Axel-In-Charge: Waid & Samnee on "Black Widow" and the Dawn of the All-New, All-Different Era
Every day this year, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. Today’s page is from JLA #72, which was published by DC and is cover dated November 2002. Enjoy!
Joe Kelly’s run on JLA is not all that highly regarded (as far as I can tell), but it’s not bad. This big story, “The Obsidian Age,” was full of time travel, so it made my head hurt when it was coming out, but when you read it all at once, it’s … well, it holds together a bit better, but it’s still all about time travel. Greg no like time travel!!!!!
I’m going to try to analyze this page without getting into the whole story too much, because I don’t want to and the first page should work on its own. The only person who speak on this page is Rama Khan, who appeared in Kelly’s first big story arc on JLA and is back again here. We learn that he’s from a land called Jarhanpur, and he had a dream that it was destroyed and he heard a prophecy. He speaks the prophecy, and it’s fairly clear he thinks he’s talking about the Justice League. Rama Khan lets us know that we’re in Atlantis, and that the League is there as well. Of course, it’s ominous – prophecies usually are – but Kelly does give us some information, both straight-forward and cryptic. Which is nice.
Doug Mahnke drew this, and it’s not a very exciting page, but he does a nice job showing us what we need to see. Rama Khan is mixing something into the wine, but we’re not quite sure what it is. David Baron colored this page, and I imagine he added the nice sparkly white to the page in both Panels 1 and 2. In Panel 3, Mahnke draws the wine cup close up, mainly because Rama Khan mentions the Hydra drinking the blood of the Earth, so the words link up with the blood-red wine in the panel (and Manitou Raven doesn’t drink the wine on the next few pages because it reminds him of blood). Mahnke pulls back in Panel 4 to show seven wine cups, and of course we recall the seven ravenous heads that Rama Khan just spoke of. It’s important to show the seven cups before we turn the page, because Kelly is laying the groundwork that the “seven ravenous heads” might not be the Justice League, but Rama Khan and his “league.” So Mahnke shows the seven wine cups soon after Kelly writes about the “seven ravenous heads” so that seed of doubt is planted. Finally, in Panel 5, we get a close-up of Rama Khan’s mouth about to drink, and once again, we’re reminded of the Hydra that will drink the blood of the Earth. Kelly and Mahnke load up the imagery to lead us from the word balloon at the top of Panel 3 to the large image in Panel 3, the seven cups in Panel 4, and Rama Khan’s mouth in Panel 5. All of this helps create doubt in our mind – the words Rama Khan is saying mean the Justice League, but Kelly and Mahnke are subtly tying the destroyers of the prophecy to Rama, as well. In the background of Panel 5, we see a shadowy hand raising a cup – this is Gamemnae, and while her hand is in shadow so it doesn’t take too much attention from the central image, it’s also significant that Gamemnae is kind of evil. Her hand is in shadow? Coincidence? Probably, but you never know! Baron gives us plenty of glowing candles, so why would her hand be in shadow? The people demand an answer!
This isn’t an exciting first page, but it is a good one. Kelly is revealing some crucial information, and Mahnke knows how to draw, so the page is greater than the sum of its parts. That’s always a good thing, because it means that writer and artist are working well together!
Next: More Justice League? Well, not quite, but close enough. And it’s by two comics legends, to boot! Whoo-hoo! Find more legends in the archives!
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