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 Gigantic #2, which was published by Dark Horse and is cover dated December 2008. Enjoy!
Gigantic is the story about a giant robot that lands in the middle of San Francisco and starts destroying shit and killing people. Why? Ah, that’s the question, isn’t it? Rick Remender, who wrote this mini-series, is quite good at hooks to get readers involved, and this is a good one. I certainly won’t spoil it, but it’s a doozy!
In the meantime, Remender flashes back 50 years to 1958, where a farmer is looking for his son, Kane. The name “Kane” has plenty of loaded connotations, and I can’t imagine that Remender didn’t have those in mind when he named the kid. Anyway, the dad lets us know in the first panel that Kane did something that had bad consequences, because he thinks something is his fault. Plus, “ricochet” usually implies gunshot (not always, of course, but usually), so we can begin to assume that something bad has happened. The dad continues to exposit for the readers in Panel 2, where we learn that Kane’s brother, “Scotty,” is already at the doctor’s and he’s going to be fine. Then, in Panel 3, we see Kane holding a rifle, confirming our fears. I do like how Remender and letterer Rus Wooton make the “So enough of this” bold, implying that the father has a bit of a short fuse – he’s tired of reassuring Kane that his brother is fine, so he needs to sack up and stop hiding out in the barn. It’s just a minor way that letterers can affect the tone of a comic. Letterers – give them the love, people! Then, of course, the father discovers that Kane is gone. Sucks to be him!
Eric Nguyen drew this, and he does a decent job with this page. We get the establishing shot, with the barn on the right, where our eyes are headed, and the open door beckoning the dad. From the wide shot, we get a close-up of the farmer, looking worried. Again, Nguyen does a nice job with the layout, because the farmer is looking to the right, moving us to Panel 3. Panels 3 and 5 are almost identical – Nguyen obviously uses some stock drawings/Photoshops in this series, not always to this good effect, but here it’s pretty well done. In Panel 3, we see Kane for the first time, and Nguyen gives us a good perspective – the dad is in the background, and Kane is in the lower right, because that’s the last place our eyes would fall if we scanned this row of panels, so it’s the last image we see. Plus, Kane is the focus of the panel and the page, really. (When I was a journalism major – before I switched to English – I took a class in basic journo, and our teacher noted that newspapers tend to put their most important stories not across the top, but on the middle right, above the fold but below the top “banner” story. They did this because that’s where our eyes tend to gravitate when we look at a newspaper folded over. I don’t know if this is true, but it’s interesting to look at a newspaper and see if the “across-the-top” story is “more important” than the one on the right side. Anyway, if we believe this psychological experiment, Kane in Panel 3 is right where the most important story in a newspaper would be – beneath the “banner,” which is the top panel, and on the middle right.) Even if you don’t believe my newspaper anecdote – not that I heard it, because I did, but whether newspapers really structure their first page in that way – notice how the entire page seems to revolve around Kane holding the gun. In Panel 4, the farmer is moving again left to right, but he’s angled upward, and notice the line from his eyes in Panel 2 and Panel 4 lead us toward Kane in Panel 3. Panel 5 breaks this pattern, but Kane is still the focus, although the focus is that he’s absent. The dad has moved forward from Panel 3, and the hay bale behind which Kane was hiding is larger, emphasizing his absence. Nguyen’s art on this book wavers between pretty good to not very good, but this is a nicely constructed page. Matthew Wilson makes sure the glow from the farmer’s lantern is the only light source, so Kane remains “in the dark” (not really, because the page isn’t that dark, but he’s not illuminated by any light source) in Panel 3, and when the light finally arrives, he’s gone. Again, a nice touch by the artists.
There are a lot of problems with Gigantic, but this first page isn’t one of them. Remender, Nguyen, Wilson, and Wooton all chip in to give us a pretty intriguing first page, one that begs us to turn the page. Don’t you want to know what happens to Kane????
Next: Gail Simone shows up again, with a poor, doomed series that deserved more readers. And it’s not Secret Six! You can, however, find that poor, doomed series that deserved more readers in the archives!
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