BEST BETS: "Jessica Jones," "Big Trouble/Escape from New York" & More October 2016 Highlights
Every day this month, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. This month I will be doing theme weeks, with each week devoted to a single artist. This week: John Romita Jr.! Today’s page is from Uncanny X-Men #206, which was published by Marvel and is cover dated June 1986. Enjoy!
John Romita drew Claremont’s X-Men for some time, and some people consider it the high point of the writer’s run on the title (yes, even more than the Dark Phoenix saga, which might be crazy, but not as crazy as ranking this above the Australian Era!!!!). Romita brought a different style to the X-Men than his predecessors – Paul Smith, Dave Cockrum, and John Byrne – because by this time he was maturing into his classic style, which we can see here even though Ororo is in shadow – she’s more solid than the women we usually see in comics, not in a bad way, but in a more muscular way. Her shoulders are wider than we might expect, her legs a bit more powerful, her hips curvier and her waist thicker. None of this is bad – Romita draws a very sexy Storm – but it makes his X-people, both the women and the men, seem a bit stronger. Also, note how Storm is standing – if we accept Kelly’s terms about the way women in comics stand, she’s not doing that. Her hips and breasts are not thrown out, and she’s standing like a person ready for action and confrontation, which, of course, her words imply is coming. Romita, Green, and Oliver give us just enough light on her to show how bad-ass she is – the boots, the belts, the bare arms, the mohawk: Storm is ready for action! Romita adds a nice dramatic touch of paper swirling past her, both giving a slight touch of motion to a dramatic pose and, probably, implying Storm’s mastery of weather even though at this time in her life she didn’t possess her powers (if you don’t know the story, it’s long and convoluted, much like everything else Claremont wrote, but basically: she got shot with a powers-sapping gun, because it’s COMICS!). The column of neon with hanzi/kanji on it provides the illumination and also sets the scene – although Storm is actually in San Francisco, the writing at least implies an Asian misc-en-scene, presumably Chinatown. The graffiti-lettering of the credits completes the mood.
Claremont, of course, doesn’t do much with this, although the five words Storm speaks do feel bad-ass, which is the mood he’s going for. Claremont doesn’t need to do much more because Romita is so good at packing the panel with details. Like many writers, Claremont is at his best when he trusts his artists, and he obviously had a good rapport with Romita.
Obviously, because of the darkness of the panel, we can’t see too much of the “Romita” style, but dang, that’s a nice page, isn’t it? What will be next? Only 24 hours will tell! But you can use that day wisely if you check out the archives!
Comics Should Be Good accepts review copies. Anything sent to us will (for better or for worse) end up reviewed on the blog. See where to send the review copies.