Monday, January 19, 2009

Cover up: Brigade #1 (and a contest!)

Generally speaking, I try to keep things positive around here. Oh, that doesn't mean I avoid being critical — it just means I don't go out of my way to be a jerk about it. For the most part, I'd rather spend my energy talking about something I enjoy than flail around and alternate between crying at the top of my lungs or holding my breath until someone hands me a pacifier. Even though, as they say on Dagobah, hatin' is easy.

But when you come across Brigade #1 in your longbox, you gotta talk about that shit.

I must've blocked it out, because I was pretty surprised when I was flipping through my old issues and came across this stepchild:

Look, I know picking on Rob Liefeld isn't exactly original, but look at this thing. I mean, what the hell? OK, let's begin with a caveat: This cover (for a comic created, co-plotted and partially scripted by Liefeld himself) is from early in the Image poster-boy's career. At the time, Image was known for style more than substance, as well as a certain "look" that meant lots of gritted teeth, incomprehensible armor, endless pouches and as much cross-hatching as the page could handle. Oh, and characters that were suspiciously similar to other, already-popular characters from other companies (I'm surprised they didn't just introduce someone called "Molverine").

Liefeld had a lot to do with establishing the Image look, and what did it get us? Primarily an incredibly static cover, which isn't just missing a background but doesn't even have a background color. Aggravating this blanket of nothingness is a primary focus that is lost in the non-background because the character is colored almost completely in white and gray! What detail there is fades as we go from head to ... feet? Yes, ladies and gentlemen, witness the artist's famous fear of drawing anything below the ankle as our character seems to gently sink into the shapeless lump beneath him.

Speaking of lumps, let's talk about the floating heads. Now, the floating head thing has a long and distinguished past in the history of comic book covers. But these — they're just boring. Being ugly on top of that doesn't help. With the exception of the guy at top-right, there's virtually no character design and, like a sticker book, they faces look as if you could mismatch the hair and glasses until you came up with a combination you could laugh at with your friends.

Part of what's annoying about this cover — and covers like it — isn't so much the bad art. No, really. What annoys me most is the idea that it's just lazy. It looks like a half-done afterthought, where all the men are the same from the nose down (except for the big guy, who just came back from a cleaning at the dentist's) and the women have the same hair. (The big difference? Their bangs; except for the guy at the bottom-left, who has almost the same hair as the woman on the right). And I know I'm nitpicking now, and I know it's supposed to look as if the women have moist, voluptuous lips, but every time I look at them I think they're sticking their tongues out at me, as if to say, "Nyaaah! You own this comic now!"

Ugh, I could go on — from the gratutiously dripping fist to the muttonchops to the braided mullet — but I think I might snap because the more you look at it, the more questions you have. What's with the white spot on his leg? Where's his waist?

And most importantly: WHO WOULD WANT TO WIN THIS COVER?!

Phew. OK. I think I got that out of my system.

In spite of my descent into madness, you might've noticed I carefully avoided mentioning the names of any of the characters featured on this cover. There's a good reason for this; I want you to do it. As a matter of fact, I'll give this comic to the first person to correctly name all of the characters (no fair using Google, cheater); if more than one person gets it right, a "winner" will be picked at random. That's right; you could:


There's a bit of water damage at the bottom of the comic, but believe me, it doesn't make it any worse. So let's see some entries in the comments. Go on — I dare ya.


Fred said...

I was a big fan of the Second Brigade series... I even used to use Marat Michaels art as a template for my own... probably the reason I am not an artist now..

Anyway here is who I think is on this cover:
Center - Battlestone

Left Top to Bottom:
Stasis or Thermal
Coldsnap (before his awesome looking ice form)

Right Top to Bottom:
Stasis or Thermal

Hmm... Now I am wondering if I should be proud or sad that I know this.

snell said...

No guesses...I just wanted to note that this issue was so well-regarded, my local comic shoppe has had about 50 copies clogging their quarter bin for over a decade now...

Dave Lartigue said...

It wasn't just the cover. The interiors were also devoid of any backgrounds.

Maxo said...

Fred: I'm impressed and a little frightened.

Snell: Ha! They still sound overpriced!

Dave: Oh momma - those interiors. They make the cover look like the Mona Lisa. Blotches of color standing in for backgrounds, pointy stumps masquerading as limbs in perspective, bizarre anatomy ... you could go on and on.

Too be fair, even though they looked just like Liefeld's work, the inside pages were perpetrated by Marat Mychaels. Judging by his Web site, Mychaels has come a ways since his Brigade days (but it still has that Image vibe).

Fred said...

I technically did not guess or use google... I used my copy of Brigade #1 vol2

By the way, Marat Mychaels' art improved on vol2. I think Rob had something to do with the plotting or art on issue 1 vol1... but I am not sure..

I know it was standard Image, but I admit that I liked it then... I wonder what I would think of a complete run of both volumes, or a trade nowadays?

Maxo said...

Fred is now the official winner of this copy of Brigade #1 - you have my congratulations and/or sympathies, Fred! Even with the uncertainty about which one is Thermal and which is Stasis I consider it a slam-dunk, because jeez, who can tell?!

Shoot me an e-mail with an address and I'll get this in the mail to you, Fred.

Thanks for your comments, everybody!

McFearless said...

liefeld blows!