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Tag Archive: Best Frank Cho art


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It’s a useful story tool when used right: The historical talisman presented to a modern character who uses the power of that talisman to do harm or save the world.  We’ve seen it throughout The Librarian, Warehouse 13, Ray Bradbury Theater, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Highlander, Witchblade, Wynonna Earp, The Shannara Chronicles–it’s everywhere, and it’s timeless.  Frank Cho uses the same method to drive the story forward in his new five-issue, creator-owned, limited monthly series Skybourne.

Released this month from BOOM! Studios, Skybourne has what every comic book reader could want–Cho created the covers, the interior art, and scripted the story for a brand new action heroine.  The title character Grace Skybourne has been compared to James Bond–she has Daniel Craig’s Bond’s lightning reflexes and ability to level a room with her little finger.  And she’s an agent every woman wants to be and every man wants to be with.  So the Bond comparison rings true.  Cho used covers originally intended for DC Comics’s Wonder Woman series for this series, and it may very well be true that Grace Skybourne–and Cho’s series–is the Wonder Woman series we all wish he’d write.

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In Issue #1 we meet Grace Skybourne and witness her abilities firsthand as she eliminates one baddie Terminator style and gracefully slips through a cover-to-cover fight scene straight out of John Carpenter’s They Live.  And because this is a Frank Cho project–being tough doesn’t mean she can’t be gorgeous and feminine along the way.  She’s searching for the story’s MacGuffin: King Arthur’s sword Excalibur.  Be prepared for some surprises.  Most of her foes take her for granted, but not all.  Cho’s choreography of combat and layouts are clean, simple, and as superb as you’d expect.  And his humor is back as well.  Color work is nicely rendered by Marcio Menyz. Continue reading

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Review by C.J. Bunce

The world needs more Frank Cho.  Frank Cho got me interested in Ms. Marvel and The Mighty Avengers when I hadn’t bought a Marvel comic book in years.  And now Frank Cho has caused me to want to read more about the Scarlet Witch, Spider Woman, and a more recent X-Woman named Hope (actually they call her an X-Man, but that doesn’t quite work for me).

I was immediately surprised and pleased when I saw the display for the new prologue to Avengers vs. X-Men, Issue #0, because it is reminiscent of one of Frank Cho’s all-time best covers, that of the Scarlet Witch in the trade edition of Ultimates 3; Who Killed the Scarlet Witch, which I have not managed to pick up yet to read from the back issue stack.

So what I hope is that Avengers vs. X-Men will focus heavily on the focus of this prologue–equal parts redemption of the Scarlet Witch, who betrayed her husband Vision when we last saw her and devastated the mutant community, and the rest about a girl named Hope Summers, the so-called Mutant Messiah, whose story here follows a coming of age, breakaway from the status quo that feels very similar to Batgirl’s journey in DC Comics’ New 52 line-up.

What I thought this issue would cover is a lot of over-the-top brawling between Thor and Hulk and Iron Man and Wolverine, etc.  I was very happily surprised that wasn’t the case.  Since it does not appear that Frank Cho will be doing all the interiors for the actual AvX series, I just hope I am not disappointed in what comes next.

AvX #0 sold out practically instantly Wednesday across the country but no doubt the reprints will follow soon enough if you missed it.  It is a nice standalone issue, and can go firmly on the shelf next to the best of Cho’s Marvel pages.  You hear that writers write to the strength of the artists that they partner with, and it seems unlikely that Brian Michael Bendis and Jason Aaron didn’t also follow suit here.   This book is chock full of what Cho draws best–not just voluptuous women, but superhero females in action, acting smart, acting tough, being cool in every way.  As I mentioned above, that means Scarlet Witch, Hope Summer, and Spider Woman, but it also means Ms. Marvel and Emma Frost make a solid appearance.  It also means that Bendis sent Cho a few lay-ups, with some dinosaur-tipped rockets fired at the Scarlet Witch courtesy of M.O.D.O.K. (that’s Mobile Organism Designed Only for Killing).  I think only Cho could pull that off, and he did it here.  If this work is what partially delayed Cho’s Guns & Dinos series, there was a great reason for the diversion, and his fans will be pleased with this latest entry.

