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Every day this year, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. Today’s page is from Young Liars #11, which was published by DC/Vertigo and is cover dated March 2009. Enjoy!
Young Liars, David Lapham’s tragically short yet utterly brilliant series from Vertigo, had a lot of weird stuff going on in its pages. The first page of issue #11 doesn’t show that, but it does contain some interesting and vital information. The credits are always done in that style, with the old-school cassettes and Lapham’s recommendations for listening while you read the issue (I never listen to music while I’m reading, because it distracts me and I end up tuning it out anyway, but some people do!). The first words we see are “It’s all out of my control now,” and while we don’t know who’s narrating, the way Lapham structures the page cleverly provides us with a clue. The narrative caption hovers right above the only window of the airplane in which a face appears, and that face is Danny’s, the protagonist of the series (more or less). Even before we get confirmation that Danny is narrating, Lapham implies it. Notice also that the entire panel is tilted from upper left to lower right, the natural way our eyes tend to go. The plane is angled that way, as are the three word captions. We also learn that Danny is uptight, but Lapham doesn’t keep us in suspense as to why – it’s because “she could be arrested or even dead already.”
In the second panel, Lapham mimics the angling of the first panel – the point of view angles us upper-left to lower-right once again, leading our eye naturally over the panel. It’s something that cannot be stressed enough with regard to page layouts – this is Sequential Storytelling 101, and it’s odd how many artists don’t do it. The girl (Sadie) explains that they’re saving the universe, which is hyperbole, of course, but lets us know what kind of character Sadie is and even, to a degree, what kind of book this is. If you’re a new reader, you’ve picked it up and presumably you think the title of the comic is literal (and it is). So is Sadie on of these “young liars” of the title? If so, is she lying now, or is she telling the truth? On just the first page, Lapham has planted the seed of doubt in the readers’ minds, which is what he does throughout the series. Danny’s narration at the end of the panel is crucial – he can’t believe this is happening, and it can’t be real. Both of these statements take on greater weight throughout the comic, beginning with the very next page, when we see that Sadie isn’t actually there and he’s imagining this conversation. It’s a clever device because usually, narration or dialogue like that is extremely clichéd – the character whines “I can’t believe this is happening!” but it really is. With Young Liars, we immediately see that it really isn’t happening, which prepares us for the rest of the issue. This first page does a lot more than we think on a first glance, which is what the best first pages do.
Young Liars #11 was one of my best issues of 2009 (#2, to be exact) because of the way Lapham toys with our expectations and the way the issue ends, with yet another bombshell in a series full of them. The first page, while not a bombshell, does show a creator who is very good at manipulating the readers even with very little “obvious” tricks on the page. This teases us well, and I imagine if you turned the page (and why wouldn’t you?), Lapham would have you hooked. So well done, sir!
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