Every day this year, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. This month I will be showing pages that are either scary or are part of “scary” issues (as scary as a comic can be, of course), because it’s October! Today’s page is from Terror, Inc. #2, which was published by Marvel and is cover dated November 2007. This scan is from the trade paperback, which was published in 2008. Enjoy!
Marvel MAX is (was) a weird imprint, as Marvel seemed to want to emulate the Vertigo model – use existing characters who didn’t really “fit” into their regular universe, but Marvel has, as yet, not done what Vertigo did and move beyond that to publish stories featuring original characters. The imprint isn’t being used very much anymore, and Marvel seems to be unwilling to let creators do mature stuff with new characters (currently, Wolverine and Nick Fury are the two characters in MAX titles), so who knows what’s going on with it. But we do get some interesting series, and David Lapham and Patrick Zircher’s Terror, Inc. was one of them.
Once again, this isn’t a terribly scary page, but Lapham does give us a sense of dread as we watch these two dudes go about their business. Of course, the subject matter – they’re disposing of a body – helps, but Lapham does a nice job slowly building the creepiness. He begins in darkness, with just dialogue balloons, and then the first evil dude asks about the head. We already know something weird is going on, because of the mention of acid, but the hacked-off head is a clear indication that something ain’t right. Lapham lets us know that the dudes are doing something to the “unkillable Mr. Terror” and that Mr. Terror’s arm is somehow important. There’s also a mystic involved, but we don’t know if that’s simply a job description or the dude’s secret identity name. Lapham has the bad guys drop something, and given what we know about what they’re doing, it’s clear it’s a body part. So, yuck. Lapham does a pretty good job giving the reader some crucial information and setting up the early part of this book, in which Mr. Terror does, indeed, come back to life. So that’s not bad.
This book features the best Patrick Zircher artwork I’ve ever seen, and while there’s a lot of photo referencing and digital manipulation, Zircher knows what he’s doing, so it’s integrated into the panels pretty well. That really doesn’t matter on this page, as he doesn’t need to draw too much. Panel 4 is interesting, because it’s hard to parse what that is, and it’s disorienting. That, combined with the dialogue on the page, makes it a bizarre panel. On first glance, it appears to be a door opening, but why is it tilted that way? Then, in Panel 5, we see that it’s a box or bag, and the bad dudes are opening it. The reason we don’t instantly understand that is because Zircher is using a very odd point of view – we’re looking at the dudes from the POV of the body, which is weird. The goateed evil dude picks “us” up – again, we’re seeing this from the point of view of a body part – and is somehow freaked out by it. We see the mess on the next page, but you’d think that if someone hired you to dispose of a hacked-up body, you’d be pretty inured to icky stuff. In Panel 7, “we” are looking up at the two dudes, and it’s clear that the goateed dude has dropped “us.” The entire page is somewhat disorienting, which is probably the point. It’s not too hard to figure out once we get to the bottom row, but Zircher keeps it weird enough that we are held up a bit, which allows the horror of what’s happening to sink in a bit. It’s pretty effective.
Joe Caramagna letters this, and you’ll notice the “splash!” that begins this page. That and the green “splat” that ends the page are a bit more cartoony than we might expect, and I believe Caramagna used this font because for all its gore, Lapham – as he often does – is writing this as a pitch-black comedy, so Caramagna uses the font to imply this as well as imply a more liquid state – the letters are more fluid than other fonts. Caramagna knows what he’s doing, so I’m sure he chose this font for a reason!
Terror, Inc.: If you can handle lots and lots of bloody gore, it might be the series for you!
Next: It’s not a terribly scary page, but it’s by an artist who makes everything he draws look scary! If you’re clever, you can find some of his work in the archives!