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. As it’s now December, I will be examining the LAST pages of random comics, so watch out for SPOILERS! Today’s page is from Planetary #12, which was published by DC/Wildstorm and is cover dated January 2001. Enjoy!
Planetary #12 marks a big shift in the title, as Elijah Snow finally remembers who he is and challenges the main villains of the comic – basically the Fantastic Four – by drawing a big “4” in Central Park. So John Cassaday reverses the regular trope that we often see at the beginning of comics, with the artist “zooming in” from space toward Earth and a specific spot, as on the final few pages of this issue, he zooms out from Central Park to show us space. Panel 1 is the first time we see the entire planet (the previous page was from high above the planet, but we could still see Central Park), and then in Panel 2 the payoff begins, as we see the satellite off to the right. In Panel 3, Cassaday gets closer to the satellite and shows the “4” prominently displayed on the side. Obviously Snow’s challenge has been seen by the right people. What will happen next????
This is, of course, an example of mixed media in comics, as Cassaday uses a photograph of the Earth and inserts it into the issue. I’m always of two minds about this – I understand why artists do it, but because Cassaday actually draws the satellite, it highlights the “unreality” of the scene and it almost invariably makes me too aware that I’m reading something that has been artificially manipulated. I don’t mind mixed media in comics on principle, but personally, I think it should be done when it’s supposed to look artificial – when Kirby has the Fantastic Four go through all sorts of bizarre dimensions, for instance, the use of mixed media highlights the strangeness and works perfectly well. When it’s simply because the artist didn’t want to draw the planet, it bugs me. In this instance, the previous page was drawn, and then you turn the page to this one and you see an obvious photograph, and it’s jarring. That might just be me, though.
With this issue, Warren Ellis decided that he could end stuff on notes like this – the book just ends, rather anticlimactically given what we’ve learned in this issue, but Ellis was shifting the narrative from single-issue stories to a grander plot. That’s his prerogative!
Next: A Mike Mignola-written independent comic. But it’s not related to Hellboy! What kind of insanity is this???? Don’t worry, there’s still Hellboy-related stuff in the archives!
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