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Frantic as a cardiograph scratching out the lines, Day 61: Syndrome

Every day this year, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. Today’s page is from Syndrome, which was published by Archaia and is cover dated 2010 (it came out in August of that year). Enjoy!

I’ve reviewed Syndrome, in case you’re interested, but I didn’t write about the first page. As with many graphic novels (including the few I’ve already looked at), the first page isn’t as much an attention-grabber mainly because the writers, presumably, know that they’ve already hooked you if you bought it, so they can take their time. In serialized fiction, they might have new readers jumping in at any time, so they want to make the first page as interesting as possible. The writers of Syndrome, Dan Quantz and R. J. Ryan, don’t have to worry as much about that.

Which is why this page is expository-heavy but not particularly interesting. Jessica Youngquist there tells the television audience (this is yet another example of using a TV talking head to give us a lot of information in a short period of time) that Thomas Kane, the “Bible Killer,” is scheduled for execution, and some people don’t agree with that. The woman who is protesting the death penalty gives us a clue as to what the book is about in the second panel when she says “Because you aren’t doing good by doing evil.” The book is about a scientist trying to figure out what makes a man evil and whether he can be changed. So the writers set this up on the first page with the morality of the death penalty, whether someone can be truly be called evil (Kane is made in the “image of God,” after all), and what can be done about it. It’s a somewhat ponderous first page, but it gets across some of the major themes the writers will be exploring.

This was one of the first things Marquez had done, as far as I can figure out, and he’s gotten better over the past year (he’s done some work for Marvel since this, and it’s getting better). He has very little to do on this page, so it’s hard to tell if he draws the reader in or not. I suppose some people might be turned off by the slickness of his artwork and Bill Farmer’s coloring, but that’s the nature of many modern comics, and we have to live with it, don’t we? He puts the people in the frame correctly, I guess, and I, for one, appreciate that the lettering on the signs looks like it’s part of the original art rather than being photoshopped in later (which I know is the way it’s done in some Marvel books these days), so there’s that. Marquez’s art is better on other pages in this comic, and, like I mentioned, he has improved over the past year.

It’s tough to judge this page of Syndrome, mainly because of its nature as part of a graphic novel. Does it really make people want to read the rest of the book? Well, no, but if you’ve bought the book already, you’re probably going to read it, and this first page doesn’t really drive anyone away. It’s just kind of … there.

The archives are here for your edification, if you so choose. Next: The most reviled artist of our generation? You be the judge!

2 Comments

Far too much text on the first panel. Cut away the first four balloons and start from “Ma’am, I have just one question…” and you have much more effective first page.

I dunno. I like how the barbed wire “cuts off” the top part of the newscaster’s speech, so we get down to the interview almost in a new panel. It seems like a decent way to pack a lot of info in without wasting a lot of pages.

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