Every day this year, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. Today’s page is from Empty Chamber #2, which was published by Silent Devil and is cover dated July 2007. Enjoy!
A. David Lewis, who’s written some fine comics but decided to go get his Ph.D. in Religion and Literature instead of sticking with the glamorous world of comic book writing (what a sucker!), and Jason Copland, who really ought to be more in demand because he’s quite a good artist (and Marillion fan, so he’s obviously a genius!), put together this nifty two-issue story back in 2007. Let’s check out the first page!
If you missed the first issue of this comic, you might be a bit lost. Lewis lets us know that this general is depressed because a woman he knows is dead. We don’t know who it is – we might think it’s his wife, but we learned in issue #1 that it’s his mother – but he’s sad about it. We find out a bit about her and the general’s relationship with her, and then the woman – Atalanta – tells him they’re ready for his orders. Lewis doesn’t give us too much to go on, but we know something is up. As it turns out, the general is going all “Ed Harris in The Rock” on the United States, which we found out in issue #1, but if we’re just picking this up without having read the first issue (it could happen!), Lewis does get to his plot eventually. This page sets some stuff up, and there’s nothing wrong with that, especially when Lewis can come in with a reasonable assumption that you’ve read issue #1. This is #2 of 2, after all – it’s not like it’s a long series (although the two issues did come out about a year apart, so there’s that).
Copland is a better artist today, but he does a decent job laying out this page. His pencil work is okay, but it’s definitely matured in the past five years (one would hope that’s the case, but of course we’ve seen examples of artists sliding backward as they get older). The general’s mother is an important figure, so her image obscures everything else in Panel 1, including his shadowed form. In Panel 2, Copland switches the point of view so we see him looking downcast, and it makes sense because we saw Panel 1. Copland also shows Atalanta entering the room in the background. Notice that Copland follows the “rule of thirds” pretty well – General Fleischer (that’s his name) is moved to the left a bit and is in the foreground, so he’s the first thing we see, but because he’s over on the left, our eyes naturally wander to the right, where we see Atalanta. For such a small panel, it’s well designed. In Panels 3 and 4, we just get simple placements of the characters, but Lewis uses the spaces to exposit a bit, so it’s probably necessary to put the characters where they are. Notice that the general has his chin tilted slightly downward in Panel 3 and more so in Panel 4, while Atalanta is looking up at the screen in Panel 3 and, of course, in both panels, she looms over him. Copland and Lewis are upending the traditional command structure visually – the general is her superior officer, but at this moment in their lives, Atalanta has it together far more than Fleischer does. In Panel 5, Fleischer rouses himself and the typical command chain is re-asserted, and Atalanta is on the right side of the page to move us that way as we read her dialogue. Copland and Lewis end the page in the same place that they began it – with Momma Fleischer dominating the panel, while Lewis and letterer Kel Nuttall place her cause of death on the screen as information for the “viewers” – meaning the readers. Jenn Rodgers, who grayscaled this, doesn’t have too much to do on this page, but notice that she makes sure Fleischer’s eyes are hooded in Panels 2 and 3, making his grief a bit more palpable.
Empty Chamber isn’t the greatest comic book in the world (both creators have done much better work), but it’s fun to read. Lewis and Copland do a decent job trying to get us interested in the comic with this first page, so there is that, I guess!
Next: A war comic that remains a bizarre example of what the Big Two can do when they have some balls! Too bad they don’t have those balls anymore! Find more comics that took balls to publish in the archives!