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Frantic as a cardiograph scratching out the lines, Day 17: The Path #4

Every day this month, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. Today’s page is from The Path #4, which was published by CrossGen and is cover dated July 2002. Enjoy!

So, there that is

The first page of The Path #4 is, honestly, kind of dull. Ron Marz, who writes the issue, doesn’t have much to do. I imagine he told Bart Sears, who draws the issue, “Just draw the dude sitting there on the side of the road and have an army pass him by slowly.” So that’s what Sears did! Dave Lanphear, who letters the issue, doesn’t have anything to do whatsoever. Mark Pennington and Michael Atiyeh, who ink and color the issue, have things to do. Good for them!

It’s been quite some time since I’ve read The Path, and while I remember liking it (well, the first twelve issues, which are collected in two trades), I don’t remember the details too much. So I have no idea who that dude is or what he’s doing sitting on the side of the road. I guess this is a mysterious way to begin the issue – there’s a sense of impending doom as the soldiers troop by, and the hair obscuring the face of the dude makes him look both vagabond and dangerous. One of the problems with The Path is that Sears (and later, Matthew Smith) really likes using a lot of thin panels on a page, so things are often a bit crowded, plus there’s very little flow to the page itself. These are simply building blocks of panels, and we read this page in a utilitarian fashion, moving downward very deliberately, with our eyes following the drawings as if we’re reading a text. Sears doesn’t direct our eyes himself – he relies on our cultural background of reading a text left-to-right and up-to-down to guide us over the page. It’s a shame, too – Sears’s art on this comic is quite nice, but it’s often hindered by the page layouts. I don’t know if that’s Marz restricting him, or if that’s the way Sears wanted to do it.

Anyway, things are happening on this page. That Sears doesn’t make them more interesting is a shame. But that happens sometimes!

Next: Mike Grell should be able to do a good first page, right? RIGHT????

Be sure to peruse the archives of these posts. You know you want to!

7 Comments

This page is great! You are missing out on an homage to a great comic… Lone Wolf and Cub! The “vagabond” character is Lone Wolf, Ogami Itto, master of patience who sits complete with his stroller/cart that held his son, the Cub, Diagoro. This is just a nod of the hat to a comic that is a direct influence in its scope and storytelling. Eastern pacing is so much different than ours… taking pages what we in the west might accomplish in one or a few panels. I guess unaware can equal dull sometimes.

If ignore the color and look just at the linework, I think there’s actually quite a bit of flow to the pages. But the color majorly gets in the way and is far to dark. It muddies up the panels and obscures the detail. Even the snow is dark grey.

Captaincold: Well, that’s a bit insulting to equate “unaware” with “dull.” Thanks for the knowledge, but just because Marz and Sears are referencing Lone Wolf and Cub doesn’t make this automatically exciting. Yes, I’m coming from a Western tradition and I’m probably a mouth-breathing troglodyte, but this comic came out at the height of the “decompressed era,” so things that should have taken one of a few panels often took pages. Some stories are fine like that, but too often the stories didn’t need that many pages. I get what the creators are going for here, but that doesn’t mean this works as a first page of an issue. In the middle of a trade (like how I read it), it’s fine, but I’m not sure it’s the greatest first page of a comic book. The reference does mitigate it somewhat, though, so thanks again.

Rob: The line work is perfectly fine, but I think we have to agree to disagree that there’s good flow between the panels. I just don’t see it.

It’s funny, I took one look at that page and thought, “Aaaand this proves that capturing that marvelous cinematic pace of Lone Wolf and Cub ain’t nearly as easy as it may look, because here it’s done pretty poorly.”

What is the point of picking a “random first page” and then having nothing to say about it? You wrote 200 words and said nothing.

Orange: Well, it’s random, so I’m not always going to get a great one. And perhaps it’s the fault of the creators that I have nothing to say about it …?

I guess the thing about Crossgen is each title was supposed to fit a different genre to the point where The Path wasn’t really a comic so much as a manga. Sears work was so different to his work on The First so shortly before this. I loved the pacing, loved the style and loved the comic. The company too.

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