There's a brilliant synthesis that happens sometimes in superhero comics, where you get the right writer and the right artist working together and it just clicks. The comic feels seamless, natural – dialogue and artwork are a whole, as if they've been made by one creator rather than two (or three or four or five – if the lettering and colouring are working too, all the better). This brilliant synthesis actually happens less often than you'd hope; there are plenty of comics where there's a good writer and a good artist working together, but for some reason – something to do with complementary creativity – they're not the right writer or the right artist.
There's a neat illustration of this in two comics that came out this week. Both New Avengers #55 and Fantastic Four #569 feature Stuart Immonen artwork. Immonen's a talented artist with a flowing line and natural storytelling abilities. And yet the two comics couldn't feel more different. Fantastic Four was scripted by the British TV writer Joe Ahearne from a plot by Mark Millar, and despite lots of gorgeous panels of stuff exploding and heroes clashing, it doesn't gel. There's a disconnect between the spectacle and the script and an awkwardness to the story progression, all of which only distances the reader. It's pretty, but uninvolving.
New Avengers, on the other hand, despite consisiting of long stretches where it's essentially large groups of costumed characters talking to each other, is almost magical. Writer Brian Michael Bendis' character work is beautifully augmented by Immonen's storytelling. For instance, Spider-Man's full face mask generally makes it really hard to have him express any kind of emotion, but in a sequence where the Avengers are discussing killing Norman Osborn, Bendis' dialogue and Immonen's staging lend Spidey a surprising level of emotional intensity. One panel in particular – Spider-Man saying he'll quit the team with a dismissive hand gesture – is simple and yet incredibly effective.
New Avengers #55 may not be an important or historically noteworthy comic like, say, Watchmen or Batman: Year One, but the creative partnership here is as strong as that of Moore and Gibbons, or Miller and Mazzucchelli. It's the right writer, the right artist. It's an alchemy that's unique to the comics medium, but yet also quite rare within that medium, and so something to be celebrated.
Mind you, the cover's a bit crap.