Every day this year, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. Today’s page is from Fables: 1001 Nights of Snowfall, “Diaspora”, which was published by DC/Vertigo and is cover dated 2006. Enjoy!
Fables: 1001 Nights of Snowfall is a graphic novel featuring a bunch of short stories, all written by Bill Willingham and all lettered by Todd Klein. This story, “Diaspora,” is drawn by Tara McPherson. Let’s consider it, shall we?
Willingham gives us some basic information on this page. The “Adversary” has destroyed the ladies’ homelands, and they have joined the refugee train. We also can figure out that they’re Snow White and Rose Red, although they only call each other by their first names. Willingham is using familiar figures from fairy tales, so even a new reader will probably be able to figure out who’s who. The fact that one of them slept with the other’s husband might be new, but there it is. What’s fascinating is that we don’t know who’s narrating the story. Perhaps if we know that Rose Red stole Snow White’s husband we can figure it out, but Willingham doesn’t confirm for many pages that Snow White is the narrator. It’s interesting that he doesn’t make it clear for a long time, but for the purposes of the first page, not terribly germane. We need to know that they’re sisters and that they’re refugees. Through the dialogue, we get that Snow White is more forceful and more cynical than Rose Red – she tells Rose what they’re going to do and makes the crack about Prince Charming. We can get quite a bit about the two girls’ personalities just from this page, which is nice.
McPherson’s artwork is a lighter shade of Bosch, which makes her a good choice to illustrate this medieval-feeling story. She gives us a marvelously designed first panel, with the town burning in the upper left corner, drawing our eyes with the smoke toward the caption box. The giant in the background stops our eyes and moves them down the line of refugees toward the bottom left of the panel, which leads us to Panel 2. The creatures are well done, fitting in nicely with the medieval vibe of the story and not looking too out of place. Willingham gives us some information about the horror of the war right in the middle of the panel, but he doesn’t obscure McPherson’s art at all. We see the dead bodies on the grass and the struggling fairy and the despair in the faces of the refugees – it’s a good start to the story. Snow and Rose don’t really look like sisters at all, but they’re drawn well and form a nice contrast – even before we find out that Rose is kinder and more willing to rescue people than Snow is, McPherson draws her face more open and rounded and trusting, while Snow’s is pinched, severe, and calculating. Her wonderful catty expression in Panel 3, contrasted with Rose’s fearful and upset look, tells us a lot about what kind of relationship they have. Snow does show emotion in this story, but far less than Rose does, and McPherson does a nice job showing us that on this page. Her coloring is slightly flatter and duller than other stories in the book, too, which doesn’t really detract from the artwork – it’s a contrast to later in the story, when the colors get brighter, and I wonder if McPherson was doing it here to imply the sadness the refugees feel about losing their homes. It’s not a very “bright” scene, after all, so I think the coloring choice was deliberate.
Obviously, as this is a graphic novel and if you’re reading this story you’re already committed, Willingham and McPherson aren’t so concerned about making this first page a “grabber,” but it’s still a nice one. It gives us plenty of information and looks quite nice. If you’re reading this book, you can see the next page, so McPherson doesn’t need to end the page on a “cliffhanger,” such as it is, but she still does a good job leading us onto the next page. So, mission accomplished, even if it wasn’t completely necessary.
Next: One of my favorite current comics. Which one? You’ll have to find out tomorrow. I hasn’t appeared yet in the archives, I can tell you that much!