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Every day this year, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. Today’s page is from Starman #78, which was published by DC and is cover dated June 2001. Enjoy!
James Robinson was winding up his 81-issue opus (with ancillary issues as well) by this time, and he and David Goyer (who gets partial story credit in this issue) sent Jack Knight back to 1951 to see what’s going on with the infamous “Starman of 1951,” who, as we can see from the “Shade’s Journal” in the first panel, was his brother David, who had been killed in the first issue of the book. Robinson used the Shade’s Journal quite often as a recap page (and Bill Oakley, the letterer, does a nice job with the florid script, which is the way the Shade always writes – and I’m not sure if Oakley pioneered it or if he’s just following in someone else’s footsteps), and it was a pretty good way to do it, given that the Shade was always writing in his damned journal and he had lived in Opal City, Starman’s home town, for over a century (well, he had been out in the world doing evil, but Opal was his home, and he had lived a long time). Robinson gets us caught up – David was sent back in time just before his death (don’t ask, just accept); Ted Knight, the original Starman and David and Jack’s father, was suffering from a bout of mental instability; and the Starman arch-nemesis, the Mist, is wreaking havoc. On this first page, we see Jack lying on the floor, trying to put words together but ultimately failing. We learn on the second page that the Mist drugged him (well, it’s stated explicitly even though there’s a clue on this page), but on this page, Robinson walks a careful line between giving us some information about what happened and showing Jack’s mental state (“clattersmash”?). He manages quite well, I think.
Peter Snejbjerg, the second of the two main artists on Starman, never gets as much credit as Tony Harris, the first main artist on the book, but he’s very good, and we see some of that here. The first panel is the establishing shot, and Snejbjerg’s Opal City is as Art Deco as Harris’s was. The “star” ship is in a good spot, framed by two skyscrapers, drawing our eye toward it without being too obvious. Gregory Wright, the colorist, uses the blue-and-yellow theme nicely to add a nice moodiness to the scene, and the “star” ship is just off-yellow enough (more orange than yellow) that it’s clear without standing out too much. Snejbjerg then gives us four stacked panels that shows Jack Knight lying on the ground and seeing things happen around him. The first panel is another establishing shot, this time taking us inside wherever Jack is and showing some of the chaos around him. The next two are colored green because they’re what Jack sees through his tinted goggles, and Snejbjerg makes sure to fill the panels with visual information that is, nevertheless, somewhat confused because we’re only seeing Jack’s field of vision. The flow of the panels is back and forth, from the punch in panel 3 leading us right to left to the wide white band in panel 4 leading us back. We get a sense of thugs, guns, and test tubes – we might not know where we are, but Snejbjerg does well with the little space available to him. Finally, in the last panel, he zooms in on Jack a bit more, making his predicament a bit more intimate. If we hadn’t noticed it before, the syringe sticking in his neck is more noticeable, so we can deduce that he’s been drugged (if the narration doesn’t give it away), and Snejbjerg makes sure to show a bit more drool seeping from his mouth than in panel 2, indicating a small amount of time has passed. It might be the same drawing of Jack with a few changes (I don’t know; the lines on his skin look slightly different, so maybe he added those to an existing drawing or just drew Jack again), but the fact that Jack is drugged and unable to move means it doesn’t matter all that much. Snejbjerg perhaps draws too much blood in the third panel (that dude’s nose looks like it’s exploding!), but that’s more of an artistic choice.
Robinson and Snejbjerg do a nice job getting us into the comic. Robinson never met a word he didn’t like, so his writing ought to be expository enough to get us into the story, but Snejbjerg’s zoom and the Jack point-of-view panels promise more of that, and we get it on the next few pages, as Snejbjerg continues to zoom and Jack’s POV becomes more chaotic. It’s a nice technique, and even though we don’t see it on this page, Snejbjerg sets it up very nicely.
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Next: Azzarello and Risso! What could it possibly be???? If you’re still puzzled, ease your addled mind by checking out the archives!
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