Leandro Fernandez

The Punisher #9, Kitchen Irish, Part 3 (of 6)

Pm9Fernandez’s art is so underwhelming the entire issue feels like it’s incomplete. Like it’s storyboards for the actual comic. After the opening shoot out, which Fernandez entirely flubs, it’s a talking heads issue and instead of expressions, Fernandez uses a lot of shadows. Static faces and shadows. Sometimes the faces look so static you think they’re just copied and pasted from another panel. Even stranger is when colorist Dean White tries to pick up the slack for the lack of dimension, doing it in the coloring (particularly on faces), only then his shadows don’t match Fernandez’s shadows.

Other than the art problems, it’s a solid issue. Lots of exposition (from everyone but Frank) and the introduction of Brenda Toner, wife of Tommy, who is being cut up by Napper French for Magnify. Brenda proves to be a lot tougher than her husband’s goons, which is nice. She’s a loathsome character, but not as cruel as Finn or Maginty. And not as dumb as the bro in charge of the River Rats. So she’s at least interesting. Unfortunately she’s only it in for a few, poorly illustrated pages.

After the opening shootout involving Frank, the Brits, Finn, and the River Rats, Ennis splits the issue between Frank and the Brits interrogating Finn’s nephew, Finn and his pal regrouping, the River Rats recovering, Maginty getting Napper to cut up Tommy Toner, Brenda Toner getting pieces of her husband. In the interrogation scenes, Frank barely talks. It’s mostly monologuing from head Brit, Yorkie, which is fine… Ennis writes it well. Fernandez doesn’t render it well, but the dialogue’s good. It is redundant because Ennis is going through information the reader already has about what’s going on. It’s like the reader is getting a refresh, only it was just last issue the reader got the information (maybe some of it in the first issue) but it’s more than they need. If the art were better, it probably would just pass, but with the particularly wonky talking heads art? It drags. The most boring stuff in the Punisher comic is the Punisher, because mostly he’s just standing around and letting some other guy do the talking.

There’s some good character work for the younger Brit, the one seeking revenge. Ennis is almost too serious this issue. It’s like he doesn’t know how to balance macabre absurd with the non-absurd. It’s not a misstep, it’s just… incomplete. Maybe better art would’ve fixed it all. Someone really needed to talk to Fernandez about his thumbnails, if he made them, because it’s not just the detail he’s not doing, he’s also not hitting the right action emphases.

And to keep a bridging, talking heads exposition dump of a comic going? Got to have all the right art emphases.

The Punisher #8, Kitchen Irish, Part 2 (of 6)

This issue introduces two more groups involved in Kitchen Irish, starting with the British guys. One of them is a Vietnam vet who knows Frank from the war, the other is the son of the last British foot soldier killed in Northern Ireland. The older guy, Yorkie, is bringing the younger guy, Andy, along because the guy who killed his dad is villain Finn Cooley’s nephew. They meet up with Frank and Yorkie goes over Finn’s history with the IRA, fleshing out some backstory for that character (Finn). It’s a nice talking heads scene—spread throughout the issue—particularly because it forces Frank to be sociable. Or his version of sociable. There’s no Frank narration this issue.

Then there are the River Rats, a gang of modern-day pirates who target yachts headed for the Hamptons to rob. Lots of action with them, then lots of character setup after the job’s finished and they’re on their way to the bar. The yacht robbery feels like an entirely different comic book but it works out fine; Fernandez’s action art on it is strong, Ennis keeps it moving. The characters are kind of bland though, at least compared to the rest of the bad guys. Ennis throws out a bunch of character names, which seem disposable at this point, and it’s just texture.

Speaking of the other bad guys, there’s more of Maginty getting the old guy to cut up a rival gang leader while the grandson is handcuffed to a radiator in the other room. There’s not a lot of violence in the issue, most of it’s implied, but the psychological aspect is there. The grandson clearly shouldn’t be involved in what’s going on in the comic, but then should anyone else.

Ennis still hasn’t revealed what all the bad guys are talking about—money but no context for it—and the issue ends with Frank getting ready to take on Finn, who makes the mistake of going out in public after the bombing last issue. Not sure how Frank finds him. Maybe the British intelligence guy knows something?

It’s a concise issue, even when it feels like Ennis and Fernandez are taking their time on action. It’s perfectly paced, perfectly balanced between the various factions. Very thoughtfully executed; very nice Fernandez is able to keep up here too.

