Frantic as a cardiograph scratching out the lines, Day 212: Sabretooth: Mary Shelley Overdrive #4
Every day this year, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. Today’s page is from Sabretooth: Mary Shelley Overdrive #4, which was published by Marvel and is cover dated November 2002. Enjoy!
I own a lot of comics. Probably not as many as some of you, but more than others. That’s what happens when you’ve been collecting comics for 23 years and you’ve never once purged your collection. I plan on a purge in the next five years or so, but right now, I pretty much own every comic I’ve ever bought, and that includes crap like Sabretooth: Mary Shelley Overdrive. To be fair, this came out in the middle of the Bill Jemas Era, when Marvel was publishing a lot of weird and excellent stuff, so the chances were a bit greater that a Sabretooth mini-series might be decent, but even though I bought every single issue (this is the final one), I didn’t like this story. And, since it’s cover dated November, it means it’s almost exactly ten years since I’ve read this. Oh well – I’m coming up on it in my attempt to read through all my back issues, so maybe I’ll change my mind about its quality in the next few months. I doubt it, but you never know!
All that is meaningless, of course, because we’re here to talk about the first page of issue #4, not whether the book is any good or not. Greg Scott and JD Mettler give us a page drenched in rain, which does Scott’s thick, brutal line work and Mettler’s murky colors no favors. It’s difficult enough to see in the nighttime coloring that Mettler gives the page without the fuzz over the drawings, but that’s the way the scene is set. Scott gives us the lawn gnome in Panels 1 and 2 as a kind of anchor, highlighting the banality of the suburban scene. In Panel 1, it’s in the foreground, and it’s surrounded by a penumbra, so we can’t help but focus on it while the house and gardens sink into the darkness. In Panel 2, we focus more on it, and we realize that Mettler’s sole bright spot in Panel 1 is the red glow on its belt, and in Panel 2, we see that it has “019″ on it, implying that it’s a bomb counting down. In Panel 3, Scott draws a man kneeling behind it, so we know something is going on. You’ll notice that in Panel 1, it stands on the left, where we begin, and everything goes dark as we move further away from it. Scott shows us a front view in Panel 2, giving us a dichotomy between the kindly face and the ominous glowing countdown. The man kneels on its left, and Scott or letterer Dave Sharpe puts the “Vrrrrrrrrmmmmmmmm” directly to the right of the gnome. This incorrectly implies that the noise is being made by the gnome itself, but it’s not – it’s Creed’s motorcycle. In Panel 4, the man looks toward the reader, anticipating something coming as the noise gets louder. Scott turns him so that our eyes are led from his word balloon toward the edge of the page, but again, there’s something wrong with the panel. In Panel 3, the sounds appears to be coming from the front of the gnome. In Panel 4, the man turns away from the front of the gnome and looks behind him. I get that the noise could appear to be coming from everywhere and the man isn’t sure, but it’s still an odd choice. It makes it more dramatic, I guess, but it doesn’t make perfect sense. If we try to orient ourselves in the yard, it seems as if the man is looking toward the front of the house, but it also appears that, from Panel 3, there’s no way Creed can ride a motorcycle right onto him (which he does on the splash page on Page 2). At this moment, the page isn’t too confusing, but once we see the next two pages, it becomes a bit more so, in terms of spacing. It’s a hard page to read anyway, what with the darkness of the scene and the rain, but the layouts of those final two panels don’t help.
Dan Jolley gives us a bit of information, but seeing as how this is the final issue of a mini-series, he expects us to be able to keep up. Someone is talking to the man on the page, telling us that he needs to get an antidote and he needs to kill Creed and “the girl.” This is really all we need to know at this point – we might not know who Creed is, but as we’re conditioned by reading a lot of fiction, anytime someone is specifically ordered to kill a woman, they’re not good people. That might not hold every single time, but it’s close enough to be a rule. Plus, Scott does show us a nice suburban house, typified by the gnome, and good guys don’t blow up nice suburban homes. So Jolley doesn’t need to state too much explicitly – we can read codes in fiction easily enough, so even if Sabretooth isn’t a nice guy, these people are worse. I don’t mind it when writers use coded shorthand to get their point across – Jolley isn’t writing existential poetry here, so he needs to get the basics down as quickly as possible.
This isn’t a terribly great first page, but as we’ve often seen this year, it’s the kind of first page by people who basically know what they’re doing. Scott might have some problems with the spacing, but readers often gloss over that kind of thing because we understand exactly what he’s trying to do. Is that a good excuse? Probably not, but we forgive it so very often, so it’s certainly an excuse. The creators give us a nice teaser on this page, and they at least get us to turn the page. If you choose to continue past the second page – well, that’s up to you!
Next: The insanity of … STOKOE!!!!! Find more insane comics in the archives!