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Frantic as a cardiograph scratching out the lines, Day 354: The Black Diamond #4

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 The Black Diamond #4, which was published by AiT/Planet Lar and is cover dated September 2007. Enjoy!

As always when I post double-page spreads, I apologize that they’re not bigger. That’s just the way it is!

Larry Young, grand poobah of AiT/Planet Lar, writes comics occasionally, although I think this is the last one he’s written. The Black Diamond is set in the near future, when a giant elevated transcontinental highway has been built so that people can drive as fast as they want without bothering regular folk living on the ground. A dentist, Don McLaughlin, has to get from San Francisco to Baltimore because his wife has been kidnapped. So he borrows his brother’s car and zooms off. On the way, he picks up Cammie, a waitress at one of the innumerable diners along the highway. They’re getting chased by Cammie’s ex-boyfriend and a bunch of bikers. That can’t be good.

Young is continuing some narration on this page, and it reads: “Can’t let anything stop you, like that three-legged dog, getting home. Don’t stop. Until you get where you want to go.” He’s referencing a story his grandfather told him, but the point of this is that McLaughlin can’t let a little thing like his car exploding stop him. That’s good to know.

Jon Proctor, who drew this, isn’t the best artist, but he’s not the worst, either, even though he uses a lot of photo reference in this series and tries to blend it in with straight pencil work. It doesn’t always work, but it’s not bad. This page, however, is what happens when an artist can’t interpret the script as well as the writer would like. We actually have Young’s script for this page, because it’s printed in the back of this issue. Here’s what Young’s script says is happening:

SPLASH: The train slides under the restaurant, but the car doesn’t clear. Just … BLAM! into the side of the restaurant. Explosion, flames, hot metal, boom.

The “restaurant” is the McDonald’s, as we can see from the sign on the right side of the page. The bad guys had spiked McLaughlin’s motor, so the car wasn’t running. McLaughlin managed to hook the car up to a rope and lasso a passing train, which pulled the car up onto the top of said train (don’t worry if that wouldn’t happen – it’s COMICS!). But McDonald’s had built a restaurant OVER the highway and tracks, with a tunnel for cars – on the road – and trains. The tunnel isn’t very large, though, so the fact that there’s a car on top of the train doesn’t work, and McLaughlin’s Mercury Cougar doesn’t make it. So sad!

Here’s the thing, though – does that look like what’s happening? Obviously, Proctor draws the car exploding, and from the previous page, we know that the car was on top of the train. However, the previous page doesn’t make it clear that the tunnel is too low, and this page certainly doesn’t. The jumble in the bottom left of the spread here doesn’t look like anything, frankly – it’s just some kind of indeterminate building, and the lines moving from the left to underneath the train, which could be tracks, don’t follow the train, which is coming straight at us. Off to the right, Proctor draws a nondescript brown tube, but while the McDonald’s sign indicates the presence of the restaurant, it doesn’t really do justice to the fact that there is a restaurant and it’s going over the tracks. Plus, if the car doesn’t clear the tunnel, how is it on the other side of said tunnel, because it seems like the train has already made it through the tunnel? Finally, the black arches under which the explosion is … exploding seem to be the tunnel, but then what is the black area behind the train, from which the “tracks” seem to be coming? This is part of the problem with using a lot of photo referencing – if you’re forced to combine things, the storytelling might suffer. There can’t be a lot of photographs on the Internet of cars on top of trains getting destroyed when the train goes through a tunnel, after all. Proctor is perfectly fine throughout a good part of this book – his coloring has a lot to do with it – and he’s gotten better in the comics I’ve seen him draw since this one, but this is a poorly constructed page, and it blunts the impact that Young’s script is going for. We know there’s a big explosion, but other than that, it’s difficult to interpret the page. It’s a shame, because this is a pretty good story, but it’s not always well served by the artwork.

Next: We might not be able to escape mutants for long, but at least we can get some oddball comics starring the most ubiquitous one! As you might expect, mutant books are many in the archives!

One Comment

Good description. I had no idea what was going on on this page, and even reading your description, it’s still hard to make sense out of what’s there. I mean, I get the “BOOM” and the explosion, and the fact that there’s a McDonald’s somewhere nearby, but that’s about it.

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