All images © DC Comics, Inc.
Three issues written by David Hine, art by penciller Doug Braithwaite and inker Bill Reinhold. The story is one of cosmic menace threatening innocent people on Earth and far across the universe at the same time. Not unlike other cosmic storylines DC has done recently, but at a somewhat more human scale and not a bad read. What really caught my attention, though was the art, specifically the fine gray wash inking by Bill Reinhold.
For much of their history, comics did not use gray tones, except in rare cases on covers, like this SEA DEVILS one, with gray washes probably added by DC’s Jack Adler. I remember noticing there was something different about those — somehow they blurred the line between the regular colored line art seen on most comics covers and the painted covers used by Gold Key, for instance. I didn’t find out until much later that it was the gray washes that created that effect, though. Gray tones were still mostly forbidden on inside pages, both as a cost savings and because the cheap newsprint paper would have just turned them to mud.
When computer coloring took over from hand-colored guides and hand-separations in the 1990s, and paper quality improved greatly, gray tones began to appear everywhere. Sometimes they enhanced the storytelling and art, but often they just added murk, in my opinion, and encouraged the modern tendency toward too-dark coloring overall. So, the gray wash inking on these books, especially when artfully colored by Art Lyon on issues 20 and 21, was a refreshing surprise. Doug Braithwaite is a fine penciller. He drew the JUSTICE 12-issue series for DC, where his pencils were painted over by Alex Ross. Alex begins his painting process with gray washes to establish values, then adds painted color over that for a very effective and realistic look. Worked great over Braithwaite there. Bill Reinhold’s washes and Lyons’ colors are nearly as good here. I contacted Bill, and he was kind enough to share these process images:
Here are Braithwaite’s pencils for issue 20 page 12. Tight and competent, but leaving a lot of the value decisions to the inker.
Here are Bill’s inks for that page, and look at how much he’s added! The images are now fully realized in three dimensions through an artful use of line weight, blacks and whites, and a wide range of gray washes. This is more than inking, this is painting!
Coloring by Art Lyon, who knows what he’s doing here. Lyons did an equally fine job over Gene Ha on THE FORTY-NINERS graphic novel. Coloring this sort of art is more than just laying tones over the grays, you have to be a lot more subtle than that.
Here’s the page as printed. Beautiful work, and it does remind me of those old DC wash covers, but with the expanded palette of computer coloring, used well. Great work, Bill and Art!
As I said, the story here is fine, if not terribly new, but the art makes this story arc (which continues into at least issue 22) well worth buying. Highly recommended!