SPIDER-MANDATE: The Lowe-down on "Secret Wars," Tie-Ins and Stacey Lee
Every day this year, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. Today’s page is from Fantastic Four: 1234 #3, which was published by Marvel (which for some reason calls this “volume 2″ in the indicia, as you can see) and is cover dated December 2001. Enjoy!
Jae Lee breaks this splash page into three vertical panels, mainly so he can show Johnny Storm, the Human Torch, in all three “panels” without freaking us out too much. It’s a beautiful page, even if José Villarrubia’s paints make it a bit too murky – Villarrubia is obviously contrasting the brightness of the Torch’s flame with the gloom of the city, but he goes a bit too far. He’s also, it appears, trying to obscure the buildings, which Lee clearly didn’t draw but simply added, but again, the coloring might go a bit too far with that. Despite this, Lee does a very nice job with this page. We begin at the top left, with the giant claws of the monster already on fire. The claws are pointing toward the monster’s face, which is the central image on the page, and so our eyes follow where it’s pointing and we see the angry expression on its face. The monster is not only full of rage but also wounded, something Lee conveys very nicely. It’s only when we get to the face that we take in the frame, which is the Torch’s creation of the “4” symbol. Obviously, Villarrubia colors that brightly because it’s flame, but notice how he adds the penumbra (if that’s the correct word) of light to where the flames come near the monster’s body. This helps halo the face of the monster as much as the actual line of the flame, which contains it in the triangle formed by the “4.” Lee puts the Torch above the monster’s face, so that its gaze upward not only directs our attention to Mr. Storm, but also gives us a better view of the rage and pain in the monster’s visage. Of course, now that we’ve seen the monster’s face, we’re free to follow the Torch’s path, which we do, both straight down, which forces us to take in the entire panel and shows us the full view of the monster, and also back down and to the left, which then leads us across the page and toward Page 2. Because the “4” is drawn the way fours are usually drawn, Lee needed to figure out a way to get us into the page and lead us to the apex of the “4,” which would be the easiest place to draw our eyes both down the stem of the “4” and into the final curve. Lee does this quite well, so that even if the page doesn’t flow like a traditional comics page, it still moves our eye effortlessly across the page, allowing us to take in the entire image and process it in a fairly standard way.
Oh, yes, Grant Morrison wrote this comic. But do you see any words? No, neither do I. So let’s move on!
Next: A very unusual superhero comic. That’s all I’m going to say! Find more traditional superheroes in the archives!
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