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Every day this month, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. Today’s page is from Metal Men #1, which was published by DC and is cover dated October 2007. Enjoy!
I must confess that I cheated a bit with this one. I own this mini-series in trade, and when I tried to randomly flip to a page and then use the first page from that particular issue, I realized that there are no chapter breaks in the trade, so I have no idea where one issue ends and the other begins. Therefore I defaulted to the first page of the first issue. Forgive me for tampering with the randomness of the experiment! Oh, woe is me!
Anyway, Metal Men is written and drawn by Duncan Rouleau, colored by the genially-named Moose, and lettered by Patrick Brousseau. Yes, it’s the collaboration of the “eau”s! Will we ever survive?
I’ll confess something else: I’ve read this once, but it was a while ago and, if you’ve read it, you know it kind of makes your head hurt. I actually enjoyed it quite a bit, and Rouleau’s art is superb, but I don’t really remember much of the story, so I have no idea what happens after this page. The Metal Men are bad guys, somehow, and there’s an alternate reality, and something, and it ends with one of those “The end … for now” tags that annoy the hell out of me because you know it will never get picked up on and I don’t think this was, especially because we got that new Metal Men by Giffen/DeMatteis/Maguire that didn’t seem to have any relation to this unless I’m forgetting more about this than I think … see? It’s a mess. But that won’t deter me from looking at this first page!
Rouleau doesn’t leave us in any doubt about the time period. I mean, we know it’s A.D. 411, which is, according to Rouleau, 1643 years after the second fall of Atlantis, 10 months after Alaric sacked Rome (it’s usually spelled with the “c” – in fact, I’ve never seen it spelled with a “k” except here), which would put this in June of 411, and three minutes before the Dark Ages begin. Man, that’s precise timing, especially as the Dark Ages are generally a misnomer. Perhaps in the DCU they can date fake historical ages far better than we can on Earth-Prime. We discover the dude’s name (Zosimus, which was the name of the pope in 417-418, by the way), his vocation (he’s the “homo magi of the al-Ka’hest,” whatever that is), and he presumably worships “Moloch” or at least thinks he’s a powerful entity. Moloch is not the dude from Watchmen; he’s a fairly typical Semitic god from back in the day who was of course turned into a demon by the big monotheistic faiths. The rock thing that attacks him is called “Gogoloth,” although Zosimus first calls him “Dolomite,” which is a weird thing to say – dolomite can be used to describe rock, but why would Zosimus say it? The Dolomites are mountains in Italy, of course, which doesn’t make any more sense. Or, of course, Zosimus could be anticipating this. I mean, he has mystical powers, right? Gogoloth seems to be a made-up word. The “homo-magi” throws “aqua regia” (which is not water but a mixture of acids) at the creature, hoping that will stop it. On the second page, we learn that it does.
Art-wise, Rouleau knows what he’s doing. The first panel gives us the establishing shot, with tiny Zosimus contrasted against the massiveness of the landscape. The word balloons in the second panel lead us across the bridge, and the third panel shows Zosimus looking back that way as “Dolomite” or “Gogoloth” looms up behind him. He’s already clutching the bag of aqua regia. Rouleau gives him an odd facial expression – he looks more surprised than scared. We also see his attire a bit more clearly – he looks vaguely Egyptian with the beard and hat, something that is borne out by succeeding pages (we’ll pass over the fact that he casts spells like Zatanna, shall we?). Rouleau does a nice job with the third, fourth, and fifth panels – the monster comes up behind him, then rears up to his right (again, really behind him, but Rouleau shifts the point of view) as Zosimus extends the arm with the aqua regia, and then in the last panel, we switch p.o.v. again so we can see the sigil on the rock-thing’s back even better, because we know that sigils are terribly important. Rouleau doesn’t show him actually chucking the acid at the monster and the bag he was clutching is flying away, but it’s all implied. As with many comic books, Rouleau continues his thought in a caption box, blending the metaphorical (learning being washed away) with the literal (the monster’s face being “washed away” by the acid). This is a standard trick with writers, and there’s nothing wrong with it.
Rouleau does get the mini-series off to a rousing start. It’s a nicely laid-out page, and Rouleau’s writing is wacky and comic-booky in the best possible way. Metal Men might make my head hurt, but it’s not the first page’s fault!
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