An "X-Force" To Be Reckoned With - Marvel's Mutant Militia Turns 25
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 Team Zero #2, which was published by DC/Wildstorm and is cover dated March 2006. Enjoy!
Team Zero was a pretty cool war comic written by Chuck Dixon and drawn by Doug Mahnke. You know it will be decent with that creative team, right?
In this issue, we get the customary “team-building” narrative, as “Deathblow” – Collins, the leader of the team – assembles six soldiers during World War II for a top-secret mission, and throughout the issue, we see in two- or three-page vignettes how each soldier got their code names and what their deals are. When Collins finally assembles them, “Bullet” doesn’t take kindly to there being an Asian dude on the team, and they come to blows before Collins pulls them apart. Hence the word balloon in the first panel of this page. The bureaucrat thinks it’s appalling that they started fighting, but the fat dude in the back of the car says it’s fine – Collins knows what he’s doing. The fat dude thinks this is great – they’re a pack of wolves anyway, so they need to establish dominance.
Mahnke, inker Sandra Hope, and colorist David Baron do a nice job with this page. Mahnke places the blond bureaucrat on the right side of Panel 1, so we’re nudged toward the edge after we read the word balloons, and then he reverses the point of view so that the fat dude is on the left side of Panel 2, making the conversation between them more cinematic, as we cut between them to give us a sense of movement in a static scene. Mahnke rotates the “camera” for Panel 3 so that we’re looking at the fat dude straight on, because what he’s saying in that panel is fairly important, establishing the theme for the entire page. He can still be on the left side of the panel, like he is in Panel 2, because the shift in point of view helps balance the two panels better, and Mahnke’s “zoom-in” makes his head bigger than it was in Panel 2, separating it from the previous panel even more. In Panel 4, our point of view shifts again, to behind the fat dude, so we can see the other bureaucrat, who’s driving the car. His eyes lead us from left to right, back to the fat dude, who’s now on the right. Panel 5 gives us the same view as Panel 2, except a bit closer in, so the fat dude can frame the seven silhouettes of Team Zero in the background. Naturally, this is foreshadowing – the specter of doom hangs over them, as their mission is extremely dangerous.
Hope inks the page with a good deal of black, as befits the twilight time of day, the secrecy that shrouds the mission, and the foreshadowing of the death that waits for the soldiers. We don’t see very much of the men in the car, as the literal shadows that surround them implies their role of staying in the figurative shadows and letting the soldiers do the actual fighting, so Hope makes good use of the inks. Baron does a superb job coloring this page – the base is purple, which is a fine color for dusk, and it’s better in some cases (as we’ve seen this year) than deep blue, as purple also suggests bruising, which suggests violence. The fat dude, of course, lights a cigar in Panel 3, and Baron does a wonderful job coloring his face yellow, which highlights the importance of what he’s saying – the flame is almost in the exact center of the page – and also turns his skin a sickly pale gold and shows us his eyes, the only clear view of anyone’s eyes we get on the page. The fat dude is obviously someone of importance, but we’re supposed to infer that he’s corrupted in some way. Notice, too, that over the silhouettes, Baron chooses a nostalgic yellow – not only are the men part of the light because, although they’re participating in a secret mission, they’re still soldiers, doing the work that the dark men in the car order them to do, but they’re also already fading into the past as they become phantoms. Even if they return from the mission, they can’t speak of it and will receive no accolades for it. Baron, Hope, and Mahnke imply this nicely.
This is a pretty good final page of an issue. If you picked this up without getting issue #1, this evokes a nice mood of secrecy and death, implying a great deal about what’s to come. That ain’t bad at all. (I should say, I have no idea what the driver has in front of him. It appears to be a microphone with a gauge attached to it. Does anyone want to guess what it is? Anyone?)
Next: Well, it’s another Batman comic. I have a lot of them! Does it help if it’s a Legend of the Dark Knight, and not any old Batman comic? Let’s hope so! If not, there’s always the archives!
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