There is some alpha and omega, yin and yang going on here, as Hope was the first mutant born after the Scarlet Witch turned all the mutants (except 198) into mere mortals.  Will these two get to deal with each other in the pages of AvX going forward?  I hope so.

In this issue, we had split writing duties, with Jason Aaron taking on the frustration of Hope against the always whiny and wimpy (and often annoying) Cyclops.  Brian Michael Bendis wrote the story of Scarlet Witch in her return to Marvel’s pages from a bit of a hiatus.  Both writers balance the story well and Cho’s art further keeps the issue cohesive.  It would be great if this trio took the reins for the entire series, but that is not the case.

What’s the coolest thing about Hope?  Along with having an interesting character voice, she has one of the best powers around–she can mimic the powers of others.  I remember thinking this was a great ability when I watched Peter use this power in the Heroes TV series.  Hope uses these powers to both use Cyclops’s rays against himself and to take out a motley group of baddies at the end of the book.  She also uses the classic head-butt maneuver to good effect in a classic scene found in this issue.  Aaron’s writing includes a number of funny and quirky moments for Hope–she is endearing.  And you instantly must side with Hope Summers against Scott Summers.  It’s the same style of writing that makes Aaron’s Wolverine and the X-Men successful.

Cho's original cover art is sadly partially obliterated by the AvX logo. Check out the angel in the background. Doesn't it look like the angel from the Fearless series?

Scarlet Witch–Wanda–never looked better (you just know she wears a Beltsville shirt in her down time).  She is back but wants to stay away from the Avengers.  But Carol Danvers aka Ms. Marvel insists she accompany her and Spider-Woman back to their friends.  The result is a long-and-coming encounter with her husband who turns her away, to the anger of Ms. Marvel, but the acceptance of Logan and Tony Stark.  Bendis is really good–you really feel bad for Wanda here in a short number of pages, both from the story and Cho’s visual portrayal.  And we are left with this prophecy that Hope will have to face the Phoenix… that she senses is coming toward her from far away.  Cho shows us that it is not just a prophecy but will be addressed in issues to come.

For AvX, this is a great start, using the powerhouse writing and art trio of Bendis/Aaron/Cho upfront.  Hopefully the rest of the creators at Marvel Comics will keep the momentum going as we will find out with the premiere of Issue #1 next week.  And more than anything this issue has made me want to catch up on past Cho trade books: Ultimate Comics New Ultimates: Thor Reborn, Fear Itself: The Fearless, and The New Avengers.

First of all, there needs to be some ground rules when you tackle a “best of” list for someone as talented as Frank Cho.  With Alex Ross, we took his entire body of work and picked our 15 favorite images, whether from cover art, interior pages, or marketing pieces Ross painted.

But with Frank Cho, the world renowned artist known for his voluptuous women characters and funny and sarcastic animals, it was a bit harder to choose.  In particular, his work on Liberty Meadows, and before that, his hilarious college series University².  Cho’s drawings of Brandy and her animal friends are so expressive and fun that we think they beat out all his other work.  And we think Cho would approve–he told us this summer that he doesn’t sell any of his original Brandy pages.  We wouldn’t either!  You can see some of the Liberty Meadows covers behind Brandy in the image above from Cho’s great website, full of his blogging and galleries, apesandbabes.com.  If you don’t know Frank Cho’s comic strip-turned-comic book, we suggest you start with University², available in a compilation of comic strip humor called University Squared: The Angry Years that is my personal favorite.  Beyond that, Liberty Meadows is available via Image Comics in Liberty Meadows: Book One, Eden, Liberty Meadows: Book Two, Creature Comforts, Liberty Meadows: Book 3, Summer Of Love, and Liberty Meadows: Book Four, Cold, Cold HeartLiberty Meadows is about Brandy, a animal psychologist at an animal sanctuary/rehab clinic, her animal friends, and Frank, a veterinarian, who is in love with Brandy…but won’t tell her.  It is funny in the vein of Bill Waterson’s Calvin and Hobbes, yet dramatic like Terry Moore’s Strangers in Paradise.

