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Every day this month, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. Today’s page is a story from Ultimate X-Men #66, which was published by Marvel and is cover dated March 2006. Enjoy!
Robert Kirkman, Tom Raney, and Scott Hanna begin their tenure on Ultimate X-Men (aided by Gina Going-Raney on colors and Chris Eliopoulos on letters) with “Date Night,” a downtime issue where many X-people are wildly horny. This first page doesn’t give us a lot of indication of that, but it hints around at it. Scott and Professor Xavier get us up to speed on what’s been happening and why everyone needs a night off, and Xavier says he still has the urges of a regular dude. Kirkman also lets us know that Xavier practices his skills, which is always nice to see in a superhero book. It’s a solid informational page and gives us a bit of the personalities of Scott and Xavier.
Raney doesn’t have much to do with this script, but he does what he can. The panel of Xavier practicing is nice, and the stacking of the panels on the right side of the page is a handy way to pack Kirkman’s verbiage into a small amount of space. Unlike laying out the page in long horizontal panels, stacking them vertically actually helps make the reading quicker – there’s not enough room for the reader to languish, so we zip through the words fairly quickly. Raney’s dull background does nothing for the visual look of the book, but given that Kirkman wants to dump some information on us, perhaps that’s for the best. The weirdest choice on the page is Scott’s shirt, but that’s fashion for you. Raney puts Scott in a strange pose when Xavier tells him he’s going on a date – Scott seems to be reacting as if he’s being attacked by a bad guy – but if Scott had been standing up straight, maybe he wouldn’t have fit in the panel. It’s also interesting that Raney makes Scott look less powerful than the wheelchair-bound Xavier simply by showing him agog at the idea that his teacher might like a sex life – Scott immediately becomes slightly younger-looking and more naïve, where as in the panel before, he seemed more in control. This leads directly to the final panel on the page, where Scott helplessly admits Jean might be controlling his mind.
This was when Marvel allowed their letterers to use lower-case letters. The less said about that, the better!
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