Vaughan & Chiang's "Paper Girls" Builds a Familiar Yet Disconcerting World
Every day this year, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. Today’s page is from Runaways (vol. 2) #17, which was published by Marvel and is cover dated August 2006. Enjoy! And, I guess, SPOILERS!
Runaways is the famous “little book that could,” always on the verge of cancellation but managing to hold on for years and provide, at least when series creators Brian K. Vaughan and Adrian Alphona (who wrote and drew this page) were working on it (I haven’t read the issues after they left, but I read that they were a mixed bag). This is inked by Craig Yeung, colored by Christina Strain, and lettered by Randy Gentile, by the way.
Vaughan gives us some crucial information on this page. Molly, the girl, has been kidnapped, although the people holding her don’t think they’ve kidnapped her, they think they’ve rescued her from her friends, whom they think are villains. She claims that Geoffrey Wilder, the man who runs their group (and is the “black man from the 1980s” to whom she’s referring in the first panel), is a super-villain, and they’ve been tricked. It’s actually a pretty good page, information-wise, and Vaughan makes it sound fairly natural.
Art-wise, this is a pretty good example of the latest phase in comic book art, namely everything being digital. This gets into personal preference, because I don’t like this kind of art as much as non-digital, but we can see some things that are indicative of this kind of comic book production. Alphona’s pencils and Yeung’s inks are remarkably light, with very little extraneous linework. Look how smooth everyone’s faces are. Alphona shows a slight manga influence with the features on Lotus (the older girl): her eyes are slightly further apart than normal, her nose and chin are pointed – it’s a stereotype, sure, and not all manga characters look like Lotus does, but the influence is there. Yeung’s inks are also light, with a thin line and distinct lack of definition. Finally, Strain’s colors smooth everything out even more. Whether you like this kind of art or not, I don’t think there’s any argument that it looks slightly less organic than non-digital work – there’s a sense of perfection to this that you don’t get in the non-digital world. Obviously, a lot of art these days is on computer, and a great deal of it looks as rough as that done on a Bristol board. This art, however, is very sterile-looking. Interestingly enough, the best art in this book is when Strain gets to cut loose a bit – Karolina, for instance, looks dazzling throughout this book.
Alphona doesn’t actually get to do too much on this page. The tight closeup of Molly in the first panel is interesting, because it establishes a claustrophobic mood even before we see that she’s inside a van. Molly is tied up with shining rope, and that’s what we see in the second panel underneath her chin (we can see why Strain would have fun with Karolina, who glows). Alphona and Vaughan lead our eyes straight down the page through the dialogue placement and the way Stretch (the blond dude) and Lotus are looking down at Molly, which is fine because this page is basically about getting information to the reader. It’s not the most exciting page in the world, but it does get us right into the story. That ain’t bad!
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Next: What’s sure to be Mike Sterling’s favorite installment yet! And hey! it’s the archives! What do you know!
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