The Symbiote with the Slobber! Edge of Venomverse #5

Shortly before my LCS shut down its physical location it had a "buy 3 get 1" graphic novel sale. I didn't really want another graphic novel but who am I to turn away free stuff? So I went over to the recent releases section and grabbed a copy of the Edge of Venomverse TPB. The whole thing is, needless to say, a mindless event that managed to be so inconsequential that the rest of the Marvel universe hasn't even noticed, but hey, we got a James Stokoe-illustrated Deadpool story out of it.

It feels good to be back.Edge of Venomverse #5 (August 2017) page 15
Art by James Stokoe.

I'm always in awe at the way James Stokoe can produce fiddly drawings with lots of seemingly extraneous lines and fine textural details and still wind up with clear, easily processed pages. It's a skill many extremely popular artists have yet to master, and Stokoe puts them all to shame. It helps that he gets to color his own work, but if you were to bleach the color out of this page it would still be eminitely readable. So what's the secret?

First, he varies his line weights to create separation between objects and the illusion of dimensionality. That feels like a lost art these days, where half the inkers feel like they're using markers and are happy to shunt the hard work off to the colorist. But Stokoe put in the effort and it pays off.

Second, he's very clear about where he spots his blacks. In each of these panels the blackest area is the center of attention and it's usually Venompool. He uses the weight and density of his fiddly details to create darker patterned areas to grab the secondary focus and lead the eye.

Finally, he just keeps his compositions simple and strong. When you have a solid structure beneath you can get away with adding a lot of detail in the way a less talented artist can.

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