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 Strange Embrace #2, which was published by Image and is cover dated June 2007. Enjoy!
David Hine’s Strange Embrace is a pretty cool horror story that doesn’t quite end as well as it begins, but that’s unfortunately all-too-common with horror comics. Still, it’s pretty neat.
This opening page sets the scene very well. Hine begins with a nice drawing of a monster plunging its hands into the chest of an old man, and you’ll notice that Hine doesn’t show us the entire monster, which helps make it seem bigger than it is – it strains against the panel borders. Hine places the old man slightly to the right so that the panel flows that way – it’s a static drawing, of course, but the monster dominates the left side, and our eye follows its right arm to the old man’s chest, which helps move us to the second panel. Alex, the boy in Panel 2, runs in from the left side toward the tableau, and Hine gives us a larger view of the room – the candelabra is a code for “olde-tyme,” even though you could easily use one in these modern times. That the candles are directly underneath Alex running in makes us see them, because they’re right in our line of sight. They’re also far away from the monster, implying that the creature is of the darkness. Even though it’s looking over at Alex, everything is still angled toward the right side of the panel, so we move easily from Alex to the creature and the old man (Alex’s grandfather, as it happens). In Panel 3, Hine places Alex in the background so that the monster can once again dominate a panel and also so that it blocks the light source, throwing Alex into a shadow. This time, the monster is on the right side of the panel, which helps block our eyes so that we account for Alex but also to provide a gateway to the final panel. Alex is placed in the panel in a similar position to his in Panel 4, so that when we get to Panel 4 and realize that Alex is dreaming about the creature, we get the link between Panels 3 and 4. It’s a nifty device by Hine. Alex’s cry leads us off the page nicely.
Rob Steen colored this page, and he does a good job. The murky black and green of the setting helps make the creature and Alex more prominent. The monster is that burgundy that implies Hell (why is that?), so that even though its coloring sets it apart from the dark backgrounds, it’s still not a bright thing. Alex’s paleness and grayish hair are in stark contrast to the rest of the scene – Alex certainly isn’t a figure of light in this story (he’s kind of crazy), but in contrast to the monster, he is. Hine’s dark inks and Steen’s dark coloring make the page a gloomy horror scene, and Alex becomes a figure, if not of hope, at least of assistance. He’s trying to save the only person he ever respected, and this dream leads him to make a rather horrifying decision.
This is a pretty good page to get us into the story. It’s spooky and scary and disturbing, but it’s also compelling. We might not know what’s going on, but it’s pretty hard NOT to turn the page!
What do you say, people? Would you like to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your suggestion for which first page you’d like to see here? Sure you would! Don’t make me come over to your house and stand outside like John Cusack, instead of Peter Gabriel I’ll be playing subliminal messages about how you want to e-mail me! Nobody wants that!
Next: A rising star’s early work? Why not? If Kelly Thompson ever came around here anymore, she’d probably appreciate this! Find other rising stars in the archives!
Comics Should Be Good accepts review copies. Anything sent to us will (for better or for worse) end up reviewed on the blog. See where to send the review copies.