Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Submitted for your consideration, at left: a cover by British artist Warren Pleece, from the 1994 Vertigo series Mobfire, a cheeky mix of black magic and London gangsters, very underrated and pretty much by now forgotten. Pleece did the art for all six issues, and it was there that I was won over by his unorthodox style, with its oddly placed emphasis lines (not so much in evidence on this cover, I'll admit) that ever so slightly reminded me of expressionism, perhaps even something of a cubist approach. His panel to panel sequential pacing skills were also strong. It was a style that I hadn't seen before- or at least I couldn't spot too many other influences- and I liked it. I had seen his work on the previous year's Tattooed Man miniseries, Skin Graft and while I liked it OK, this one really grabbed me. Apparently others, including his editors, didn't. After Mobfire came out to low sales and less than widespread acclaim, it seemed like everything else Pleece drew for Vertigo (such as the Deadenders series) was heavily inked by a succession of embellishers that while on a person-to-person basis were very good inkers indeed, they sanded off the rough edges and smothered everything I thought was unique and distinctive about his work, to the point that I no longer cared to pick up anything that sported his increasingly-rare byline. In the case of Deadenders, that may have been a mistake; that's an interesting looking series to me now.

Anyway, hadn't thought of Pleece for a while until I started seeing solicits for a new hardcover Vertigo graphic novel that was coming up, called Incognegro. I was a little interested, because Pleece and Pleece alone was credited on art. I thought to myself, "Self", thought I, "You should perhaps check that out". Well...this morning, I followed a link to this site, which featured a few unfinished sample pages, and much to my surprise and dismay I saw (and so will you, if you make with the click on the image at right) that this art, purportedly by Pleece, bears little to no resemblance to the work which impressed me 14 years ago- in fact, it looks more like that style which I have come to refer to as "Vertigo House Style", an anonymous-looking sort of not-cartoonish but not-realistic art whose best practitioners are the likes of Peter Gross, Mark Buckingham, Pia Guerra, and many others. It's bland and tedious (although Gross and Buckingham tend to liven theirs with some designerly panel arrangements) and I don't care for it at all. So this makes me very sad to see, because it certainly seems like Pleece has subjugated his natural style in order to conform to some sort of editorial whim, in order to get work...and that's, as Paul McCartney would say, "a bit of a drag, innit?" Oh well, it's not like I was gonna drop 20 on this anyway, but if the Pleece art had looked like Pleece art, I would have been sorely tempted for sure.

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