"Justice League": Exploring How Superman Returns (Again)
Film, Comic Books
The question is not whether Fabian Nicieza and Mark Bagley (ably abetted by Jeff Albrect on inks, Tom Vincent on colors, and Chris Eliopoulos on letters) give us a good first page of New Warriors Annual #1, but what in the hell I’m doing owning it. Well, this was back when Marvel released a few annuals (usually 4, if I remember correctly, but I could be wrong) that told one big story, and in 1991, the New Warriors one tied into the X-books (this one is continued from the X-Force annual and is continued in the X-Men one), and as I was reading the X-books, I bought this. Don’t look at me that way!
So this story begins with a double-page spread, and I apologize for its tininess – it can’t fit any other way! Nicieza does one of those old-school “scorecards” in the top panel, with each character getting a name. Remember when comic book companies actually wanted readers to know what the characters were called? Good times! Along the bottom we get the beginning of the story proper – the top panel continues from the previous annual, but it’s really just a way to introduce every character. In the bottom right, Nicieza points out that the situation is “Mount St. Helens three seconds before it erupted.” Here’s a funny story – when I lived in Portland, I once drove for a courier service. One day I was driving out in Gresham/East Portland area, and I happened to look to the north. It’s almost directly south of Mount St. Helens, which you can easily see from the city. Great plumes of white smoke were rising from the mountain. I had a radio (we were always in contact with our dispatcher), so I called in and asked if Mount St. Helens was erupting again. It turns out that the forest service (I think) was clearing the trees by, you know, burning them. So no harm, no foul, but it was pretty freaky seeing smoke rising from a volcano that erupted less than 15 years earlier. Mount St. Helens is pretty cool to visit – make sure to take a trip up there the next time you’re in the Northwest!
So where was I? Oh, yeah, Cable. Nicieza’s dialogue might be a bit awkward, but that’s because this was still back when comic book writers attempted to get readers up to speed by using expository dialogue. Therefore, Cable tells Domino to run a check on the New Warriors and find out what they’re up to, Domino reminds us that Cable is a loose cannon, Cable proves that he’s a loose cannon, and, just like other writers did with a certain squat Canadian, Nicieza drops in hints that Cable knows everyone in the Marvel Universe even though no reader had ever seen him before (in this case, he knows Chord from 1973 – yes, Nicieza actually gives us a date later on in the book). So we learn quite a bit from this opening “page.”
A lot of people – your humble author included – have bashed a certain R. Liefeld because he’s never gotten any better, but let’s be honest – a lot of artists don’t once they reach a certain style, and Mark Bagley certainly falls into that category. Albrect’s inks are a bit thinner than other inkers Bagley has worked with recently, and Vincent probably isn’t coloring this digitally, which tends to add some heft to Bagley’s lightweight line (I don’t think that’s pejorative, but you may think otherwise), so this is a bit lighter than we’ve seen from Bagley recently, but it still wouldn’t look out of place in a 2012 Bagley comic. Anyway, Bagley does a nice job with the big quasi-splash, as we can clearly see the characters and they’re in a good relationship to one another. Yes, it’s somewhat ridiculous, but it’s not too wacky. The flyers are flying, and Bagley makes it clear that someone like Feral isn’t flying, but jumping. Perhaps Shatterstar is a bit high in the air, but maybe he’s just really good at jumping (he does say “Za’s Vid!” in this comic, which Peter David really needs to bring back). We may miss the caption box waaaaay down in the bottom right corner, which might be better if it had been switched with the credits box, but that’s the way they chose to design the splash. Along the bottom, Bagley leads us nicely across the row. Cable tilts to the left, but his second speech balloon leads us to Panel 3, where the helicopter nudges us to the speech balloons, which lead us to Panel 4. Domino is “looking” at Cable in Panel 5, and Cable is firing his giant-ass gun off-panel and toward Page 3. Bagley’s issues with faces are the same today as they were 20 years ago – he draws weirdly defined lips (and the colorist never colors them differently, it seems), so they fade into the rest of the face. Unlike our pal Mr. Liefeld, Bagley actually draws lips, but they’re so weak he might as well not. I can’t remember why Cable’s eye lights up (I’m sure someone can enlighten me – ha! I kill me), but it’s only blazing when Cable’s firing his giant-ass gun. Maybe it shows when he’s aroused?
This is a fairly typical late 1980s/early 1990s story, so there’s lots of fighting and awful costumes, but it’s largely inoffensive (it involves the resurrection of Proteus, by the way). It does feature a Bagley cover inked by Mike Mignola, which is as odd as you might expect. Nicieza and Bagley do a pretty decent job getting us into the story, so that’s about all we can ask of them!
I know you’re just biding your time before you send me an e-mail about which first page you want me to feature in October! You don’t need to, though – just fire away! My e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Be a part of the fun!
Next: An early work from a now-popular writer (well, early in that it was before he “hit it big,” but it’s only two years old). What can it be? You can’t find it in the archives, but you can find a lot of other stuff!
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