Vaughan & Chiang's "Paper Girls" Builds a Familiar Yet Disconcerting World
Every day this year, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. Today’s page is from Welcome to Tranquility #12, which was published by DC/Wildstorm and is cover dated January 2008. Enjoy!
This is the final issue of the ongoing Welcome to Tranquility (it was followed by a mini-series), Gail Simone’s interesting comic about a town full of retired superheroes (there are plenty of younger ones, but the focus is on the retirees, for the most part). Neil Googe did the art, and while I read many criticisms of it on yonder Internets, I thought it was pretty good, if a bit odd to get used to. This page, however … man, it’s ugly.
Simone did this quite a bit – introduced characters by showing some of the olde-tymey comix they appeared in, and she does that here with the “Kid,” who’s one of the more mysterious heroes in the book. So we get the copy across the top, advertising that it’s a “Maxi-Mature Graphic Magazine” (the heroes are called “maxis”) and a “Blazing Bloody Western Spectacular.” Simone gives us some stereotypical dialogue (which is the point), in which we learn that the Kid is friends with “Sidewinder Spirits” and that “Owlhoot” killed the Kid’s family. Simone adds the tag line “The Return of the Host Rider!” and the “Featuring” list because it fits in with the motif. As with other pages like this in the series, we immediately move to the present and the Kid’s situation, but it’s a clever way to get us into the story.
Googe and colorist Carrie Strachan’s art, however, is not very good. As it’s a splash page, we can’t say too much about Googe’s storytelling, but he does manage to get everyone on the page, so there’s that. When Owlhoot mentions the Sidewinder Spirits, we see them right underneath his word balloon, and we can tell they’re a bit … different – one is on fire, the other has a skull instead of a face, that sort of thing. The Kid is front and center, so he becomes the focus of the page, which is fine. But the page is really poorly put together. Owlhoot isn’t looking at the Kid even though he’s talking to him, and I guess if we want to see Owlhoot, that’s necessary, but it still looks bizarre. The perspective is screwed up a bit, too. Owlhoot is sitting on a horse (the fact that the horse looks like it’s a skeleton is nicely and subtly done), but the Kid looks almost as tall as he is. Is the horse a pony, or is the Kid a giant? I know that Googe is trying to get everything onto the page, but it’s a very weird-looking page because of it. I can’t stop staring at Owlhoot’s hands, either. Is the skull part of his saddle (as seems to be the case, as it matches the other skulls) or attached to his glove? Also, is that his thumb directly underneath the skull? That’s impossible, as it’s his right hand and his thumb would be on the other side of his hand. It’s freaking me out!
The coloring is not very good, either. I think Googe and Strachan are going for a fully painted look that you get from classic magazines (Greg Hatcher writes about this kind of thing all the time, so you can go look at his posts for examples), but if that was the case, Strachan should have painted it. The dull and limited palette she uses makes the page blander than it should be, and either she or Googe over-rendered this on computer, so the crispness of Googe’s line work is gone but hasn’t been replaced with vibrant, painted colors. It’s a muddy mess, and even if Strachan and Googe had wanted to make it look dull and dirty, the lack of contrast that would make the dirt stand out more is gone, so it just looks ugly. It’s too bad – this is obviously a stylistic choice, because the book in general is drawn and colored quite nicely, but this is just an ugly page. As it’s the first page, it’s not the best choice. Although the book was getting canceled with this issue, so I guess it didn’t matter!
Next: A minor classic from two well-respected creators! Plus: boobies! You can always find more boobies in the archives, if you know where to look!
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