So before taking on a “best of” or “favorites list” for the other comic books series Cho has created covers for, could we select one Liberty Meadows piece that stands for them all?  We came up with this cover, with Brandy sporting her Beltsville shirt.  This image is classic Frank Cho.  But even this is sort of a cheat, since it is a cover to Cho’s Liberty Meadows: Cover Girl compilation book, as opposed to a regular series comic, but it is the cover Cho chose for the book on his own covers.  Hey, you try and pick the best from Liberty Meadows!

Oftentimes we think you can see his Liberty Meadows characters Brandy the brunette and Jen the blonde as the superheroes in the mainstream comics he draws.  They are fun to watch for.

It’s probably easier to discuss Cho’s best cover art by referring to each series he has drawn.  And we’ll focus here on just a dozen of his cover projects that blow us away.   You’re dealing with a body of work that includes Shanna the She-Devil, New Ultimates, Fear Itself, Schism, Ms. Marvel, Red Sonja, and New Avengers, and his many variant covers, which often eclipse the regular issue covers of other artists.

First up is his work with “dinosaurs, Nazis, guns and babes” in Shanna, the She-DevilThis cover to Issue 3 is a standout, with Shanna in about as much danger as a human in the Jurassic era can get into!  If you like this also check out his Jungle Girlseries, his Red Sonja series, and, coming soon, his Guns and Dinos.

A lot of Cho’s work has the feel of 1940s pin-ups.  This Dark Horse Comics Hellboy: Weird Tales, Vol. 2 cover image has a great retro look, and shows that, like Alex Ross, Cho gets to work with a variety of publishers’ star characters:

We only wish we’d see Cho take on more DC Comics characters!

Cho hasn’t come close to hitting his full stride yet, with some of his best work coming out in 2010 and 2011.  Check out these covers for the Ultimate Comics New Ultimates: Thor Reborn.  And his interior work is as good or better than the covers.  In fact, most of the cover work featured here reflects covers of books where Cho drew the interior art, too.  When you usually find a great cover but lesser art inside with other creators’ books, Cho’s books give you top illustrations, cover to cover.

   

Cho practically re-ignited Ms. Marvel through his drawings of this once minor Avenger.  Two covers with Ms. Marvel stand out:  the Mighty Avengers cover that was redone for the Irredeemable Ant-Man series, and this stunning cover for her own series:

  

The other Avenger Cho brought into the limelight was Spider-Woman, especially in this cover to New Avengers (left), yet check out this incredibly powerful image in the variant of Secret Invasion (right), with Cho showing his pre-Raphaelite influence:

 

Cho has said that his favorite superhero to draw is Spider-man.  Here he drew Spider-man in contrast to this dark, Gothic, seemingly medieval woodcut-inspired image in Ultimate Spider-Man: Death of Spider-Man, one of his best variant cover pieces:

  

The second piece above is the Scarlet Witch from Ultimates 3: Who Killed The Scarlet Witch? (v. 1), and it is just another example of a great Cho female character.

Right now on the shelves, Cho returns to his Gothic imagery with the Fear Itself: The Fearless series with these two incentive comic covers from one original grand Cho artwork.  Contrasted with his beautiful Valkyrie on the left is his self-described “fugly” character Sin, daughter of long-time Marvel villain, the Red Skull.  Good luck to whoever gets in the way of either of these women.  Doesn’t look like anyone will stand a chance against either of them.

 

Keeping with the angel theme, this early Witchblade shows another, earlier Cho style, likely influenced by the paintings of Maxfield Parrish:

Finally, to get the full effect of this next image, Cho’s magnum opus of X-Men in X-Men: Schism, you’ll need a wide screen.  In the alternative, click on each image to see how nicely done this new pentaptych is close-up.  Again, Cho’s work gets the exclusive variant edition status…those comics that don’t easily get into readers’ hands, unfortunately, because they are issued in limited numbers to comic shop owners as incentives.  But no doubt the trade edition will include these images not long from now.  Pretty hard to pick a favorite just from these five covers:

Although the most recent work isn’t out in trade versions yet, a lot is still on the shelves as individual issues (see links in the series names above to check out what is available).  Original prints of Cho’s work and other cool stuff is available at Cho’s website.

So… what do you think?  Any glaring omissions?

C.J. Bunce
Editor
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*All images posted above are owned by Frank Cho or the respective publishers listed above.

 

 

 

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