Frantic as a cardiograph scratching out the lines, Day 133: The Golden Age #2
Every day this year, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. Today’s page is from The Golden Age #2, which was published by DC and is cover dated 1993. Enjoy!
James Robinson’s The Golden Age is a tremendous comic book, and is a big reason why people who read comics in the 1990s really, really want him to succeed these days, even though his recent work has been … less than loved, to say the least. Maybe all he needs is to write the Justice Society of America again (as he’s sort of doing in Earth 2), like he does in this comic!
No one has ever accused Robinson of being terse or economical with his words, and he’s not here. Luckily he doesn’t obscure the lovely Paul Smith artwork, but as I’m not sure who puts caption boxes on a page – Robinson, Smith, or letterer John Costanza – I don’t know who gets the credit! Anyway, Johnny Chambers (who doesn’t get named here, but it’s him) sits at a table, and Robinson gives him a first-person narration. If you happened to miss the first issue of this four-issue series, you might miss the joke at the beginning – Johnny Chambers is Johnny Quick, a speedster who doesn’t run anymore (he still can, but he chooses not to), and Johnny Quick, obviously, always had time. We learn that Chambers is a filmmaker – he made a documentary about superheroes, he’s going to do one about baseball, he’s editing another – but he can’t get away from “mysterymen.” We also learn that the hero making news is someone named Tex Thompson, and Johnny doesn’t really like him – something about Thompson makes him “uneasy.” When someone in a superhero comic thinks that, it’s a sure sign that something evil is up! Superheroes’ intuition is never wrong! Robinson also switches to the narration of the film reel, as we learn that Thompson is a new senator who is gaining a lot of acolytes. So we get a lot of information on this first page, which, as it’s Robinson, isn’t surprising.
Smith doesn’t get to do too much on this page (he makes up for it on other pages), but Robinson makes sure that Chambers is doing something so that Smith gets to draw some movement. Chambers takes out the film, loops it, and watches. It’s not too exciting, but at least it’s something. Smith does a nice job with the period details – the cigarettes, the Life magazine, the hair styles – and colorist Richard Ory gives it a softer sheen, invoking a time past (the entire book looks like this). Obviously, Smith doesn’t really have to move our eyes too much – it’s a pretty standard layout, and the way Chambers’ eyes look slightly downward toward Panel 4 is the only place on the page where Smith directs our eyes. Of course, Thompson faces the page turn, which helpfully implies that we should read on!
Readers (rightfully) bemoan the colored caption boxes showing different characters narrating, and Robinson is certainly guilty of that in this comic, but what mitigates it is that he doesn’t do it on the same page, so we don’t have competing colored caption boxes. Chambers is the only one narrating, and when the caption box switches to gray, we know it’s the movie, both from the color change but also from the quotation marks. This is a ridiculously verbose comic, but it’s never confusing.
Robinson does a good job, I think, giving us a lot of information and also tantalizing the reader with the darkness lurking in these pages. I don’t want to give anything away, except to say that The Golden Age is really good. You should get the trade!
Next: A spooky comic from someone who knows how to do spooky! Feel safe in the archives!