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 Wormwood: Gentleman Corpse: Calamari Rising #4, which was published by IDW and is cover dated March 2008. This scan is from the trade paperback, which was published in 2008. Enjoy!
Ben Templesmith’s art style makes all his work a bit creepy, even if the actual page isn’t showing anything creepy. This page, for instance, isn’t all that scary, but Templesmith’s style skews it toward the weird, and the fact that the good guys are fighting giant extra-dimensional squid does help, of course. He gives us a big Panel 1 to set the scene, with the humans (and their allies) clustered around the center of the panel and the squid on the perimeter. It’s a pretty well designed panel, because it shows us the characters well and gives us an idea of the all-encompassing problem they’re facing. So that’s Medusa with her back to the reader (she owns a strip club), Trotsky is the purple glowing dude, the Leprechaun Queen is the ugly chick in the middle foreground holding the head (that’s Mr. Pendulum, a robot that tends to get destroyed quite often), and that’s Phoebe in the lower right. The panel flows well from the upper left to the bottom right, with Templesmith giving us some good information in the caption box – the squid are from another dimension, and Trotsky likes to whine. We might not know who Trotsky is from this panel, but in Panel 2, he’s whining, so that clears that up. Templesmith does a good job with the squid – he’s good at making things look icky.
In Panel 2, we learn that the purple dude is Trotsky because he is, in fact, whining. He exposits a bit that the “rift” is closed – good comic book readers who haven’t read the first three issues of this series will probably be able to understand that the “rift” is the hole through which the squid came into our dimension – and Templesmith shows him directing our eyes back toward Medusa, who speaks next. She also exposits a bit, as she tells us that the squid can still infect things and in that way replenish their numbers, and Templesmith immediately show this happening in Panel 4. Medusa is on the right side of the panel, so our eyes move from her word balloon quickly to Panel 4, where we see the young lady impaled by the tentacle, and Templesmith puts Medusa in the background so the two panels are tied more closely together. Templesmith, of course, is famous for his scratchy style and his somewhat murky colors, and this page is pretty much par for the course with regard to the coloring. Trotsky is colored nicely – he’s a ghost, so of course he’s going to be a bit spooky, and Templesmith does a nice job with the effects on this page. Even if you don’t like his style (and that’s certainly fair), he does move us across the page fairly well. Three letterers are listed in this trade, so I’m not sure who actually lettered this page, but it’s the worst thing on the page. Black backgrounds in word balloons are usually only effective with white letters, and you’ll notice that Medusa’s speech is the easiest to read on the page. The red and purple letters are almost illegible, and the fact that the actual letters are very small and crammed together doesn’t make it any easier. This is a huge problem in these books – I don’t know if Templesmith wants his letterers to use these kinds of colors and fonts, but whoever decides it, it’s the wrong choice. I really like Templesmith’s weird-ass comics, but usually, the letters in his books are terrible, no matter who’s doing them (which makes me think he has some influence on them). It’s frustrating.
While this comic is more humorous than anything, it’s a humorous horror comic, so horrible things happen to people all the time. This page gives us a good idea of both the humor and the horror. It’s a pretty good example of what you can expect from a Templesmith comic. If you like this page, you’ll probably like them all!
Next: Is it pretentious? Mai oui! Is it awesome? But of course! I’m sure you can find a lot of pretentious comics in the archives!