Every day this year, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. Today’s page is from Supreme Power: Nighthawk #4, which was published by Marvel and is cover dated February 2006. Enjoy!
Nighthawk, by Daniel Way, Steve Dillon, Dan Kemp, and Joe Caramagna, is a thoroughly unpleasant comic. This was after J. Michael Straczynski bailed on the book (imagine that!) and other writers were picking up the various threads of the series, and Marvel, in its infinite wisdom, released mini-series starring the characters. I thought JMS’ series (both of them) were quite good, and I wanted to see what happened with different writers. This series ended any interest I had in this corner of the Marvel Universe, because this comic is so terrible. It’s also put me off Daniel Way as a writer – I’ve heard he’s written some decent stuff since this, but I can’t forgive him for this.
But what about the first page of the fourth issue? Well, Way does get us up to speed quite well, I must admit. The mayor’s wife and son have been killed at a birthday party along with many other people attending the party. This may be linked to a “crack cocaine poisoning epidemic” ravaging the city, but it’s unclear. The guy sitting at the bar (his name is Jimmy) chuckles at this, and we find out that the mayor has been criticizing those with a cocaine addiction and implying that this is some kind of punishment for their behavior. Jimmy finds it humorous that the mayor’s family is dead. So we’re caught up on the basic plot. Way doesn’t do anything all that egregious on this page, and he uses the old cliché of the newscaster expositing well. As we’ve seen before this year, newscasters going over some crucial information is a favorite device of writers, probably because it doesn’t feel too intrusive.
Dillon lays the page out pretty well. Artie, the guy with the pool cue, dominates the first panel, and we honestly don’t think it’s all that weird, although Artie eventually takes that pool cue and bashes Jimmy in the head with it. Dillon is just making sure we get the sense that we’re in a bar, plus he needs to be pulled back far enough from the television in order to fit all those word balloons. Artie’s stare leads us directly to Jimmy and his “Heh …”, which is the beginning of his rant. In Panel 3, we see Artie again, looking toward the word balloon, and we see his expression has changed to one of disgust and anger. Dillon does a good job slowly closing in on Jimmy, building tension simply by showing him more in close-up. In the next panel (on Page 2), Artie hits him over the head, so the close-up can also imply that Artie is walking toward him, even if we don’t know that yet. Dillon places the figures nicely in the panels, too – everything is moving to the right, from Artie’s glare, the cue pointing to the right, Jimmy’s gaze at the television in Panel 2, Artie’s stare back to the right at the word balloon, and Jimmy looking toward the next page in Panel 4. Everything is pushing our eyes to the edge of the page, making it almost imperative that we turn the page.
You’ll notice that Kemp’s colors are warmer in tone that we often see with Dillon’s pencils, and I assume it’s digital work, which smooths out Dillon’s crisp lines just a little. It’s recognizably Dillon, of course, but notice the shine on Artie’s temples in Panel 1 and on Jimmy’s in Panel 4. The folds of Artie’s clothes are softer, too, and that has to be the colorist. I don’t like digital coloring, but it’s not horrible here, although seeing Dillon’s lines under this method is a bit odd. Kemp doesn’t do it throughout the book; it appears to be done here because of the “soft lighting” you’d get in a bar. At least Kemp is doing it for a reason here, which is more than I can say for some digital colorists.
I would say that Way and Dillon do a nice job getting us to turn the page with this, although that means you have to read more, and the issue itself is pretty lousy. But we can’t blame the first page for that, can we?
I’m still taking suggestions for August’s theme – writer and artist duos who worked together on at least 25 issues, whether that was one title or many titles. Hit me with them!
Next: Fairy tales! Everyone loves fairy tales, right? You won’t find them in the archives, but that shouldn’t stop you from taking a look!