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Frantic as a cardiograph scratching out the lines, Day 2: The Umbrella Academy: Apocalypse Suite #3

Every day this month, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. Today’s page is from The Umbrella Academy: Apocalypse Suite #3, which was published by Dark Horse and is cover dated November 2007. Enjoy!

There's really nothing like a ball gag, is there?

This comic is written by Gerard Way, drawn by Gabriel Bá, colored by Dave Stewart, and lettered by Nate Piekos. Yes, this is the first page of the comic. Why would I reassure you? Because, as you can see, it certainly looks like we dropped in on this comic in the middle.

This is due, of course, to the idea of “writing for the trade.” This is a long story divided into six chapters, and it’s meant to be read in one sitting. Therefore, just as you might expect the first few paragraphs of a chapter to follow along from the last few paragraphs of a previous chapter with no month-long break in the middle, Way simply continues the story from “chapter 2″ and doesn’t care at all about bringing anyone up to speed. So a casual reader will have no idea what’s going on on this page, and even a reader of the series might forget, given the monthly breaks in between chapters. Way gives us some information about the evil dude – he’s dying, he’s insane, he built a wondrous machine that keeps him alive – but not way he has a girl strapped to a chair (although it’s obvious he’s going to do something nefarious to her). It’s certainly not the worst first page – it’s intriguing and mysterious – but it’s still fairly obvious that Way is writing a story that you probably can’t just jump into.

Bá’s art and Stewart’s coloring is nicely done. The evil dude looks both menacing and slightly goofy, as if we’re not supposed to take him all that seriously. Way and Bá do this a lot in The Umbrella Academy – it’s almost trite the way they give us goofy-looking villains who do horrible things. This guy is plump and wears an odd helmet, but he’s talking about suffering from a fatal disease and he has a girl strapped to a chair with a ball gag in her mouth. Not pleasant. Bá sells it, though, and Stewart’s fine, muted, blue-based coloring in every panel but the lower left one helps highlight both that that one is a flashback and that the villain is insane, as he killed the doctor who diagnosed his illness. It’s a standard trick in the comic book business (and in movies, too), but that doesn’t mean it’s not effective.

The first page of the third issue of The Umbrella Academy might not be the most astounding first page, but it does offer the reader some tantalizing puzzles, which is all we can really ask for, right?

Next: One of the most boldly colored comic book runs of the past 15 years!

10 Comments

Brian Augostino

January 2, 2012 at 5:50 pm

Greg, do you hide in happy hour? Great reference…..LOVE it!

Though if this has been clearly marked as a miniseries on the cover then the “writing for the trade” part can be accepted, one shouldn’t expect to be able to pick part 3 of six-issue minitrade and be able to just jump in.

Intriguing page though for the reasons you mentioned, there is a strange mixture of silliness on the designs and grimness in the content. And ball gag is indeed always an effective piece for makeshift gags made from duct tape or rags suggest that anything could still happen, but owning a ball gag? This guy has done some planning and probably is not doing it for the first time.

Brian: It took me a little bit to find a good Marillion lyric. I think this fits quite well!

AS: Yeah, I’m not really criticizing it as much as mentioning it, mostly because it’s strange that Way and Ba didn’t even provide a caption box saying when or where this was. This is almost literally the next page in a long story, and it just happened to turn up as a first page in a serial. So yeah, people shouldn’t expect this to be a really good “first page,” but I’m surprised the creators didn’t do anything to help a reader out.

[...] Frantic as a cardiograph scratching out the lines, Day 2: The Umbrella Academy …Comic Book Resourcesby Greg Burgas Every day this month, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. Today's page is from The Umbrella Academy: Apocalypse Suite #3, which was published by Dark Horse and is cover dated November 2007. Enjoy! … [...]

Not sure I agree with your assessment here, Greg. If I recall correctly, most of the issues of the first Umbrella Academy mini opened with a flashback to the characters days as childhood superheroes, usually in medias res. The scene that opens issue 3 (or any other issue of the series) wouldn’t necessarily be tied strictly to events in previous issues. Rather, Way designed each one to act as a framing device for the present day events that would unfold in the bulk of the issue.

So, it’s actually a pretty great first page, if you ask me, and and confusion on the part of the reader was likely intended to foster intrigue and interest in the character history that was being unveiled.

Hmm. I don’t have the issues on me right now, but if I’m not mistaken, Issue #2 of the Apocalypse Suite doesn’t end where this issue begins. This is actually a flashback that gives a more proper context to the events that unfold in that 3rd issue. It starts the flashback right smack in the scene that would give enough exposition in the least amount of space, so that you can start the story knowing where the Terminauts come from. (Dr. Terminal, presented for the first time in this first page, created them.)

Also, the series deals with constant back-and-forths from when the characters were chilrden, only having numbers for names to when they’re adults. It’s throwing the reader right in the middle of the action, and highly praised writers do it all the time. regardless, the transition on the 3rd page clears up that we were looking at Rumor as a child. which then transitions to a beautiful two page spread and title page.

It all works perfectly, in my opinion.

basically, What Chris said in the post above mine. THAT.

Chris and Daniel: Yeah, you’re right. I went back and looked at the end of issue #2, and that’s the way Way does it. My bad. I need to add disclaimers to these posts that I often haven’t read the issue in a while, so I might make some mistakes! Thanks for pointing it out to me, though, because I did forget.

Funny how you’re jumping right into a story, yet it’s still more engaging than most of the first Issues of other comics I’ve read lately.

Yeah, as others have said, this actually works quite well as an opening page. I’m not sure why you think it doesn’t.

I actually have just the first 2 issues of this mini (and the first 2 of Dallas, the other UA mini), for some odd reason. Been awhile since I read it, but I didn’t remember encountering this character before. Daniel confirmed what I thought, though.

I suppose it’s a philosophical difference, and one that will come up more in upcoming days and weeks of this feature, but it’s interesting that you have a notion that the first page should provide more…updating of what’s going on? a recap of where we are in the story? I’m not sure what to term it.

You seem to think that the writers should “hold our hands” a bit more, and I’d say that each page should give us something new to look at.

I’m generalizing our views, of course, and greatly simplifying them. This feature is very interesting, though.

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