Review: Al Rio Tribute Art Book – Volume One by Jerry Whitworth
Three years ago this month, the comic book industry lost one of its stars. On the short list of modern day “good girl art” masters, illustrator Al Rio passed away in January 2012 leaving behind a wife and three children. Following his loss, steps were taken to support his family in a tribute art book put together by Rio’s friends and collaborators resulting in a Kickstarter campaign last summer. With a goal of raising $5,500 to finance publication, the book went beyond the goal amassing over $8,800. Further, with a projected publication date of April 2015, the book instead saw print last month. Available to the public now through Al Rio’s website, the Al Rio Tribute Art Book – Volume One (2003-2005) opens with a brief biography of the artist followed by three chapters each outlining selected pieces of art Al Rio produced during the years 2003, 2004, and 2005. The hardcover book’s three chapters feature seventy all color pages of art including sketches and finished art with characters from many of the industry’s most well-known publishers.
No stranger to art books, Al Rio’s work was previously collected as such in Exposed: The Erotic Art of Al Rio issues one and two and The Art of Al Rio volumes one and two (all of which grew in value, Exposed currently fetching about ten to fifteen times cover price). However, this latest offering is different. From the most basic standpoint, Al Rio Tribute Art Book – Volume One is a hardcover with all color pages where previous books tended to be softcover and/or black & white (also, the latest book has more pages than previous volumes). But more importantly, the tribute book takes a significantly more accurate snapshot of Al Rio’s career and interests. Mentioned previously, Rio was known for his good girl art and his art books reflected this where this newest addition amply supplies such pin-ups but also includes a large breadth of comic art (while avoiding any nude art like in past books). Spending much of his professional career working for Marvel, the Al Rio book includes gorgeous pieces of the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, X-Men, Dr. Strange, Ultimate Thor, and the Avengers (not to mention a two page spread of assorted heroes and villains). However, also included are many images of DC characters, notably Superman, Supergirl, and Wonder Woman (the latter accounting for almost two dozen selections including a full page, in-color image of the Lynda Carter incarnation). Non-Big Two art also appears such as pieces from WildStorm (where Rio initially made his name in the industry) and Zenescope (which accounted for much of his professional work in his later years). Calling the book a tribute is certainly appropriate due to the variety of material selected from just a three year period in Al Rio’s career. Largely, the only negative about the book is that it doesn’t outline when the second volume will be available. Hopefully such a period will be measured in months rather than years.
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