Every day this year, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. This month I will be looking at four writer/artist duos, as voted on by you, the readers! This week features Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips! Today’s page is from Criminal volume 2 #3: (“Female of the Species”), which was published by Marvel/Icon and is cover dated April 2008. Enjoy!
The third issue of the rebooted Criminal is the final issue of the arc, and this time, Brubaker is focusing on Danica instead of a male protagonist. Notice that Staples (I assume) colors the narrative boxes pink. I love Staples’ work on this book, but that’s a bit unfortunate. Anyway, Brubaker begins with narration once again, but it’s interesting that Danica seems far more in control than Holden Carver and Leo were in our previous installments. She doesn’t flinch when the guy puts his hand on her leg, just tells him they need to pull over (where she proceeds to shoot up heroin). Instead of a vaguely desperate narration that we’ve seen from Holden and Leo, Danica gives us a steely resolve in her narration, and that’s reflected in the first words she says in the issue.
There’s a small mistake in the first panel, and it bugs me. The car is moving in the right direction, but the passenger’s side front wheel is turned to the left, implying that the car is going to turn even though it’s in the middle of the highway (or freeway, as almost 20 years in the West has taught me to say – I said “freeway” a few weeks ago in Pennsylvania and my East Coast friends laughed at my Western lingo). I imagine that Phillips didn’t actually draw the car, but Photoshopped it in and possibly inked it to match the rest of the book, but I’m not certain if he did and just forgot to adjust the tire. Either way, it stands out in an otherwise nice establishing shot. The rest of the page is nothing special in terms of layout – Phillips shows us the guy driving, looking meekly over at Danica, and then we see her, leaning back casually and smoking her cigarette. Phillips frames her nicely with the guy, drawing us into his stare and making us more complicit in his actions than we would otherwise be. In Panel 2, he’s far away, and we’re distant from him, so we’re not identifying with him. In Panel 3, however, Phillips flips the script a bit, and we’re sitting where the guy is, leering at Danica, so when in Panel 4 he reaches out and touches her leg, it feels dirtier than if we were more removed from it. Obviously, his hand comes in from the right so that we follow it up to Panel 5, and we can get the sense of motion of his hand moving up her leg and off of it to where it hangs in Panel 5. Danica’s facial expression hasn’t changed a bit – Brubaker’s narration and Phillips’ portrayal of her are perfectly in sync here. She flicks the cigarette out the window in Panel 6 and Phillips draws her looking to the right, somewhat contemptuously, as she asks him to pull over. Notice that Phillips arches her right eyebrow, which is the only indication we get that she’s somewhat peeved.
As we continue to see Phillips’ evolution, we notice that he’s a bit harsher with his inking on this page. The side of the road could almost be colored by magic marker, that’s how brutal the black looks, and the driver has big black blotches up his arm. Phillips draws “outside the lines” in some panels, too, another indication of a move toward a “sloppier” style (in the best way possible, of course). Staples gives us a nice burnt yellow sky, which goes well with Danica’s skin tone and, as we’ll see, contrasts well with the deeper blues and purples of the city.
Brubillips still have more Criminal in them, but they also did another series that has to show up too, right? Maybe tomorrow will the day for it! Meanwhile, there are a lot of comics in the archives!