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Frantic as a cardiograph scratching out the lines, Day 345: Arkham Asylum: Living Hell #3

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 Arkham Asylum: Living Hell #3, which was published by DC and is cover dated September 2003. This scan is from the trade paperback, which was published in 2004. Enjoy!

When Harvey Bullock pukes, you know some nasty stuff is coming up!

Dan Slott and Ryan Sook’s Arkham Asylum: Living Hell is one of those rare comics that really unsettles me – it might not have any effect on you, but it’s really well done in terms of freaking me out. Just what happens to Warren White is scary, but with everything else going on … brrr.

On this final page of issue #3, the coroner has called in a specialist to deal with several horrific murders. Harvey Bullock, everyone’s favorite slob cop, tells the coroner on the page preceding this that nothing can upset him, but then he sees the body, and in Panel 1 we see the result. At this point, we don’t know who the “specialist” is – on the previous page, he’s shown once, but looking away – and Sook keeps him out of the picture until the end. Of course, Slott gives it away two panels earlier, but for long-time DC fans, it’s fun to realize that Jason Blood – otherwise known as Etrigan the Demon – has been called in to help with the case. Slott sets up the plot line well – Blood is able to figure out what links the victims, something no one else could do, and that’s a pretty dramatic final line. Where’s the “Dum-Dum-DUMMMMMMM!” sound effect, damn it?

Sook, inker Jim Royal, and colorist Lee Loughridge do a nice job with this page. It’s not an exciting page, so Sook designs it to keep Blood’s identity hidden until the end, which allows him to show the room from different angles. Harvey’s dilemma adds a touch of dark humor to the page, but it also allows Sook to fill up some space, especially and obviously in Panel 3. Sook’s thin lines were (and still are, to a degree) reminiscent of Kevin Nowlan, but Royal’s heavier inks add heft and texture to the page, especially in Harvey’s face and clothing and Jason’s face in the final panel. Royal’s inks help make Jason Blood look haunted, which is the way he should look. Meanwhile, Loughridge uses pale yellows and greens to good effect – this is the morgue, and the colors help create a kind of sickly yet antiseptic environment that fits the scene. Loughridge also makes the characters’ skin a bit lighter, which makes even them look a bit less healthy than they probably are. Sook, naturally, knows how to move us over the page – Harvey leads us to the right in Panel 1, Blood’s body takes us across Panels 2 and 4, and Harvey acts as a bridge between Jason and the coroner in Panel 3. All in all, while the page itself isn’t terribly exciting, the creators do a fine job in making sure it’s easy to read and contains crucial information that allows Slott to end the issue with a good exit line. That’s not badly done at all.

Slott went on to Marvel and started writing slightly lighter fare, but Arkham Asylum: Living Hell is a nice example of what he can do when he gets a bit twisted. Plus, the artwork is stellar throughout. Hunt down the trade and have a read. Me, I like to do it in the middle of day so I don’t go to sleep right afterward.

Next: Man, you just can’t get any better than a Mackie/Saviuk jam, can you? I THINK NOT!!!!! Well, I suppose you might be able to find something better in the archives, but only if you look really hard!

4 Comments

Kevin Nowlan (with a touch of, say Mignola) was exactly the art style I was thinking of. I’d only seen scans of a few Sook covers, which tended towards cutesy, children’s fare or tone. I hope that’s not an insult to Sook, it’s certainly not meant to be as the covers were extremely well done!

Mind you I thought Nowlan was responsible was for that Mike Zeck Batman page you showed the other day!

Pete: Sook is a very good artist, but like a lot of artists, he only does covers these days. It’s too bad.

Nowlan and Zeck are somewhat similar – Zeck’s characters are bulkier than Nowlan’s, but there are similarities. So I don’t think it’s too big a stretch to think a Zeck page is Nowlan’s!

Haven’t read this but I must say I am intrigued.

Also noted that this would make a tad unconventional in its “starting in the middle of things” way but completely workable first page too, just slap the title on the last panel and credits below.

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