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Frantic as a cardiograph scratching out the lines, Day 357: The Nightly News #1

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 Nightly News #1, which was published by Image and is cover dated November 2006. Enjoy!

Cults are AWESOME!

The Nightly News, which I wrote about here, is Jonathan Hickman’s first comic, and it’s a danged good one. The set-up is better than the resolution, so this final page of issue #1, which is part of the set-up, is pretty cool.

The idea of the comic is simple: a terrorist organization is targeting journalists because they believe that the media is run by rich corporations that conceal the truth from the people. It’s a bit more complex than that, but if you really want to break it down, that’s it. That dude in the large panel is John Guyton, the spokesman of the group (he’s called the Hand), who speaks for the Voice, the head of the organization (who remains hidden for much of the comic). Guyton has recruited these people, and now he produces that audio tape (Hickman, like a lot of cutting-edge comic book writers, fetishizes the accoutrements of the past a little bit) with the latest message from the Voice. The acolytes, of course, are focused on the message. Then, Hickman gives the critique at the end about needing men who can be molded. This is, as I’ve noted, an extremely cynical book, so even as Hickman sets up this “noble” cause of speaking truth to power, he’s putting in these little asides that let us know that nothing is at it seems.

One of the marvelous things about The Nightly News is the way Hickman designs the book. He uses models, but the way he filters the work makes it look much more “organic,” for lack of a better word. Obviously, he’s using a computer to add the effects, but the circles on this page are a crucial part of the book’s design, so while they look strange in isolation, once you dive into the book, they help with transitions between panels and occasionally function as panels themselves. Hickman uses them to manipulate us, too – note the large one behind Guyton’s hand holding the tape, drawing our attention to it. The way Hickman shades the page – a heavy use of blacks, for instance – also helps make the computer effects less evident, while the brown coloring, as we’ve seen, indicates that this is taking place in the present; Hickman uses blue in the flashbacks. We also see the tiny note about the First Church of the Brotherhood – the name of the organization – being a 501(c)3, which is just another clever little cynical note about the nature of the group. The page is effective, I think, because it doesn’t end on a cliffhanger, exactly, but with something that leaves us wanting more, and it also places doubts in our minds about what we’ve seen in this first issue. So Hickman has set up an interesting scenario, then undercut it a bit. It adds tension to the already tense story.

Hickman doesn’t do much artwork these days, which is too bad, not because he’s such a good artist, but because the way he designs comics is so interesting. But that’s the way it is, I guess. This issue and this series gives us some good ideas about the kind of writer he is, something he took to Marvel and turned into a big career. This is just an early step along the way.

Next: An old anthology title, and there’s only one reason to own this particular issue … and I’m not going to show the last page of that particular story! That’s just how I roll! Find some other anthologies in the archives!

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