Ryan Stegman signed in 2010 an exclusivity contract with Marvel, after he’d work on several comic books series. Aside from his recent work on Inhuman, he drew a lot for the Superior Spiderman series : three issues from the first arc, My Own Worst Enemy, and three from the last one, Necessary Evil. He ended the Inhuman’s series with Charles Soule on the 15th issue, with a 30 pages annual. But Ryan Stegman won’t disappear from Marvel comic books after Secret Wars : he’ll be working on the new Uncanny Avengers series, for which I can’t wait to be next fall to read it.
I’ll start with his amazing Inhuman #7 cover. How can we not love it ? It’s probably the most beautiful cover of the Inhuman series. An enchained Black Bolt is hanging on a pink background, looking like a dead king of the Inhumans. If the chains are a recollection from the last page of the 6th issue, where Black Bolt appears enslaved by his brother, Maximus the Mad, they can also refer to Medusa’s hair. Because of his power, Black Bolt can’t talk like anyone else without facing the danger of blowing everything up around him. Therefore, he’s bound to Medusa’s translation of his gestures to be understood. And I’m pretty sure you know what are Medusa’s powers : her extensible and bent to her will of a hair. Chains or hair, Black Bolt is a prisoner in both cases. Let’s hope he’ll find a way to free himself.
But let’s not getting ahead of ourselves. The first page I’d like to talk about presents a battle scene. The four first panels are a close-up on the four characters : Medusa, Thor, Inferno and Elejea. With those four panels, the artist represents four reactions in response to the gunshot : surprise, protection of oneself, anger and protection of another. The disposition of these panels on a white background indicates the immediacy of the action and of the reactions, which are simultaneous. The red from Medusa’s hair responses to the red of Inferno’s flames, and the metal of Thor’s helmet and hammer corresponds to the metal of Elejea’s helmet and costume. These vertical echoes of colors accentuate the verticality of the layout and the emergency of the situation. The Inhumans are under attack, they have to fight back or to protect themselves.
Ryan Stegman seems to like the right-angled panels or the full pages better than the uneven dispositions. We can count approximately one page with uneven panels by issue, while these issues often depict battle scenes. My favorite pages of Ryan Stegman‘s art are the full ones. For instance, this one with the Unspoken sitting on the royal’s throne of New Attilan and Medusa enchained, hanging from the ceiling. The bottom view of the Unspoken strengthens his triumph over the poor queen Medusa, who seems to be smaller than the usurper. Her hair and herself hanging from the top of the throne room shape a long down vertical ligne, offset by the rising vertical ligne of the Unspoken and the smoke of the Terrigen crystals. Surrounded by these two verticals, the Unspoken is glorified and put on a metaphorical foreground. But in the real foreground are his ankles, his slight and skinny ankles. The contrast between these skinny ankles and the muscular calves is enormous, and we can ask ourselves how the Unspoken can walk with such tiny ankles.
Unlike Joe Madureira, Ryan Stegman uses solid black ink to color his characters in silhouette, giving them a more theatrical appearance. His Medusa looks like a queen refusing to give a poor man some gold or something valuable – in this case, her hand. And the Unspoken is reduced to be a poor kneeling peasant, dazed by his queen’s departure.
Medusa’s transformation, after the events of Genosha told in AXIS, stunned the NuHumans. She appears on her private platform, in a black tight leather costume, her hair knotted by black ribbons. Thus clothed, she looks like a dominatrix in a S&M sex game. On the bottom panel are reunited the NuHumans we’ve already meet, from Inferno to Ms. Marvel, and Elejea, the queen’s handmaiden. Ryan Stegman‘s art made real the personality’s shift : Medusa is no longer the peaceful queen of the Inhumans, instead she’s ready to fight back at whoever or whatever will come. Once again, a parallel can be made with the X-Men, specially with Cyclops : the first X-Men is not a boy-scout anymore, he’s the armed leader of his kind. But unlike Medusa, Cyclops is not under a spell, he evolved with the society and its threat.
There are so many pages and layout I’d like to talk about in this article, unfortunately it must end at some point. The last page I’ll present to you is a textless one. Black Bolt is back from his captivity with Maximus the Mad, but Medusa will not accept this return so simply. Black Bolt can’t have his throne back so easily after all he’s done, after all Medusa has to do to rebuilt a decent city where both Inhumans and NuHumans could leave in peace. The destruction of the king’s throne by anger is a major turning point : Black Bolt no longer considers himself as the king, and left Medusa at the head of New Attilan. The curtsey of Black Bolt is so ironic, and the walk of an abandoned Medusa to her throne is so heartbreaking, that I couldn’t miss this page and not talk about it.
Ryan Stegman‘s work on Inhuman is fantastic, and I hope it’s gonna be as much as terrific on Uncanny Avengers post Secret Wars. As for the Inhumans, two new comic books series are waiting for us this fall, both written by Charles Soule, the author of this Inhuman series.