Before I embark upon a big, issue-by-issue omnibus companion to my very favorite Marvel comic series, The Infinity Gauntlet, I want to do a series of shorter Pre-Game posts that will give a broad overview of what’s awesome about this this crazy little comic series. I will post a new piece each day this week.
So, here is the third of FIVE THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND WHILE YOU READ INFINITY GAUNTLET.
3. GEORGE PÉREZ SHOULD HAVE DRAWN THE WHOLE THING
To this day, artist George Pérez remains the go to guy if you want to do an epic comic story that features hundreds of characters. This has been the case since the late seventies when he worked on Avengers and New Teen Titans, and it was the case in the eighties when he did Crisis on Infinite Earths, and it was still the case in 1991, when Marvel was looking for someone to draw Infinity Gauntlet.
I’m sure on some level the choosing of Pérez rubbed fellow comic artist Ron Lim the wrong way. After all, Jim Starlin and Lim had brought Thanos back together in the pages of their monthly Silver Surfer comic and then had also jointly told the story of Thanos’s rise to power in Thanos Quest.
Lim had visually laid all the groundwork for Infinity Gauntlet; didn’t it seem like a natural fit that Marvel would have Lim draw the proper miniseries? I can only speculate to Marvel editorial’s reasoning. The first thing was that the Silver Surfer comic was doing better than it had in years and they probably didn’t want to derail that train by swapping artists. The second is that Pérez is kind of a rock star artist, known for his graphic art inspired style and his rigorous attention to detail. Attaching him to a standalone event miniseries like this would instantly elevate it to “must read” comic. Which it did.
By issue #4, however, Pérez found he had spread himself too thin. Concurrent to Infinity Gauntlet, he was also writing and drawing Wonder Woman and overseeing a Wonder Woman-driven event over at DC Comics. The DC stuff was higher profile – and, I’d venture to guess, higher paying based on the fact that he was writing and drawing – so ultimately he elected to leave Infinity Gauntlet without finishing the fourth issue. So, no surprise, they tapped Ron Lim to finish issue #4 and the rest of the series. Can you imagine what that phone call must have sounded like?
As much as I am ultimately happy that Ron Lim was reconnected with the project – he draws a killer Adam Warlock – I do believe Pérez’s unique visual vernacular helped establish the tone and pacing of the series in those first three issues. As anyone who has read he and Marv Wolfman’s run on New Teen Titans knows, Pérez is a masterful storyteller. Hell, the “opening credits” sequences he did for the “Who is Donna Troy” issue is gallery worthy. Or, okay, at least man-cave-wall-worthy.
The structure of Infinity Gauntlet’s story demands that we quickly check in with characters for just a page or two and then move on to the next one. The stylish and, more importantly, clear storytelling that Pérez brings to these sequences is incredible. For a quick example, let’s take the two page sequence that introduces Doctor Strange and Silver Surfer to the story. These are two of our main characters and Silver Surfer is the only one who has the expositional information about Thanos, so there is a lot of ground to cover. Here are the pages:
At the top left of the first of the first page, the first image we see is a sort of stylized interpretation of Doctor Strange that highlights his key features – his cloak of levitation, his silhouette, a floating lemongrass scented taper from Yankee Candle, and, most interestingly the unique circular skylight in his Sanctum Sanctorum headquarters, which Pérez has superimposed onto the collar of his cloak.
Next to that stylized image is some free-floating text and a smaller version of that skylight window, as though this stylized version of Dr. Strange is sitting near it. In the next panel, which is directly next to this image, we see an establishing shot of the Sanctum Sanctorum from outside, which also prominently includes the skylight. In these sequential versions of the skylight, we see it progress in three steps from an abstract icon to a corporeal feature on a building.
But why make such a big deal out of this skylight? At the bottom of the first page, Dr. Strange hears a crash upstairs and quickly heads up to investigate.
When he arrives in his study, we see from a dynamic overhead shot and a subsequent panel from the reverse angle that the Silver Surfer has crashed through the skylight. Because the previous page called so much attention to this skylight, this reveal has more impact. Mind you, these are two expository pages that Pérez could have just crapped out.
Instead, the design motif on the previous page tells us that this skylight – and by extension the whole Sanctum Sanctorum – is basically a part of Dr. Strange. So it tells us something about the desperate stakes that the Silver Surfer, someone the dialogue establishes as Strange’s friend, would be willing to wreck this key part of his iconography.
That Pérez took such care with this short sequence is exactly why it’s a bummer that the George Pérez Infinity Gauntlet artwork collection ends with Issue #3.
Anyway, at least there is enough to decorate your man cave.
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