Axel-In-Charge: Extending "Secret Wars," Excitement for a "Totally Awesome Hulk"
Every day this year, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. Today’s page is from Ares #2, which was published by Marvel and is cover dated April 2006. Enjoy!
I apologize for the quality of this scan. I own this in trade, and as you can see, Marvel printed this very poorly – there’s no gutter at the spine, so a lot of the stuff on that side of the page falls into the middle and is never seen again! It’s only a pain in the ass when there are words near the spine, which is, you know, often. Damn you, Marvel!!!!
Anyway, Michael Avon Oeming, Travel Foreman, Derek Fridolfs, Len O’Grady, and Joe Caramagna bring us issue #2 of Ares, which was released in trade with a “God of War” subtitle but wasn’t originally titled such. Oeming begins with a quote from the Iliad, because why not? That’s Achilles standing next to Zeus, by the way, but we don’t find that out until the next page. It does make the quote pertinent, however, which is nice. Zeus exposits for us that Olympus has stood for “eons” with no enemy able to topple it, but now a “strange, undead evil from the East” has arrived at its gates, and it’s gotten as close as anyone to defeating the Greek gods. Zeus therefore calls on his “beloved killer” – Achilles – to take them out. It’s very clear! Luckily, gods tend to speak in exposition, so we’re caught up pretty quickly.
Foreman is an interesting artist mainly because he experiments with style quite a bit. This is an example of his most “mainstream” style, so it’s suited for a comic set firmly within the Marvel Universe. The use of the map and the panel pointing to where the action takes place is a clever trick that doesn’t get used as much as it has in the past, so it looks very neat here. It’s also a way to guide our eye to the second panel, where Zeus and Achilles stand. Foreman tilts the panel for no good narrative reason except that it’s dramatic, which isn’t the worst reason in the world, after all. It’s pretty standard to begin with a shot of the principals and then switch the point of view to show what they’re looking at, and Foreman does that in Panel 3, which allows us to see the vast host at the gates of Olympus – Zeus even directs our eyes toward them with his dramatic gesture. Achilles, you’ll note, has put his helmet on, because it’s GO TIME! This makes the final panel less confusing, because we might not know where we are within the scene initially and we might not know who that dude is, but because we got from unhelmeted Achilles to him putting it on to the final panel, we understand that Foreman has once again shifted the point of view. The biggest problem with the final panel is that it’s unclear where Achilles got the sword. He doesn’t have it in Panels 2 and 3! Foreman designs the panel well, though – the spears are pointing to the right, and that’s where Zeus’ word balloon originates, so everything is leading us to the next page.
O’Grady’s coloring is strange because it’s inconsistent. In Panel 2 he gives us a blue sky, which matches the sky in Panel 4. That’s fine, but in Panel 3, we see a brown sky and the smear of the sun on the horizon. This helps make the host look bigger, as it appears they simply fade into the sky, but it makes shift from Panel 2 to 3 and back to 4 quite strange. I imagine the blue sky in the final panel is supposed to balance the bronze of the spears and the hoplites, which is fine – I don’t care too much if artists ease back on the realism to make a point – but when the color shift is so dramatic, it’s a bit weirder. I do like the shine of the sword, focusing our eyes on Achilles as the most powerful dude around.
Foreman and the artists do a fairly interesting job in this mini-series, and this page, while not perfect, is a good example of some of the things they tried to do. Oeming gives us a lot of information, but he’s also an artist, so he tries to let them do their thing. For the most part, they succeed.
Next: Bill Reed’s favoritest comic EVER! Well, except for Atomic Robo. And Axe Cop. Okay, maybe not his favoritest, but it’s probably in the Top Five! I do know it hasn’t yet appeared in the archives, but that shouldn’t stop you from checking them out!
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