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Frantic as a cardiograph scratching out the lines, Day 292: Sorrow #4

Every day this year, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. This month I will be showing pages that are either scary or are part of “scary” issues (as scary as a comic can be, of course), because it’s October! Today’s page is from Sorrow #4, which was published by Image and is cover dated March 2008. This scan is from the trade paperback, which was published in 2008. Enjoy!

Never go into clapboard churches!

Sorrow is a four-issue mini-series by Rick Remender and Seth Peck, with Francesco Francavilla on art. It’s not all that good – it involves the Arizona desert, a strange town, and four young people who end up in said town, where things are … a bit odd. There’s even a genuine Indian curse. It’s fairly predictable (right down to the “twist” ending), but it has some scary scenes, and it also has really good artwork. So let’s check out this page!

Obviously, we have the standard “lone guy in trouble” kind of scene here. Panel 1 shows an olde-tyme church, which are just naturally creepy, and Francavilla makes sure it’s creepier by making it a bit run-down. The sky above is looming over the scene, with a larger-than-normal moon right by the spire. Meanwhile, the creators know that nothing freaks city folk out more than country rubes (why, they probably vote Republican!), so we get a dude in suspenders – nothing’s more country than suspenders! The way the people stand imply that they’re moving a bit more stiffly than we might expect, putting us in mind of zombies (they aren’t zombies, but it’s still a classic horror trope). Everything focuses our eye on the center of the page, whence Dalton runs in Panel 2. He comes out of the church – we know this because Francavilla has already been leading us that way, and then he makes sure to put stained glass in the background of Panel 2. We also see the silhouettes of the things chasing him, and it’s obvious they’re pretty monstrous. Dalton is running right at us, bringing us into the scene a bit, because the monsters are also coming right at us. The point of view shifts to behind Dalton in Panel 3 for a couple of reasons. First, the monster coming in from the left side guides our eye toward Dalton and the townspeople. Second, the shadow on the ground blends the one cast by the church and the one cast by the monster, giving it a horrific, otherworldly vibe that threatens to overtake the “normal” people in the panel. It’s a clever, almost subliminal trick by Francavilla. Dalton turns in Panel 4 and blasts the monster, and Francavilla makes sure the point of view is essentially the same – the monster is still on the left. This continues to flow to the right, where it’s halted dramatically by Dalton firing “backward” toward the creature. Note that Francavilla repeats this in Panel 7 – it feels counter-intuitive, but storytelling isn’t just about moving our eye across the page, it’s about controlling the flow, and Francavilla puts on the brakes in these two panels to show the stand Dalton is making against the ravenous creatures. We’re going to turn the page anyway, so stopping us in Panel 7 is a deliberate choice – it holds up the horror for just a second. Anyway, in Panel 5, Remender and Peck let us know a little about what’s going on – the townspeople are evil, too, and someone named “Crow” wants “this one” alive. That’s a classic cliché to explain why bad guys don’t just shoot good guys in the head, but Remender and Peck don’t belabor the point, just make it, so it’s not too egregious. Panel 6 is a nicely designed page, as Dalton bashes one of the townspeople in the jaw, and Francavilla shows him bringing the butt of his rifle up and to the right, leading us right to Panel 7, where he slams on the brakes again. It’s a page that shifts gears rapidly, mimicking the stuttering film style of many modern horror movies without the annoying camera work.

While Sorrow isn’t the best series, it’s not the worst one, either. It has some nice moments, and even though Francavilla has to draw a lot of gory stuff, he does it really well. So there’s that!

Next: Is this DC’s scariest character? We’ll check out some of his first pages coming up over the next few days! Prepare yourself by checking out the archives!

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