I Love Watching Comic Artists Level Up

(This week’s post will be short. Househunting is consuming a lot of my time, and I’m working on a more involved post that needs a little more polish. But hopefully, this short celebration of something uniquely comics will tide you over.)

Last Black Friday, I purchased the entirety of Charles Soule, Alberto Jiménez Alberquerque, and co.’s Letter 44. And while the story drew me in, the art … was initially not my favorite.

Specifically, Alberquerque’s characters felt a bit loosely- and inconsistently-drawn. There was nothing wrong with the book’s storytelling. In fact, I’d list page composition as one of the book’s and Alberquerque’s strengths. But seeing characters change shape and size from panel to panel was jarring, and characters’ facial features felt far too smushy.

This weekend, I finally got around to reading Letter 44‘s fourth volume. The book’s art has improved throughout its run, but in volume four, things seem to have really clicked.

Alberquerque’s characters are solid, consistent, and composed. They look not like lines on a page, but like real people inhabiting a real world. In short, I have no more complaints or criticism to levy, and I’m content to see an artist who has leveled up finish telling a story I’m really enjoying.

This sort of “level-up” progression is not unique to comics. Plenty of artists experiment, iterate, and improve as they continue practicing their craft. But I think level-ups are more noticeable in comics than other mediums, because comic artists produce so much work and often draw the same stories or characters for so long.

I love watching comic artists improve on the page in real-time. And I love being able to compare artists’ past work to their present work, to see just how their art has evolved over time. I know the artists themselves probably don’t enjoy seeing their past, “imperfect” work still sitting out there in the wild. But to me, level-ups are a testament to comic artists’ dedication to their craft – and a way to see why and how a particular artist has joined the collective of artists whose work I enjoy.

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