Modern Masters vol. 18: John Romita Jr.

A book review article by: Jason Sacks
Let's start with the obvious.

If you love John Romita Jr.'s artwork, you'll buy this book no matter what I say in this review.

If you hate John Romita Jr.'s artwork, you'll skip this book no matter what I say in this review.

That leaves just the tweeners. If you're in between, is this book for you? I'd have to say “no.”

These Modern Masters books are all about two things. The most important feature of these books is probably all the artwork presented in them. Each book features dozens of pieces by the featured artist. The other key feature is a long, career-spanning interview in which the featured artist discourses at length on his or her long career.

This book doesn't disappoint with the artwork. The editors present art from all phases of Romita's terrific career, including scans of rare and unusual pieces. There's art from Romita's very first Spider-Man story all the way up to his work on World War Hulk. It's a sumptuous collection, and a real treat for anyone who likes Romita's work.

It’s disappointing that there is no color section as there usually is in these Modern Masters books. Those sections are always a treat because it gives readers a look into an artist's color work. This book feels empty without it.

The weak aspect of this volume is the interview section. There are two problems here. One is that Tom Field, who conducts the interview, studiously avoids delving into complex or controversial subjects. For instance, just as Romita seems about to talk about his difficult relationship with Jim Shooter, Field moves on to a different topic.

It's not clear, however, if the fault really is with Field or with Romita. I hate to say it, but John Romita Jr. is just not a great interview subject. That's no slight to Romita, though. In an era of celebrity artists with massive egos, John Romita Jr. is a humble workingman, putting in his hard day's work for a good day's pay. In the interview, JRJR talks over and over about his inner drive to simply keep working and put food on his family's table. He's a bit of a throwback to his father's era, talking again and again about how he's basically punched a clock throughout his long career.

There's just not a lot of meat in this interview for a reader looking for controversy or stress. Romita has worked hard in the industry for 25 years and has been rewarded for his diligence with steady work that he loves doing. Happiness does not equal drama, so the interview simply does not jump off the page.

This review may bring to mind the old cliché of the man complaining about the articles in a nudie magazine. Fair enough. Let's just say that if you want the pictures, you'll like this book, but if you want some interesting words, you'll likely be bored by this book.

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