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. This month I will be doing theme weeks (more or less), with each week devoted to a single writer. This quasi-week: Mark Waid. Today’s page is from The Unknown #2, which was published by Boom! Studios and is cover dated June 2009. Enjoy!
In 2007, Waid became Editor-in-Chief of Boom! Studios, and he began doing more work for them. The Unknown is a result of his connection with Boom! It’s about a young woman named Cat Allingham, a super-duper detective, who has learned that she only has six months to live. She hires a new assistant and takes an unusual case, and that’s the basic situation as the second issue begins. So what do we learn from this page?
Well, there’s a box. That much we know. There may or may not have been a human being inside the box. The two gentlemen are called Karl and Ludo Faderbauer, and they hired Cat to find this box, which has vanished. Apparently they were doing something weird and physics-ey, mainly because of the way Cat talks to them in panel 3. Waid gives us Cat’s last name and her assistant’s last name – Doyle – but a new reader wouldn’t know their first names yet. The scientists are convinced the box was teleported, but Cat’s not sure. That’s not a bad bunch of stuff to know from the first page. We also can figure out that Cat is in charge, as she gives orders to Doyle, but he’s pretty valuable, as she wants him to watch the two men as they talk. It’s clear just from this page that Cat is the smart one, but she still appreciates Doyle’s skills.
All eight issues of The Unknown and its sequel were drawn by Minck Oosterveer, a Dutch artist I was unfamiliar with before this series and who unfortunately died fairly young last September (he was 50). Oosterveer’s art is slightly exotic and very strong, and while he doesn’t get a chance to cut loose too much on this page, he does a nice job establishing the scene. Doyle is a big dude, Cat is somewhat Bohemian (she wears a red scarf, a short jacket with long sleeves, and she enjoys wearing shirts a bit too small for her), which is an interesting look. The Faderbauers are freaky, with their long white hair and red-lensed goggles. In the first panel, Doyle directs our eyes first to the inside of the vault from which the box disappeared and then onward to Cat. In the second panel, his eyes lead us to Cat and thence to the Faderbauers – you’ll note it’s pretty much a straight line from Doyle’s eyes to Cat’s head to the Faderbauers. The scientist in the third panel is taller than Cat, but Oosterveer gives her an insouciant look that shows she’s unimpressed. Finally, the characters in the fourth panel form a nice V that loops our eyes from Cat to the Faderbauers to Doyle. The design of the page is well done even if the action isn’t all that exciting. Oosterveer is colored by Fellipe Martins, who gives this an unusual sheen that makes the book look, for lack of a better word, “European” – the colors are a bit muted, there’s a lot of black, and the Faderbauers, nicely enough, look a bit artificial. The colors are muted throughout the book, but it works in the murky world through which Cat moves.
Waid does a very nice job in this series, and Oosterveer’s work is excellent. I don’t know if this first page draws in a new reader, but I can testify that both series are well worth seeking out!
(I don’t know how accurate the Internet is, but “Fader” means “banal” or “trite” while “bauer” is, among other things, a churl or rude person. I wonder if Waid had any idea about that when he named the scientists. Who knows?)
Next: A new writer, one of my favorites. Considering that many of you voted for him, he must be yours, too! See who it is tomorrow. I do know he hasn’t shown up in the archives yet!
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