Frantic as a cardiograph scratching out the lines, Day 150: Surrogates #2
Every day this year, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. Today’s page is from Surrogates #2, which was published by Top Shelf and is cover dated September 2005. Enjoy!
You might not have enjoyed the movie that was out of Surrogates, even though I didn’t mind it all that much (plus, you know, it starred Rosamund Pike, which could make the worst movie better by a factor of ten – that’s just SCIENCE!), but the comic is quite good. Brett Weldele is, as I’ve often said, an acquired taste, but I enjoy his art. Here he gives us an establishing shot of Clark Technologies, and the darkness of Weldele’s colors almost obscure the futuristic vehicles parked out front, which corresponds with Robert Venditti’s tag of the year in the upper left. The brown of Weldele’s coloring establishes the tone of this comic – it’s often a murky comic, implying pollution problems affecting the world. Weldele moves us inside, where we see an assembly line leading back toward the light, moving our eyes from left to right. This pattern is repeated in the third panel, where the darkness is on the left and the light is on the right, drawing us from the word balloons to the figures standing behind the police line. The police line itself seems to separate the dark from the light, which is a clever use of the coloring. In Panel 4, Weldele closes in on the scene, with images that leave just an impression of what happened – the corpse lying angled from upper left to the lower right, and the face cut off by the panel border, then the gun. The final panel on the page is, unfortunately, poorly considered – the word balloons cover most of the drawing, and the lighting is dim so it’s very hard to make out what Weldele was actually drawing. It’s the second corpse – the head is off-panel in the upper left, and the arm hangs down the left side next to the word balloons, but it’s a poor choice for the final panel of the page. It would be bad enough in the middle of a page, but as the panel that leads us to the next page, it’s kind of annoying. The only thing that mitigates it is the fact that we end the page on a question that needs an answer, so presumably Venditti was hoping we wanted it!
Venditti gives us some things that we need on this page. First, of course, is the date: 2054. Then the two men begin talking, and Pete tells Harv that there have been two more “fryjobs” – note he doesn’t call them murders, because the corpses are not actually people, but the “surrogates” of the title – robots that people use to move about in the world while they stay home and control them. Pete explains that the power is out, and Harv realizes that it’s because the wiring in the transformer was fused. This is the second issue, and Harv has already seen an unusual crime like this, so Venditti tells us both that this isn’t the first one he’s encountered and also giving someone who missed the first issue some crucial information. So that’s nice.
I understand why some people don’t like Weldele – his style is very scratchy and occasionally simplistic, as we can see in Panel 3. He has a good command of the page, however, and usually does a nice job with close-ups (even though he drops the ball in the final panel here). He’s not suited for every project, of course, but he does a fine job with this comic, and we can see some of the good work on this page. Venditti, meanwhile, tells a very interesting story. This first page gets us up to speed fairly well, so if you’re interested, you can read on without feeling you’re completely lost!
Next: One of my least favorite comics I own. Seriously – it’s terrible. I didn’t pay for it, so there’s that, but wow, it’s bad. Find some good comics in the archives!