Axel-In-Charge: Navigating the "Civil War II" Landscape, Bringing DMC to Marvel
Every day this year, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. Today’s page is from Strikeforce: Morituri #10, which was published by Marvel and is cover dated September 1987. Enjoy!
Strikeforce: Morituri was an odd comic from the 1980s that took place outside Marvel continuity but wasn’t an Epic line book. I own a bunch of issues but still haven’t read it because I’m trying to collect them all (of course, after I got a bunch of them, Marvel decided to start releasing trades – thanks a lot, Marvel!), but basically, aliens attack Earth and humans scientists figure out how to give some people superpowers to fight back, but the process kills them in a year. Am I missing anything, or is Wikipedia correct?
Anyway, Peter Gillis, who co-created the series, wrote this issue, while a young Whilce Portacio drew it (come on – you knew it was Portacio just by looking at that guy, didn’t you?). The ubiquitous Scott Williams inked this, Max Scheele colored it, and Janice Chiang lettered it. Just so we’re clear. Gillis introduces us to D’Cheir (I assume we’ve seen him before, but I’m pretending we’re new readers of the series), who’s obviously an alien. There are 27 words on this page. Gillis lets us know that D’Cheir is hungry, that he’s surprised the food is decent, that his “soul is unquiet,” that people who know him would be surprised by such introspection, and what his name is and what kind of alien he is. I only point this out because in yesterday’s entry, 36 words on the page told us far less than that (I don’t mean to harp on that, but it’s just another strike against Invincible Iron Man). The transition from the first caption box to the second is awkward, sure – why would the food being good segue to his soul being unquiet? – but the point is, Gillis gives us a lot of stuff to ponder just on this first page.
Portacio only has to draw an alien crouching and stuffing his gob, so it’s difficult to really have a lot of fun with it, but he does a good job with it. D’Cheir’s cheeks are swollen with food, his eyes are closed with contentment, and Portacio does a good job drawing his anatomy in the crouch, even if that kind of musculature is fairly clichéd in comics. Even though it’s common, it’s still nice to see someone do it well. Portacio and Williams do a good job with the fur/cape on D’Cheir – it looks silky and luxurious, to the point where, when we consider what’s on his arms and shoulders, it’s hard to decide if it’s his hair or a garment (it’s his hair, by the way). Williams and Scheele ink/color it well to give a feeling of smoothness, implying that D’Cheir pampers himself somewhat. I often give Williams grief because I don’t think he inks Jim Lee particularly well, but this is a pretty good page, inking-wise. You’ll note that Portacio does what he can to move our eyes over the page from left to right – the stairs are on the top left, and Williams or Scheele lays the shadows from the steps from the upper left across D’Cheir, moving our eyes that way. It’s a subtle effect, but it works well.
Does this work to draw people in? I think so – it gives us a character who is already complicated even though we only know a little about him, and the artwork is perfectly fine. Nothing here repels a reader, and a good amount draws one in. That’s the job, isn’t it?
Next: If new readers wonder why some of us get misty-eyed about that guy who wrote the crappy Cry for Justice, this comic is one reason why! There’s another reason buried in the archives!
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