The Punisher #7, Kitchen Irish, Part 1 (of 6)

Ennis does three things with the first issue of Kitchen Irish, he sets up Frank’s involvement, introduces two bad guys. The bad guy introductions are separate because only one set of bad guys—led by a disfigured, former IRA bomber—have anything to do with the issue’s inciting incident (an explosion). The other bad guy has his own separate, kind of horrifying thing going. Frank does introduce a third set of bad guys—while everyone talks about four total sets—but the emphasis is on Frank’s narration, which is a history lesson.

Kitchen refers to Hell’s Kitchen, which is going through gentrification and only hoods and the Punisher are longing for the old days. It’s never really clear what Frank’s doing before the explosion changes the course of his day. It also doesn’t matter. Ennis uses Frank’s narration to set up his mindset and perspective, then it’s for exposition on the ground situation with the hoods, but the comic quickly becomes all about the villains. And some of the action, though Leandro Fernandez concentrates on the composition a lot more than the detail of the action. More on Fernandez in a bit.

The issue’s two villain introductions are strong. Finn, the IRA bomber, and his somewhat dopey, blusterous Irish-American sidekicks, and Maginty, an apparently vicious Black Irish hood (Finn and company are at least weary, if not scared, of him). Finn and company get a far less dramatic reveal than Maginty, who gets the last scene in the comic, where he kidnaps a kid. Maginty’s trying to get the grandfather to cut up a body for him; not out of the blue, the grandfather used to cut up bodies for the Irish mob. Frank running around rooftops to watch some guy through his sniper rifle doesn’t start to compare.

Partially because of Fernandez, partially becomes Ennis’s intentionally focused on the villain introductions. Frank’s already gotten a great sequence as he recovers from the explosions and finds himself in shock, physical and mental. But Fernandez… the more he does, the less well he does it. The art is occasionally lazy (Finn’s sidekicks have the same face in a few panels, just different hair, only then their haircuts change too) while the writing is disciplined and thorough. It’s hard not to imagine how the comic might read with a more effective artist. Even when Fernandez doesn’t do anything wrong, he also never does it right enough.

The Incredible Hulk 59 (October 2003)

The Incredible Hulk #59I don’t tend to go on at length about bad art. Well, maybe I do sometimes. But not often.

This issue features the Hulk versus the Absorbing Man. Fernandez might draw the Hulk bad, but the Absorbing Man? Oh, he’s a disaster. From the panel Creel gets out–maybe even a few panels earlier where an establishing shot or two gets missed–the issue is a disaster. Fernandez is clearly trying, there’s lots of detail, it’s just inept visual storytelling.

There’s also a lack of commitment from Jones. The arc’s plot threads don’t great resolved; he sends Bruce off into the sunrise, Bill Bixby-style, ready for his next episode. There’s an orphaned kid and the super-woman female lead of the arc not getting any resolution. Worse, there’s even an ominous epilogue.

Jones also loses the too smart supervillain vibe this issue. It’s bad stuff, disjointed and rather dispassionate.

C- 

CREDITS

Hide in Plain Sight, Part Five; writer, Bruce Jones; artist, Leandro Fernandez; colorist, Steve Buccellato; letterer, Cory Petit; editors, Warren Simons, John Miesegaes and Axel Alonso; publisher, Marvel Comics.

The Incredible Hulk 58 (September 2003)

The Incredible Hulk #58There’s no nice way to phrase this observation so I’m going to just go ahead–Jones gives his female characters, in particular the New York paralegal or whatever she is, way too much credit. Unless he reveals her to be a trained law enforcement officer (like most of his strong female members), it’s just absurd. She can track Banner on the run, she carries night vision binoculars, she’s cool when confronted with Creel possessing a little kid… she’s practically Rambo.

It’s too much. It’s not even clear why she needs to be here, other than Jones likes her. Her scenes with Bruce are good too. It’s the other ones where there are problems.

Almost nothing happens this issue. It’s not a bridging issue, it’s a train ride issue. Bruce and Creel take the train to the final action. Fernandez’s Hulk scene is awful.

Besides decent plot details, this issue’s plodding.

C 

CREDITS

Hide in Plain Sight, Part Four: Brain Dead; writer, Bruce Jones; artist, Leandro Fernandez; colorist, Steve Buccellato; letterer, Cory Petit; editors, Warren Simons, John Miesegaes and Axel Alonso; publisher, Marvel Comics.

