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. Today’s page is from Iron Man: Hypervelocity #5, which was published by Marvel and is cover dated July 2007. Enjoy!
It’s been 5 years since I read Iron Man: Hypervelocity, so you’ll forgive me if I don’t recall all of it, because it’s kind of dense with technobabble, which is something writer Adam Warren really enjoys doing. What we really need to know is, does this page work if it wants you to read more?
Well, Warren catches us up pretty well. In the first panel, we think the main character – Tony Stark, Iron Man, although all we get from this page is a first name – is pretty hurt, but Warren quickly lets us know that it’s not real, and “Tonyghost” is “trapped inside a hijacked teenage memory” by “sentient viral hardware that’s eating my cybernetic mind alive.” Man, that has to suck. “Absynthe” (it has a “y,” she tells Tony earlier, because it’s more annoying that way) helpfully identifies herself and explains that Tony has somehow uploaded his personality into his armor and she’s deleting it. Again, sucks. That’s plenty of information, even though it might leave us scratching our heads. Warren needs us to keep up, and with this page, he boils it down pretty well. It’s a superhero story, so even though it’s taking place in virtual reality, it’s still a hero against a villain. At least that’s the way this page sets it up.
Warren laid out the pages, but Brian Denham, who’s a pretty good artist who ought to be a bigger name, draws the book. Warren’s layout on this page isn’t all that impressive, so let’s just consider Denham’s art. Panel 1 is angled downward, and the caption boxes follow the way the motorcycle is lying on the road, pointing the way to Tony on the road in the right. The exhaust pipe is the first thing we see, which is significant because Absynthe picks it up and starts beating Tony with it. Panel 2 is a close-up, simply showing Teenaged Tony with his injuries (Teenaged Tony has a dumb haircut, presumably because he’s a teenager). On the right is Absynthe’s first word balloon, which is written in kanji/hanzi so it could be Japanese or Mandarin or Cantonese – I don’t know (Absynthe speaks a lot of languages, so it could be any of those). It doesn’t really matter, as the balloon is there simply to draw our attention to the other character on the page. We see her in Panel 3, where she’s already holding the exhaust pipe and, because she’s not real and this is a fictional work, she’s wearing stockings held up by garters and a short skirt that shows them off, exactly like no one in the real world wears them. Denham doesn’t show her face in Panel 3, probably because he wanted to get Tony’s silhouette in the bottom of the page, so perspective-wise, it wouldn’t work. We see her Panel 4, which is not a particularly good drawing. One eye is closed a bit more than the other, but both look weirdly droopy, and the grimace of her mouth doesn’t seem to match what she’s saying. Absynthe doesn’t get mussed because she’s not real, so the fact that she looks a bit disheveled is odd. She looks better in Panel 5, as her eyes are more focused, her expression is more gleefully evil, and Denham, by doing those two things and turning her head slightly away, gives her far more personality than in Panel 4. Her arm is up because she’s about to strike Tony with the pipe, and we see her cheeky and vain tattoo on her arm. I don’t think her tattoos change over the course of the book, but I kind of wish they did, as she’s, you know, not real. Her word balloon in Panel 5 matches her face much more than the one in Panel 4 does, too. Denham gives us a reaction shot of Tony in Panel 6, because he needs to link the bully with the victim, and he needs to pause before the next page, which shows Absynthe swinging toward Tony’s face.
The Guru eFX people, who colored this book (I have no idea if it’s one person or a studio) drenches it in darkness, which is unfortunate mostly because Absynthe’s green hair is muted as the green is almost black. She has a distinctive look, with some green hair, the green eyes, and the green lips, but that’s only hinted at here. The computer effects of the pipe are a good touch, because it shows that the pipe is hot and Absynthe shouldn’t be able to pick it up. It’s just another reminder that she’s not real. The coloring is not terribly good on this page, although it’s not bad throughout the rest of the book.
This is a pretty neat mini-series, all in all. Who doesn’t love sexy psychotic green-haired chicks, after all?
Next: Madcap rompery with Alan Davis! You can’t resist! But if you can, find other, non-Alan Davis comics in the archives!
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