with this issue. Start here and let the story speak for itself.
Reviewed by: Bob Bretall – email@example.com
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