The X-Men’s loss was all of comics’ gain. By the late ‘90s, Joe Madureira, Chris Bachalo, Carlos Pacheco and Salvador Larroca were all finding better or more interesting work outside of the confines of the X-Men family of titles. Salvador Larroca’s stint on the Heroes Return mini-series had led to a regular spot on Fantastic Four Vol. 3 starting in 1998 (although, with Chris Claremont as writer, some fans were decrying the FF as an X-Men title in disguise). Joe Madureira was a self-employed star, whose Battle Chasers was burning up the charts that same year. Carlos Pacheco was gaining critical and additional fan acclaim as the artist on Kurt Busiek’s Avengers: Forever, also in 1998. Chris Bachalo was the last to leave the X-Men but by 1999 he was working on another Vertigo book (the Witching Hour mini-series). And in 2000 he followed Joe Madureira to Image’s Cliffhanger line with his own creator-owned series, Steampunk.
At this point, their career paths really began to diverge. The success of Battle Chasers led to additional opportunities for Joe Madureira outside of comic books. He got caught up in the video game industry and disappeared from comics for a little while. He did conceptual art and design for Dragonkind, Trade Wars and Dungeon Runners. He finished up Battle Chasers in 2001. And in 2007-08, Madureira returned to comic books as the artist on Marvel’s Ultimates Vol. 3.
Meanwhile, Carlos Pacheco’s star kept rising. The success of Avengers Forever presented Carlos Pacheco with the chance to choose his own projects. He took over Fantastic Four as both writer and artist (following in the footsteps of Salvador Larroca again; their careers just keep crossing). He stayed on the title for twenty-one issues, including an annual. He also wrote an Inhumans mini-series.
In 2002, DC wooed Pacheco away from Marvel. His first project for DC was a big one: he drew the JLA/JSA hardcover Virtue and Vice, working with writers David Goyer and Geoff Johns. He then reunited with Avengers writer Kurt Busiek on the fantasy title Arrowsmith and teamed with writer Jeph Loeb for an arc on Superman/Batman. The high profile projects at DC just kept coming. Carlos Pacheco drew the first three issues of the new Green Lantern title, one of the biggest hits of the decade. He then joined Kurt Busiek again on Superman, drawing the epic Camelot Falls story. Finally, he pitched in on the company-wide event, Final Crisis, giving regular artist JG Jones a break by drawing issues 4 and 6.
After drawing half of DC’s major characters, Carlos Pacheco was finally brought back to Marvel. He’s currently the artist on Ultimate Avengers, the title that took over for Joe Madureira’s Ultimates Vol. 3.
While Madureira and Pacheco were finding success in video games and at DC, the other two artists found themselves back in the X-Men fold. Salvador Larroca returned in the year 2000. He had developed a good working relationship with Chris Claremont on Fantastic Four and so he followed Claremont to Uncanny X-Men in 2000 (drawing most of the issues from #384-395) and X-Treme X-Men in 2001 (drawing the first 24 issues, plus an annual). Then, when Claremont returned to Uncanny for the third time, Larroca was switched up to work with Chuck Austen on New X-Men in 2004. He was the primary artist with Austen and then Peter Milligan from issue #155 to 187 in 2006. He returned Uncanny X-Men in 2007, working with writer Ed Brubaker on issues 487-491. Finally, Larroca got to try his hand at a fourth X-Men title when he teamed with Robert Kirkman for an arc of Ultimate X-Men (issues 88-93, 2008).
Unlike most of the other artists, Larroca worked quickly. He was often able to handle a second assignment at the same time. So even as he contributed regularly to one of four X-titles, he also drew six issues of Namor in 2003, the four-issue Ultimate Daredevil and Elektra mini-series, the five issue Ultimate Elektra sequel in 2004 and six issues of Newuniversal for writer Warren Ellis in 2006. After spending most of the decade drawing the X-Men, Larroca finally moved on to other Marvel stars. He was one of the initial artists on Amazing Spider-Man’s Brand New Day and he’s now the regular penciller on Invincible Iron Man.
Chris Bachalo followed Salvador Larroca back to the X-Men. He was the guest artist for two issues of Ultimate X-Men in 2002 (#18-19). He drew the “Assault on Weapon Plus” arc of New X-Men in 2003 (issues 142-145). He revisited the Age of Apocalypse in 2005, drawing the 10-year anniversary mini-series X-Men: Age of Apocalypse. He returned to Uncanny X-Men that same year, drawing issues 464-468. Then, he took over for Larroca on adjective-less X-Men with issue 188 in 2006. Though he didn’t draw every issue, Bachalo remained the primary artist until issue 207.
Of course, it wasn’t all X-Men all the time for Bachalo. He contributed six issues of Captain America in 2003. Plus, like Larroca, he was one of the four initial artists named to helm Spider-Man’s Brand New Day in 2008. Most recently, he’s worked on New Avengers and Dark Reign: Sinister Spider-Man.
Those are the primary artists of the Spanish American style. I won’t claim to have bought everything they’ve drawn. Yet they were some of the main artists who drew me back in as a comic book collector. I always try to keep an eye on what they’re working on. And I generally enjoy what they’re doing.