Axel-In-Charge: Extending "Secret Wars," Excitement for a "Totally Awesome Hulk"
Every day this year, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. Today’s page is from Adventures in the Rifle Brigade #2, which was published by DC/Vertigo and is cover dated November 2000. This scan is from the trade paperback, which was published in 2004. Enjoy!
Adventures in the Rifle Brigade is a ridiculous comic (there were two three-issue mini-series in 2000 and 2001) that’s fun because it’s ridiculous. I mean, the second mini-series is about the search for Hitler’s testicle, so there’s that. Garth Ennis has always been an irreverant writer, and this comic shows that in spades. The best thing about it is that it’s short, so Ennis’ schtick doesn’t get too old. Just when you think it’s going to tip over and become stupid, it ends. It’s for the best! While it’s going on, though, it’s a lot of fun.
Carlos Ezquerra doesn’t have too much to do on this splash page, as Ennis simply wants to show all his principal characters. So we get an off-panel voice (it’s Greta Gasch, who is, like everyone else in this comic, an over-the-top stereotype) telling the reader the names of every main character, while Ezquerra just gets to draw them chained to a wall. He does a nice job with it – Crumb’s uniform is too small for him (the Rifle Brigade killed a bunch of Nazi soldiers and stole their uniforms to sneak around Berlin) and the Piper is suspended off the ground because he’s short – but it’s still not too exciting. The best of the page is Ezquerra’s facial expressions as the see who’s entering the room, as he does a very good job showing a lot of the personality of each character just through their reactions. Patricia Mulvihill, who colored the page, also doesn’t have much to do – this was really at the height of the “Vertigo coloring scheme” days, when browns and grays dominated, so of course she’s going to make the stolen Nazi uniforms even grayer than they might have been in reality, but notice the dark red blood stains on Geezer’s, the Piper’s, and Hank the Yank’s uniforms – they killed the soldiers who were wearing them, so of course they’re blood-stained, but the red is also quite muted, which is how a lot of Vertigo books were colored back then (they’ve gotten a bit better in the intervening years).
In addition to introducing us to the Rifle Brigade, Ennis gives them all their catch phrases – Darcy and Milk do most of the talking, so the rest of them simply say “Ey-Oop!” or “Yer aht of ordah!” or “Gawd Dammit!” a lot. As I noted above, everyone in this book is a stereotype, which is where the humor comes from. Ennis is letting any people who happened to miss issue #1 that, yes, this is what we can expect from this comic. As I also noted, it’s fine for the length of the series – before we can start to be annoyed by it, everything wraps up.
I should point out that I don’t know if “Definitely Not Cricket” looked the same in the original issue or if it was redone for the trade. Clem Robins is an old-school letterer, but I really hate that lettering of the title. It looks far too modern for something like this. It’s always the little things, isn’t it?
I don’t know if this page whets your appetite for more Rifle Brigade comics, but this first page does lay it out for you pretty well, even if it’s not the most exciting one around. It’s up to you to make up your mind about it!
As I mentioned yesterday, you only have a few more days to send me an e-mail (at firstname.lastname@example.org) with your own first page for me to write about in October. I’m pretty sure that I’ll be done with September in the next few days, and then I’m onto October! I have some very nice first pages, but I still have room for more!
Next: Another comic I haven’t actually read! Why do I keep randomly selecting these, confound it? There are a few others in the archives!
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