Every day this year, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. This month I will be doing theme weeks (more or less), with each week devoted to a single writer. This pseudo-week: Steve Gerber. Today’s page is from Legion of Night #1, which was published by Marvel and is cover dated October 1991. Enjoy!
Be honest: If you remember Legion of Night at all, you didn’t remember that Steve Gerber actually wrote it. But he motherfucking did, yo!
Legion of Night is a horror comic set firmly in the Marvel Universe in which Fin Fang Foom is the big plot point. It stars a bunch of characters that Gerber had created in other Marvel horror books over the years but had been left by the wayside. None of that really matters, because it’s pretty much a self-contained book. I certainly didn’t know who the people in the book were, but I dug it because of the awesome Whilce Portacio art. You know it’s true!!!!! This is right as Portacio was hitting it big – his very cool run on X-Factor was from 1991, too – even though he’d been around at Marvel for five or so years. So let’s consider this first page, shall we?
Gerber doesn’t give us much to work with. He opts for incomplete and/or oblique phrases, setting a mood more than anything. There’s a woman in some sort of hospital gown, and I guess we can infer that she’s thinking all of this as these image flash through her mind – she’s the first and last thing we see on the page – but other than that, Gerber is simply trying to indicate that something bad is coming and that the woman is a bit strange. “Pierced” is a fairly sexual word, of course, and sex will play a large part in this comic. Linking “truth” with “falling” and “he is fallen” seems to imply a religious theme – “What is truth” being the most famous question in the Bible, while “he is fallen” puts on in mind of Lucifer, whom popular myth has turned from a big douchebag into the one angel willing to question God’s design. The fact that Gerber, probably, chose to put these words over a book showing some kind of dragon and with some Latin written on it (“igitur” means “therefore,” which feels more intriguing than it probably is) is also interesting. While we don’t get a lot of concrete information from the words on the page, we do get some interesting references.
Portacio is inked by Scott Williams and colored by Paul Mounts in this series (the letters, as if you couldn’t tell, are by John Workman). Williams isn’t a terrible inker, but I’ve never really warmed to his work. He is, however, better in this series than he often is, because he reins in his penchant for overdoing the cross-hatching a bit. Mounts is a solid colorist, and he makes sure to ground this page in green, blue, red, and yellow, keeping things simple while Portacio necessarily complicates things by zipping around and giving us images that we be of importance. The woman in Panel 1 might have wacky hair and perhaps a too-short hospital gown, but it’s an effective image with which to begin. She points left with both her arm and leg, and while we don’t know what that blue blob is (I assume it’s water, but why?), the shattered glass in the form of a butterfly is nice, because the image is repeated in the explosion right underneath it and the blood stain right underneath that. That takes us to the angry Asian man and the ornamental knife, which is placed on the same level as the word “pierced.” Again, it’s violent but also sexual, and considering there’s going to be a fairly graphic scene dealing with unholy childbirth later in the comic, the image of the knife, the blood burst, and the word “pierced” are juxtaposed well. The knife points us to the image of the five shadowy figures, which is again foreshadowing, and then to the crooked image of the weird bird-dragon that covers the final panel on the page. That’s well designed – the woman doesn’t see the panel or the dragon image, but Portacio makes it appear she does, and the fact that the panel is partially blocking her face is another nice way to foreshadow how the dragon dominates this book. You may not like Portacio’s pencil work, but the page itself is laid out very well.
Legion of Night is a bizarre comic, as this page probably leads you to believe. However, it’s effective in presenting a lot of themes that play out over the course of the book, and it’s certainly intriguing. That’s always appreciated!
Next: A famous Gerber creation shows up, but not in the series that was created for her! And always, here are the archives.