Axel-In-Charge: Unmasking the "Totally Awesome Hulk"
Every day this year, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. Today’s page is from Queen & Country #24, which was published by Oni and is cover dated April 2004. Enjoy!
Greg Rucka’s brilliant spy comic doesn’t always have the best first pages, especially as he’s writing for the trade, so this page follows instantly after the end of issue #23. Rucka does give us quite a lot of information, though – the names of the two men, their antagonism toward each other, the fact that they’re doing surveillance on someone who’s eating dinner, even the fact that they’re in British intelligence (unless you’re unfamiliar with the term “Beeb,” which is slang for the BBC). The information is presented very naturally, as part of the flow of the conversation, and Rucka doesn’t force anything. Even if you happened to pick up this issue without having read it before, you can get a general sense of what’s going on from this page.
Mike Hawthorne, unfortunately, doesn’t have a lot to do. He can draw very dynamic action scenes (check out his own comic, Hysteria, for some fun action), but he doesn’t have much of a chance to do that here. His art moves us easily from panel to panel and from the exterior of the van to the interior (which looks fairly huge in panel 3, doesn’t it?), but even body language doesn’t tell us much. Warren has a goofy grin in panel 2, indication his insouciance in the face of anger from Mister Kinney, and Kinney’s mustache gives him both an air of authority and of thuggishness, which comes out in his dialogue. Hawthorne doesn’t manage to make any of the characters all that seedy, which we expect in a spy comic (to a degree). Tim, especially, looks like a professional – no hair out of place, simple tie – while Warren looks a bit more haggard … but not much. Hawthorne reverses the way we would look at the third panel, as we follow Kinney to Warren and then to Tim, but he does it quite deftly and we don’t notice. The fact that Kinney occupies the right of panel 5 and is the only speaker in the panel leads us nicely onto the second page, if indeed we wish to continue.
This issue is a surprisingly anti-climactic ending to this story arc, but it’s still an interesting story. Rucka is spooling out the information slowly, so this page feels more like a slow build than a sharp shot to the gut. Still, it has some interesting elements to it. Plus, Queen & Country is awesome, so there’s that.
Next: A Wildstorm graphic novel? Well, that’s just weird. Not as weird as some of the stuff in the archives, though!
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