Frantic as a cardiograph scratching out the lines, Day 96: JLA #4
Every day this year, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. This month I will be doing theme weeks (more or less), with each week devoted to a single writer. This week: Grant “Crazy superheroics is what I do best!” Morrison. Today’s page is from JLA #4, which was published by DC and is cover dated April 1997. Enjoy!
The final issue of Morrison’s first JLA arc begins with this page, as Superman realizes that something is not right about the superpeople who’ve taken him captive. Morrison packs the page with information, both recapping what we’ve read already (in case we forgot or we missed it) and pointing the way forward. “Alarm bells are ringing all over the world” begins and ends the page, and it’s interesting how it has a slightly different tone in each instance. In the first example, it signals something horrible occurring, as the Hyperclan is invading the world. It still means that in the second instance, but Superman has puzzled it all out, and the repetition implies that the alarm is now sounding for the Hyperclan, because they’re, you know, fucked. Morrison does the competing narrator thing pretty well, as the omniscient narrator tells us what Superman is feeling as he’s trying to muddle through the mystery of why the Kryptonite hasn’t killed him and why superheroes with fire powers got sick. The two threads dovetail in the fifth panel, as he realizes who the Hyperclan is and why the Kryptonite hasn’t killed him. It’s an urgent page, but Morrison manages to write quite a bit yet keep things moving quickly along. He does this a lot on JLA, and it’s why it’s such a good comic – it doesn’t get slogged down in exposition, but Morrison gives us plenty nevertheless.
This is not an example of Howard Porter’s best work on the title, but it’s still solid. Protex looks oddly maniacal in the first panel, and his posing with Primaid in both Panels 1 and 2 is reminiscent of the classic Frazetta painting (I don’t know if it’s deliberate or not). Porter and inker John Dell make Superman sufficiently cowed in panels 2 and 3, but throughout the run of this title, Porter’s biggest weakness was faces, so his Superman in panels 4 and 5 looks rather silly, especially in panel 4. It’s still a pretty dramatic page, and Pat Garrahy’s bright coloring helps make this a truly pop superhero epic. Either Porter or letterer Ken Lopez added the “Zee Zee” sound effect in between the panels, which helps keep the panels separate and also adds a nice level of anxiety to the scene – Superman needs to figure this shit out NOW!
This is a great, great series, and the first arc establishes the team and Morrison’s method very well. This is a page that gets you right into the story but also gives you some crucial information about the series so far. See? It’s not that hard to do!
Next: The God of All Comics goes to Marvel and, well, freaks them out for a while. Go take a look at the archives if you’re in the mood!