Frantic as a cardiograph scratching out the lines, Day 20: Tales of the Unexpected #7, back-up story

by  in Comic News Comment
Frantic as a cardiograph scratching out the lines, Day 20: <i>Tales of the Unexpected</i> #7, back-up story

Every day this month, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. Today’s page is the back-up story from Tales of the Unexpected #7, which was published by DC and is cover dated June 2007. Yes, this is more commonly known as “Chapter Seven” of Doctor 13: Architecture & Mortality. Enjoy!

The highly-regarded back-up story to the critically-reviled Spectre main story is written by Brian Azzarello, drawn by Cliff Chiang (those two really should work together again!), colored by Patricia Mulvilhill (freed from the drudgery of Vertigo comics!) and lettered by Jared K. Fletcher. What, exactly, is the deal?

Here’s something you may not have known: this first page of chapter 7 is the only time in this comic that Traci 13 narrates. On no other page does she get to do that. The rest of the time her father, Dr. 13, takes the stage. So why does Azzarello give her the spotlight on this page? Beats me. It’s extremely bizarre. Traci is simply reiterating one of the themes of the comic – is seeing really believing? and if so, is there anything deeper than that? – but why she gets to do so for just one page is mystifying.

So is the choice of Chiang and Azzarello to portray her as Lucy van Pelt to some boy’s Charlie Brown. Again, this page is never referenced otherwise in this story. In fact, we don’t even know for sure that it’s Traci – the narration is clearly her, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility that Azzarello and Chiang are actually showing the “real” Lucy and the “real” Charlie Brown, on which Charles Schulz based his characters. It’s just that kind of comic.

Chiang does his job – he moves us through the page rather well, leading up to the blacked-out panel where “Charlie” kicks “Lucy” in the chin instead of the football, either because he so violently missed the football that he kicked her accidentally or he was so angry that he kicked her on purpose. Again, it’s a nicely drawn page, but more than the rest of this story (a story which ultimately begs the question “What’s the point?”), it seems pointless. The only thing we can glean from it is that the blacked-out panel contains the lines “… can you trust what you see?” and “Is what’s presented on the surface all there is to it …?”, which, combined with the fact that we don’t exactly see what’s going on, contributes to the oddness of the entire story. Other than that, it’s a weird way to begin the chapter. I suppose Azzarello had a reason for it, but it’s difficult to see what it was.

Still, Cliff Chiang can draw a comic, can’t he? Dang.

Next: We’re going really old school, with a master of the form! If you’re interested, check out the archives!