Every day this year, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. Today’s page is from The Invincible Iron Man #6, which was published by Marvel and is cover dated December 2008. Enjoy!
Man, some modern comics are just … yucky. I know Matt Fraction and Salvador Larroca’s Iron Man has its fans, but I am not one of them, as this was the last issue of the series I bought. I guess Larroca has drawn every single issue for four years, so … yay? But I’m just not impressed with this page, or this arc in general.
There’s a long recap page before this one, so Fraction jumps right in, but if any page represents the idea of decompressed comics pretty well, it’s this one. Ezekiel Stane, the bad guy, tells us exactly what the recap page just did – that Tony Stark, Iron Man, is dead. The only other piece of information we get on the page is that Ezekiel has some daddy issues. Of course, the recap page hints at that, too, but still – fine. It’s okay not to get too much information on the first page, but that’s usually mitigated by a dramatic scene, but this scene is … not that.
Look at that page layout. Four panels, stacked on top of each other so that there’s no flow between them whatsoever, just Larroca’s knowledge that this is the way we read a page, so why should he direct our eye anywhere? The first panel is headless Iron Man. Again, fine. It’s not great, but it’s an establishing shot, showing us that Iron Man is, indeed, headless. In the second panel, Larroca pulls back and shows the background – which is, of course, the only panel that has anything in the background. It’s just random planks and other crap thrown together, which is supposed to indicate a destroyed Stark headquarters, but is ultimately just clutter with no context. Stane breaks the panel border for no good reason whatsoever and even disrupts any impression the first panel makes, because our eye actually stops at his arm and tries to figure out what it’s doing there. Larroca is doing a lot of Photoshopping/lightboxing in this comic, so presumably he took the pose from somewhere on the Internet and simply pasted it onto the page without bothering to crop it. Stane’s face is obscured a bit, so his moment of triumph is expressed only through Chris Eliopoulos’ larger-than-normal lettering – the way the figure is place on the page, we don’t see his face at his moment of glory, which is a big mistake but understandable when we realize that Larroca probably didn’t draw the figure. Panel 3 shows him a bit closer, hocking a loogie downward, which is the only place Larroca tries to direct our eyes from one panel to the next. Stane’s face is contemptuous, which makes this the best panel on the page, even though, once again, there’s no background. In Panel 4, the way Stane crouches over Iron Man’s armor does point us to the next page, I suppose, but once again, it’s so randomly placed on a gray background that there’s nothing exciting about it at all. Frank D’Armata, who has a reputation as being one of the worst colorists in the business, does nothing at all to make Larroca’s dull work interesting, but this isn’t as egregious as some of the subsequent pages. It’s not D’Armata’s fault that Larroca barely gives him anything to do.
I realize that not all modern comics are like this and a lot of older comics weren’t very good either. It’s the lack of storytelling that bugs me, though, because that does seem to be a feature of many modern comics. I remember that one of the reasons I dropped this was because of the ugly art but also because these issues were actually difficult to read because they were so poorly constructed. If Larroca wants to use short cuts to keep up and use a bunch of images from the Internet, that’s fine. I don’t like it, but it’s fine. However, the way he puts together a page shouldn’t be so amateurish for someone who’s been around as long as he has. Remember this splash page? It’s also Larroca, 15 years ago, when he should have been “worse.” That’s why he’s such a very frustrating artist these days.
Next: An out-of-continuity book published by Marvel in the mid-1980s? Heresy, you say? It really happened! Prepare yourself for the craziness by perusing the archives!