(Ow! I think I just wrecked my voice -- and I was only typing that!)
I think Kolins as an artist is technically competent but otherwise overrated. Yes, fanboys, he draws "realistic" which God knows is a plus for readers with slim-to-no imaginations. But his characters are -- almost to a man! -- ugly. He refuses to use spot blacks, leaving that up to the colorist in even the most obvious situations -- which means that when Kolins draws a villain with eyes that are meant to be little dots of light in a pool of darkness (Grodd, Zoom) the colorist has to fill in the black part. But colorists can't do that, so they usually try to compensate with a muddy purple-gray. Which looks horrible. And here's the thing -- I've seen enough pencilled comic book pages to know that all the penciller has to do to indicate that a shape must be colored in a solid black is to draw a little "X" on it. That's it. Two short pencil strokes. Having read an interview with the guy, it seems to me that Kolins is confusing laziness with artistic flair. Sure, Kolins, there are great comic artists who don't use spot blacks. Moebius, for example. Or Geoff Darrow. Trust me. You're no Moebius or Geoff Darrow.
And Kolins' costume designs are fugly with a captial FUG. Let's take a look at some of his handiwork.
There's Magenta in the purple and silver outfit. A simple, boring, but pleasant enough outfit that's marred by the ridiculous gauntlets. Besides looking goofy, they're utterly impractical. Sure, she's a show-off with the magnetic powers, so she can float a lot of things around instead of handling them. Fine. Now let's see her eat a hoagie.
There's Murmur, with the leather fetish (yawn) costume and the hokey mask and the bad haircut -- because he's CRAZY! -- and he doesn't belong in a Flash comic at all but that's really Geoff Johns' fault. Anyway, I give Kolins points for the pointy-tipped jester clown collar, but that's it.
There's the new Trickster, who dresses like a jackass, but then he is a jackass. So good job, I suppose. That said, his costume is one of those trendy numbers that is not going to age well. Not to mention, it looked tired and out-of-date even when it first appeared.
Girder I have no problem with. And Mirror Master's costume is ugly, but that's not Kolins' fault. Aw, hell! Y'know what? I think I'll blame him for that one, too. (Fucking Kolins.)
Weather Wizard had a pretty stupid costume to start out with but Kolins' redesign is no better. The wide yellow stripes in a stunningly vague tornado shape make him look like a turtle. And check out the treads on the bottom of his jumpsuit. It looks like he's wearing ballet slippers.
But I reserve my deepest hatred for his design of Blacksmith. The costume is overdone and it's in a hideous shade of purple-gray because Kolins can't be bothered to SPOT HIS FREAKING BLACKS! (...Ow! My throat is really sore now!) Check out the huge rings on her upper arms. What are those, napkin holders? Look closely and you'll see completely unnecessary cut-outs that reveal her inner calves. It doesn't look good from a design standpoint, and it sure as heck ain't sexy, unless you're living in Iran and such a scandalous display is forbidden by the Morality Police. And then there's her face. Her ugly, ugly face.
I don't know what on God's green earth Kolins was going for here, but I'm pretty sure he failed. Miserably. In the storyline, Blacksmith has melded metal with her own flesh. And that's what she came up with for herself. Like a typical Kolins design, it's unattractive and riddled with embellishments that do nothing for the character. Sure, she's "evil." And no, I don't think all female comic characters need to be beauties. But Blacksmith's face looks cheesy cartoon evil, and as such it's not really effective. And it looked really familiar to me. For the longest time I racked my brain, trying to recall where I'd seen that kind of goofy ugliness before. It finally hit me.
It was in the Dick Tracy comics.
And it didn't look any better back then.