• Bill Sienkiewicz’s Mutants And Moon Knights… And Assassins – Artifact Edition (IDW Publishing) Book Review



    Bill Sienkiewicz’s Mutants And Moon Knights… And Assassins – Artifact Edition
    Released by: IDW Publishing
    Released on: October 24th, 2018.
    Written by: Various
    Illustrated by: Bill Sienkiewicz
    Purchase From Amazon

    IDW’s Bill Sienkiewicz’s Mutants And Moon Knights… And Assassins – Artifact Edition is a 160-page tribute to the eighties work of an artist who has, in the last few decades, gone on to become one of the most influential visual stylists of the medium. Like IDW’s gorgeous Artist’s Edition collections, each piece in this collection has been scanned from the original art pages and presented in the best possible condition. While some might gawk at the fact that this collection doesn’t reproduce entire storylines or, for the most part, even entire single issues, the quality of the reproduction here is a serious treat for fans of Sienkiewicz’s art. Not only does it allow us to take in all of the amazing fine detail in the art itself, the pencils not softened by coloring work, but it gives us an interesting look into his process.

    This collection starts off with 54-ages of Sienkiewicz’s work from Marvel Comics’ New Mutants series from the eighties. We get full page reproductions of some of his most impressive work from issues 18 (his first issue on the title) through 31 as well as four cover reproductions and a previously unpublished New Mutants cover piece. While his work would get decidedly more abstract and expressive in only a few short years, it’s important to remember just how unique his work on this title was at the time. Being old enough to have read most of this material when each issue hit the racks, nobody was drawing comics like Sienkiewicz was drawing comics. There may have been a strong Neal Adams influence here and there but he was definitely putting his own stamp on things in a big, big way.

    From there, we head back in time a few years and explore some of the work that he did for Marvel’s Moon Knight comic. There’s art here from issues 1, 3, 9, 11, 15, 22, 23, 25, 26, 28, 29 as well as the cover piece for issue 7, 18 and 23, unpublished covers for 7 and 13 (with pencils from Frank Miller), an unpublished Moon Knight painting, and cover pieces featuring Moon Knight from Marvel Fanfare 58 and Moon Knight Special Edition issue 3. There’s a lot of material here and it’s impressive stuff. Again, his work would get more experimental in the years to come but it’s Sienkiewicz’s work on Moon Knight that put him on the map and that made Moon Knight as interesting a book as it was back in the eighties. Even here, where his work is more conventional, we can see him experimenting with different layouts and illustration tactics like ink spatter and, sometimes most importantly, the use of simple white space to create mood.

    The third section of the book focuses on Sienkiewicz’s work on the Elektra Assassin mini-series that came out through Marvel Comics’ Epic imprint and the Daredevil Love And War graphic novel, both of which were written by Frank Miller. Let’s start with Elektra. It’s here that Sienkiewicz really starts to let loose, going crazy with not only the layouts but the painted colors as well. There was NOTHING on the racks like Elektra Assassin when it came out, and even by today’s standards it holds up well as a masterpiece of avant garde comic book storytelling. Collected here are the entirety of the first issue, four pages from the second, a page from the third, two pages from the fifth, three pages from the sixth, two pages from issue seven and six pages from the eighth and final issue as well as covers for 1, 3 and 5, an Elektra preliminary piece, covers for Amazing Heroes issue 99 and The Comics Journal issue 107 and then, finally, a cover for Elektra issue 25. Sienkiewicz’s depictions of Elektra, while clearly inspired by Miller’s work a few years earlier in the ongoing Daredevil series, introduced us to a woman that was smart, crafty, sexy and impossibly strong (able to hold with one hand a machine gun almost as big as she was!). It’s not an exaggeration to describe the work here as iconic, and the sense of dark, twisted humor that would infuse so much of his work is on full display here. The mixed medium painting that Sienkiewicz did for the series is amazing and it has lost none of its power over the years.

    Lastly, we explore the aforementioned Daredevil Love And War graphic novel from 1987, which he would jump into after Elektra Assassin finished. Here we get eight completed painted pages from the graphic novel as well as some related illustrations – a cover piece for Daredevil issue 197, a cover for Punisher: War Journal issue 65, covers for Dazzler issues 31, 34 and 35, a cover for the third issue of Beauty And The Beast, a Marvel Comics house ad featuring Power Man and, last but not least, a trading card illustration featuring Wolfsbane. The Love And War art does for the Kingpin what the previous mini-series did for Elektra in that it creates a larger than life character and completely restyles a well-known and classic character in Sienkiewicz’s own style without making him unrecognizable. The painted work brings Daredevil to vivid life as well, he seems to be constantly moving, leaving a red trail behind him. Amazing stuff. The selection that follows, the covers and other work, is also very cool, the Dazzler covers in particular really stand out here and added something very unique to that series,

    The book concludes with a nice biography of the artist.

    All in all, anyone who considers themselves a fan of Sienkiewicz’s work should appreciate this book. It’s a beautifully put together package that showcases some of the best of his Marvel Comics work. Granted, that’s only a portion of what he’s done over the years but it’s very cool to have all of this material in one book and be able to trace how his work would evolve over the years. It’s also interesting to look at what he was doing back in the eighties and see how, in 2018, it clearly had such a huge impact on so many of the artists that would follow in his wake.