You’re reading The Complete Infinite Crisis, a Comprehensive and Encyclopedic look through the universe-changing superhero event published by DC from 2005 to 2006. Shelfdust are proud to provide a complete overview of the story, and everything that happens in it. We’ve had to get some experts in though – there’s so much going on that needs to be explained!

After a short time exploring, uh, George of the Jungle, we’re back ontrack now! And hey – it’s about time that THIS comics site started crediting the artist, right? Rowan Grover, I have some questions for you about artist Phil Jimenez, if you’d be so kind to answer?

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Rowan! I have an important question to start with: is Phil Jimenez the greatest of all time? 

Rowan Grover: Steve! That is an important but relatively easy question. Phil Jimenez is undoubtedly the greatest of all time! 

Jimenez is one of those guys that has a resume to show he’s done the rounds in the comics industry, and he’s something of a regular contributor to a lot of works that I have very personal touchstones with. I’ve just pulled out my bulky and beaten up omnibus/sacred tome of The Invisibles and opened it to a random spectacular page that I can instantly recognize as Jimenez, rendering my oddball high school fictional crushes with nineties high fashion sleek style.

On the flip side, I might pull out one of my absolute guilty pleasures, The Return Of Donna Troy, just to be reminded that no matter how much of a disaster queer I might feel like, Donna Troy’s hyper-complex origin retcon in this story will always be a much more beautifully messy disaster. Maybe it is unnecessarily complex, but really, don’t you just have to pay attention? (And why wouldn’t you when you’ve got another certified King, Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, on art?) 

Outside of his classically beautiful workman style, Jimenez is something of an icon in the mainstream comics world, at least to me! He was one of the very few queer working creatives at DC in the nineties, in an office that was rampant with problematic figureheads. He created one of the best queer-coded heroes in Tempest and even came out publicly himself in the editorial of the last issue in 1994, which is astounding for that year. He’s also just a genuine treat to follow on Twitter.  

Like, just look at this splash page. He’s the master of the splash page, surely?

Grover: He’s the mid-2000s Brian Hitch cinematic-superhero style taken to its technical extreme! I mean, splash pages in event comics like what we’ve taken from Infinite Crisis here have so much potential to be a misfire. Even when I dissect and lay it all out on paper, this splash page has no right working as well as it does.  

If someone told me about a page that had a few handfuls of identifiable DC cosmic superheroes, upwards of fifty (don’t quote me on this number, I’m a writer and can’t count that high) visually distinct alien spaceships all engaged in a firefight, overlaid on a swirling, cosmic background that’s also punctuated by a blinding white light that crackles outwards with glowing white lightning… my automatic reaction would likely be my eyes rolling hard back into my skull. And yet! There it is! 

Jimenez works this page as a beautiful spiral with so many visual points of entry that all roll seamlessly into each other. Your front-line superhero characters are closest to the light and easily identifiable. Jimenez even pulls a clever trick here, positioning the Green Lanterns amongst the darker, more chaotic sections of the page, using their glowing-green auras to distinguish them, whilst the less-glowy Star, Hawk, and Strange-people are positioned against the white light where they instantly pop. Then we take a look at the spaceships, which all are designed and shaped beautifully to work with the flow of the splash page.

Yet the distinction here against other pages like this is that you are able to focus in and geek out over each craft. Each has a shape that points inwards to the page’s focal point, yet each is slightly different from the one next to it, not just in color but in shape and feel, some looking more rigid and structural whilst others looking more alien and organic. Jimenez even positions vibrant blaster fire appropriately to separate the more homogenized ships! You just don’t get this from other artists, especially at this point in time!

Do you think Phil Jimenez has ever gotten the full due he deserves? It feels like everybody loves him, but there isn’t a particular defining comic that we tie him to. You know like Darwyn Cooke has New Frontier? 

Grover: Jimenez is undoubtedly a well-respected artist, but in no way has he been given the respect he’s owed. There are a few reasons that this might be the case. I know a lot of fans of the eighties and bronze-age DC comics can tend to write Jimenez off as a George Perez-lite, of which there is some truth to. Jimenez has stated before of his awe for Perez and specifically his Wonder Woman run, which Jimenez actually contributed to later on in the run’s life.

Similarly, his big superhero opus Infinite Crisis is positioned as a sequel to Crisis On Infinite Earths, another notable Perez joint. But in these cases, Jimenez is specifically paying homage to one of his heroes, especially in Infinite Crisis, and it’s this adaptability that should make him more notable. When you look at other works like The Invisibles and New X-Men, Jimenez’s style is uniquely his own. Whether he’s building otherworldly, existential Lovecraftian threats in the former or populating mutant sub-cultures with weird, grotesque style in the latter, Jimenez takes on projects with a different approach each time that channels his innate style yet molds to the specific characteristics of the story being told. 

It’s for this reason as well that I feel Jimenez doesn’t really have a New Frontier to call his own. He’s worked through so many decades and styles, from being one of the big stylistic designers of mid 90s Vertigo to populating superhero universes in the 2000s, that it’s hard to pin him down to just one book. Jimenez has also only done a few complete series himself, with his bibliography being scattered with dozens of one-offs or fill-ins during the late 90s and early 2000s, which can again show how adaptable to different styles and series he is as opposed to Cooke’s consistent and distinct style especially.

But I don’t think that this is necessarily a bad thing. Rather, it just shows how much he’s had subtle influences in growing certain facets of mainstream comics tropes and trends. Rest assured though, Steve. We’ll keep working hard to make sure people are aware of how dang masterful Phil Jimenez truly is, one day at a time.

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Thanks so much, Rowan! Fittingly, a comprehensive and wide-ranging take on Jimenez’s work and career! Let’s not get caught up in Donna Troy trouble again, though. Instead, we’ll head onwards – Infinite Crisis continues!

 

Rowan Grover is a comics critic, writer and editor who is currently found most often over at Multiversity Comics, where he’s the Weekly Reviews Editor. You can find his portfolio here, and follow on Twitter here!