The Incredible Hulk 57 (September 2003)

200828Here's Jones's problem, at least with this arc–he can't tell this story with the Hulk. So far it has little or nothing to do with the bigger conspiracy story, it's just about Bruce Banner getting involved with the Absorbing Man's ingenious plan to free himself and kill a bunch of innocent people in the process.

But Jones hasn't really established why Crusher Creel (the Absorbing Man) is fixated on the Hulk. They've fought before, but Jones gives them a Batman versus the Joker thing this issue and I realized… Jones is writing a DC story. He's not writing for the Hulk and its constraints, he's trying to fit it to match this story more suited for a DC comic.

No wonder it isn't working.

As for the art, Fernandez does okay. It's no longer visually compelling, just because the action is out of New York, but it's okay enough.

C 

CREDITS

Hide in Plain Sight, Part Three: A Mind of His Own; writer, Bruce Jones; artist, Leandro Fernandez; colorist, Steve Buccellato; letterer, Cory Petit; editors, Warren Simons, John Miesegaes and Axel Alonso; publisher, Marvel Comics.

The Incredible Hulk 56 (August 2003)

200827Much as I enjoy Fernandez's art with setting and people, he's not a good Hulk artist. The Hulk has very, very awkward proportions. Pudgy almost. Muscularly pudgy.

But since it's a Bruce Jones Hulk there's not much Hulk action. Instead, he splits the comic between Bruce (Banner) and his new lady friend recovering from an Absorbing Man possession and then the things going on back at the Absorbing Man's cell.

Jones is trying hard to give Bruce something more to do than smash, he's just trying to hard to use existing ideas. Absorbing Man is okay, but the powers are more important than the character, so Jones has to spread himself thin rationalizing the Absorbing Man cameo.

There are some weird moments at the end. They're more interesting than anything else. The narrative is pretty set once Jones opens the comic.

Still, the issue is fair enough, if decidedly undercooked.

C+ 

CREDITS

Hide in Plain Sight, Part Two: Inside Out; writer, Bruce Jones; artist, Leandro Fernandez; colorist, Steve Buccellato; letterer, Dave Sharpe; editors, Warren Simons, John Miesegaes and Axel Alonso; publisher, Marvel Comics.

The Incredible Hulk 55 (August 2003)

128327Leandro Fernandez to the rescue! Not just regular Leandro Fernandez either, but doing a walking and talking scene through Central Park at twilight. It’s a gorgeous issue.

And Fernandez alone isn’t responsible for rescuing Jones and Hulk (it’s just one issue after all). Jones opens from scratch. Banner on the run. He’s in New York, he meets a girl. Turns out she works at the special prison holding the Absorbing Man. There are cuts to the story going on in that prison with her coworkers (and Creel). Jones has lots to do, lots of characters and subplots to establish and he gets them done.

But his Banner story is just this walk with the good doctor and a girl. There’s a plotting reason she’s the girl he’s chatting with, but it’s still a nice sequence with fabulous art. Jones is indulging himself a little and it’s nice to see again.

B 

CREDITS

Hide in Plain Sight, Part One; writer, Bruce Jones; artist, Leandro Fernandez; colorist, Studio F; letterer, Dave Sharpe; editors, Warren Simons, John Miesegaes and Axel Alonso; publisher, Marvel Comics.

The Immortal Iron Fist 7 (August 2007)

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Fraction and Brubaker take a break here to focus on one of the previous Iron Fists.

They present the story like a fable and get really cute with it. I don’t think the cuteness necessarily has to do with the Iron Fist in question being female, but because she’s got a goofy, sweet but stupid boyfriend. He’s funny.

Actually, there’s a lot of humor in it. Even narrative humor, with a joke in a text box. Probably because dealing with the tale of pirates isn’t going to be fun unless you get in some jokes.

It works as an issue–I wish they’d done one for every Iron Fist, instead of just this one (shocking how good Marvel books never seem to last).

The art’s a bit problematic. Foreman doesn’t flow naturally into Fernandez who doesn’t flow naturally into Evans. It’s not bad, it just always seems a little off.

CREDITS

The Story of the Iron Fist Wu Ao-Shi, The Pirate Queen of Pinghai Bay; writers, Ed Brubaker and Matt Fraction; pencillers, Travel Foreman, Leandro Fernandez and Khari Evans; inkers, Derek Fridolfs, Francisco Paronzini, Leo Fernandez and Victor Olazaba; colorist, Dan Brown; letterer, Dave Lanphear; editors, Alejandro Arbona and Warren Simons; publisher, Marvel Comics.

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