Every day this year, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. Today’s page is from Days Missing #2, which was published by Archaia and is cover dated September 2009. Enjoy!
Before Chris Burnham became the comics superstar he is today (if he’s not, he should be), he worked on some other stuff. I first saw his work on Nixon’s Pals, where it was pretty good, but on this issue of Days Missing, it’s a bit overwhelmed by the coloring of Imaginary Friends Studio. Days Missing (the first series) was an interesting conceit – five issues with the same character – that dude right there, the Steward, who changes time so that days that screw up humanity are excised, but they leave traces in the modified timeline. Each issue starred the Steward, but was written and drawn by different people, so we got different takes on the character and his stories. This time, Hine and Burnham tackle Frankenstein.
Hine gives us plenty of information. The title of the issue tells us the date (this is the date the Steward “changes”), and the Steward also keeps a journal, which indicates the actual date. His journal tells us about the eruption of Mount Tambora, which freaked everyone right the hell out (it was bigger than the Krakatoa eruption in 1883). So we’re up to date on the state of the world – 1815/1816 must have sucked – and then focuses on Mary Godwin, who’s been banging Percy Shelley. Before we even turn the page, we ought to know that the Steward’s object of obsession is the writer of Frankenstein, and of course this issue will concern that book. So we have a nice idea about what was going on in Europe (well, in addition to the Napoleon thing) when Mary Godwin started thinking about her classic book. The journal entry is always a fine way to exposit, and Hine does a decent job with it.
Burnham’s crisp art is bludgeoned a bit by the digital colors. I’m not a huge fan of Imaginary Friends Studios, but their coloring can be decent when matched with an artist who fits their style, which Burnham’s does not. Burnham does give us a nice drawing of the crazed people on the viewing screen in Panel 2, and in that case, I think the coloring style works fine, because we’re viewing in on a screen. I don’t like how IFS makes the floor and walls in Panel 1 look like they’ve been Photoshopped in. Maybe the walls were, but given what I know about Burnham’s style, I doubt it. I’m not a fan of how, in Panel 1, it appears that the desk and the viewing screen don’t seem to be actually in the room – it looks like bad special effects put them there. Again, that might be Burnham’s fault, but I don’t think the marble on the floor – which I believe is from the colorist – help in any way. Burnham doesn’t really get to do anything all that spectacular on this page – he gets a few chances in this issue, but not many – and so the page layout is kind of boring. As there’s not a lot going on, Burnham doesn’t even need to move our eyes around the page. He just trusts that we’ll know how to read the page. Mary is looking to the right, leading us to Page 2, but that’s about it in terms of constructing a page that helps our eyes flow.
And then there’s Troy Peteri. I’ve been mocked before for saying that Peteri isn’t one of my favorite letterers, but that assumes that people think that all letterers are created equally, when they’re clearly not. In a previous installment of this column, I note that Todd Klein’s cursive was very easy to read because Klein is a good letterer. I don’t know what font Peteri is using, but it’s terrible. It’s that bastard mix of cursive and print that people us these days, something the Steward writing in 1816 would seem to disdain, but it also has too much flair that obscures the actual letters. It’s very difficult to read, and because Hine has so much information to get across, there are a lot of words. The terrible font makes this page much more of a slog than it should be, because it takes so long to decipher the actual writing. This is one reason why Peteri is not one of my favorite letterers, but there are others. I get wanting to make the lettering different because it’s supposed to be a person writing it, but when it interferes with people actually reading the comic, you’ve gone too far!
So that’s Page 1 of issue #2 of Days Missing. Visually, it’s kind of lousy. Hine has an intriguing opening, but he’s not helped by the art, coloring, or lettering. That’s just too damned bad.
Next: Yes, it’s another John Byrne comic. Dang, that dude has been involved in a lot of comics over the years! Check out some of his other stuff in the archives!