There has been a trend lately at Marvel: it seems to be something along the lines of "manga is good", or at least "if we throw at lot of manga at the wall, surely some will stick", or even "let's find some people who draw in a vaguely manga style and give 'em a job". Now I'm all for trying new things and giving things a go, but some of Marvel's artistic choices lately are a disservice to the story, and the choices seem based on whether the artist has a manga 'style' or not.
Take the latest Green Goblin arc in Peter Parker: Spider-Man, for instance. Paul Jenkins (the writer) seemed to be going for an emotionally tense and climatic head-to-head. But, Humberto Ramos just seemed to be the wrong choice; his art seemed to rob the story of much of its intent. I've enjoyed Ramos before on other titles, but in this story, it just didn't match. The cartoony over-exaggeration and cluttered detail just didn't convey the emotion clearly, or the action. And now it looks like Ramos will continue to be paired with Jenkins, which I think is a BIG mistake. They are just an odd match. The biggest shame is that Jenkins writes some awesome stories, and I'm afraid they will be wrecked by mismatched art.
On the other hand, since Ramos finished his run on Spider-Man, other artists with similar styles have taken over to pencil Zeb Wells's more humourous and light-hearted scripts. While I can't say the art has really blown me away, it at least matches the story better.
One of those artists, Francisco Herrera, is the new regular penciller on the new Venom series. Bear in mind that the first issue hasn't hit the stores yet, but you can catch a preview at Marvel.com. The basic starting point for the series seems to be that the Venom symbiote can now jump bodies. The symbiote is being hunted by something. And it is trapped in some remote Arctic base causing havoc and carnage. Basically, it seems like a horror movie (namely John Carpenter's The Thing). Which isn't a bad thing. In fact, it's interesting, there aren't that many horror comics out there. But to put Francisco Herrera on pencils? On a horror story? THAT'S NUTS! His cartoony, exagerrated art style can't convey suspense and horror--he can barely draw a straight line! I know Daniel Way (the title's writer) said wait and see. So, I checked out the dot-comic. Here's a small sample:
It's a dog with some weird and distracting eye disorder! Then there's the main character:
It took me a while to figure out that this was a guy and even longer to figure out the character's race! And even then I'm still not 100% sure my conclusions are right. The script seems to be going for tension and suspense, but the art is distracting with its wacky portrayals, and seems at total odds with the script. I'm sure Daniel Way didn't write in his script: "draw distracting crazy-eyed dog in the background and misproportioned human of indeterminate sex and race in the foreground", but that's what he got!
In order for Marvel to jump on what they perceive as the newest artistic trend, they are totally screwing up by mismatching their talent. If I was Paul Jenkins or Daniel Way, I'd be pretty miffed. I can't imagine that the finished product is what they envisioned. I may be wrong, since I am neither of these gentlemen, but even as an outside observer, there seems to be something off.
I won't even start on Spider-Man: Legend of the Spider-Clan; it's just plain silly.
So, will I still buy Venom? I'll pick it up for its Spidey connection, but if it doesn't grab me in the first three issues, Spidey connection or not, I'm dropping it. Then, hopefully, by voting with my wallet, Marvel might get the message. As for Marvel's general 'manga' trend? I hope they get over it soon.