Jul 12, 2016
The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 504: Batman and Robin #15, December 2010
I think it's getting on to time I took a break from Batman. Though the series is still utterly, utterly fantastic and weird, and the end of this issue, with the incarnation of the "Bat-God" (guess who?) was just great, but I'm running out of things to say about it. I feel like I've been repeating myself a good deal over the last few weeks. So I think we'll finish off the "Return" storyline, with Batman and Robin #16 and Batman: The Return, and then take a bit of a break before jumping headlong into Batman Incorporated.
But before we do that, can we just take a moment to appreciate Frazer Irving? How does one think about his art? At first I was quite taken by the painted quality of the artwork, a quality that can sometimes, thanks to the influence of Alex Ross, be equated with a photo-realistic sense. But Irving's art reminds me more and more of early Morrison collaborator Chas Truog, with simplistic representations and, occasionally, very cartoon-y depictions, though still parsed through this painted medium (I don't know if Irving does paint these comics, or if it's another technique of some kind. But it's beautiful, nonetheless). Truog's Animal Man is a study in contradictions, an early and dark proto-Vertigo title illustrated in a deceptively simple manner. There's much discussion of the kind of iconic abstraction that goes on in comics, the removal of detail in order to increase the ability of the reader to identify oneself with the focal character, and Truog's work on Animal Man is a wonderful example of this kind of thing. That said, the comic is also capable of great detail and nuance, and it's in this way that Irving's work reminds me of that much earlier title. As I say, the resemblance to painted canvases hearkens to that Rossian influence on comics, but occasionally we'll get a close-up of a character or a sequence that is drawn in the simplest of lines, and given the sheen of the painted by the colour process (I think. This is not quite my expertise). It's a really wonderful trick the comic is playing on its readers, placing us into the oil paint world. There's a sensuality to it, like moving through something thick, which makes the rapid-fire action sequences all the more impressive. They seem to move blindingly fast and in slow motion all at the same time. I'll get around to reading Irving's other works, many in collaboration with Morrison, eventually, but this quality of his art is worth paying attention to. Of all the senses to evoke in comics art, I think that tactile sense of bodily immersion is the most difficult, perhaps because we're not really aware of the constant touch of the air on our skins, all day, every day (having typed that, I can now feel every inch of exposed skin in the air, and my clothes on all the rest). Irving's art manages to approximate that tactility.