Kids vs. Robots: The Sweet Art of FFA column article by: Michelle Six
Clear and consistent storytelling is the bread and butter of comic art -- but every once in a while, you want some Nutella on your toast. The art team of Juan Bobillo, Marcelo Sosa, and Chris Sotomayor is serving up the sugar on issues 12-14 of FF.
It seems that many Fantastic Four fans, however, lack a sweet tooth, and argue that Bobillo's whimsical pencils, Sosa's relatively light inking, and Sotomayor's penchant for teal and pink are wholly inappropriate for a book full of celestial threats and prophecies of death. While FF is a book about those things, it is also, at its heart, a book about KIDS. This light visual treatment gives FF the look of a dangerous situation seen through the eyes of super-powered, confident youth.
From the first pages of issue #12, Juan Bobillo establishes a childlike tone. The group of FF kids have big eyes, thin limbs, and floppy hair, and Dragon looks more like…. well … a dragon, than a reptilian man.
This is somewhat of a departure from his earlier work with Marvel. His work on She-Hulk with Dan Slott from '04-'06 shows a light and somewhat iconic style, but the proportions are more realistic. FF's illustrations are exaggerated and more detailed, especially in the robots, technology and costuming.
A strength of Bobillo is illustrating personality. Franklin often makes fists and stands with his shoulders back, Val alternates between an aloof posture and childlike frolicking, showing her mixture of youth and genius and Bently crosses his arms and slouches, like the young "supervillain" he aspires to be.
Bobillo's depictions of the older characters hit the mark as well. Nathanial and Reed Richards actually look older -- not just grey-haired 30-year-olds -- but still convey strength through their strong jaws and rigid frames.
Layout-wise, Bobillo frequently breaks the grid format, with large white spaces and characters popping out from panels. Not only does this spice up dialogue-heavy scenes, but visualizes characters who are, to a degree, free from the constraints of space and time.
The criticism on message boards and in other reviews seems to focus around Bobillo's pencils. Although much of it seems to be a matter of aesthetically preferring a classic comic style, some criticism is valid. Throughout his run, Val's size varies wildly, with her age appearing anywhere between 3 and 8 years old. There are also continuity missteps, such as Franklin's haircut abruptly changing, and Franklin being the same height as 18-year-old Alex. However, Bobillo's energy and style make up for these mistakes.
Sosa and Bobillo have worked together many times at Marvel, including the aforementioned run on She-Hulk. Sosa took a similar light and clean approach, but his inks on FF show a bit more scratchy texture and contrast, giving a slight edge appropriate to the seriousness of the plot.
Sotomayor's colors are simply wonderful with this more iconic style. The open white and blue scenes of issue #12's arctic scenes, which shift to warm tones during the discussion scenes with Val and Nathaniel, make the intense teals, blues and pinks of the bridge seem even more vibrant.
The scenes on the bridge could have easily become too color-intense, but Sotomayor and Sosa balance the crazy colors of pink battling robots. Instead of pure black, the starry background space is a gradated dark blue-green. The large voids Bobillo left in-between panels remain a refreshing white.
Overall, FF's art team has provided a different, yet story-appropriate, style of illustration. Although not without its problems, it is nonetheless striking, and stands out from the art in most floppies on the stands. As comics strive to increase readership, allowing artists to work outside of the traditional comic canon style is a good thing.
Michelle was born in the '80s in a reasonably sized Midwestern town, which she never left. She teaches art and creative technology to kids, who keep her in the know about Top 40 music and the most annoyingly silly YouTube videos.
A big chunk of her free time is put towards drawing -- in her fantasy world, she will be awesome enough to draw comics as sweet as those she reviews. You can see her artwork on Deviant Art or, if you are a Tumblr fan at michellesix.tumblr.com.
Michelle also likes video games, pets, pizza, music, and ranting.