Frantic as a cardiograph scratching out the lines, Day 306: The New West #1
Every day this year, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. Today’s page is from The New West #1, which was published by Black Bull Comics and is cover dated March 2005. Enjoy!
Gareb Shamus’ Black Bull Comics didn’t put out too many titles, but The New West is one of them, and it had Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray writing it [EDIT: Whoops! As Palmiotti pointed out in the comments, Gray didn't work on this book. They've been together so long I swore I saw Gray's name in the credits. How weird!], Phil Noto drawing it, and Chris Eliopoulos lettering it, so it had some talent on it! It’s a hard-boiled detective story that takes place in a Los Angeles that is without power and has been for several months due to some kind of weapon. The story’s not really that important for us to check out the first page, is it?
It’s a splash page, so Noto doesn’t have too much to do with storytelling, so if you’re judging this based on the artwork, it really comes down to whether you like his style or not. This is fairly standard Noto art – he has a nice, thin line, his characters are often a bit stilted, which makes his action scenes not his forte (I like Noto’s art in general, but this has always been his weakness), and his faces – especially female ones – all tend to look alike (which you can’t tell from this page, but it’s true). Noto uses some digital effects in the sky and in the pool, and he’s good enough that it doesn’t look too out of sync with the actual drawings on the page, and he colors this quite nicely – it’s suffused with orange because it’s dawn and the sun is just rising, but what this does is make the brown adobe (I assume that’s adobe, because it’s Los Angeles, although I just learned that some pool decks are made with a material actually called Kool Deck, and it’s even possible that Megan’s pool chair is sitting on acrylic), the lantern hanging over Megan’s head, and her tanned skin all look similar, which helps create a calm, soothing scene that Dan (the detective) is intruding on and is completely divorced from. This is one of the essences of noir – the rumpled cop (Dan’s a cop – well, he was a cop) is out of place in the world of the glitterati, and Palmiotti and Gray are simply setting up that cliché – Megan is, after all, the mayor’s daughter. So while the scene is calm, we as readers know that Dan’s presence in the background – he’s not yet the central focus, although he’s moving more into the forefront – mean that things are not going to stay calm for long. Noto lays out this splash page so the themes of the book are encoded directly into the drawing, which is not a bad trick.
Palmiotti and Gray basically use the hard-boiled narrative trope to set up the page. Dan is annoyed because he was out all night, and we get an idea that maybe his job isn’t as fulfilling as it used to be – he’s gone from doing “real” police work to babysitting, and we learn in this issue that he’s now a “rent-a-cop,” but we don’t know much more than that. He just wants to chillax, but then he finds Megan by his pool. He explains that she’s the mayor’s daughter, which is pretty crucial information. I had never heard the term “San Quentin quail” before this comic, but I guess it’s a pretty old phrase, dating back to the 1940s. Palmiotti and Gray – always using the clever argot!
The New West has apparently been optioned as a movie (what hasn’t, amirite?), and it’s not hard to see that it would work perfectly well as one. That doesn’t mean it would be any good, but it does has a fairly standard movie sensibility. This first page is not bad, and it would work perfectly well after an opening credits montage!
Next: A typical Rick Remender comic! But which one could it be??? You can’t find any clues in the archives!