Every day this month, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. This month I will be doing theme weeks, with each week devoted to a single artist. First up: Bill Sienkiewicz! Today’s page is from 30 Days of Night: Beyond Barrow #1, which was published by IDW and is cover dated September 2007. Enjoy!
In the new century, interior art from Mr. Sienkiewicz became more and more rare, although he seemed to step up inking others’ pencils quite a bit (which turned them into odd Sienkiewicz-lite and worked with some artists and clashed horribly with others). Earlier in the decade, he did a chapter in Neil Gaiman’s Endless Nights, a two-part Ultimate Marvel Team-Up story, and then he did this, which I think might be the last time he’s done interior art (Wikipedia is unhelpful, and if anyone can tell me if he’s done interior art since 2007, I’d be happy to amend this statement). It feels as if Sienkiewicz went so far beyond the mainstream that the majority of comics fans refused to follow him, and he pops up occasionally to remind us that, even if he’s not doing wild avant-garde stuff, he can still do some pretty damned cool-looking comics.
If we compare this to the first issue of Niles’s vampire epic (as seen here), you’ll note we get slightly more information. This is partly because the vampires have already attacked Barrow, so Niles tells us that on the first page, where as in the very first issue, Barrow was a normal Alaskan town. But Niles also takes the time to tell us about Barrow, mainly to introduce the two things common to the town – the cold and the dark – which leads into the third thing, the vampires. It’s not a bad way to chuck us into the story – even if we haven’t read the preceding chapters of the “30 Days of Night” universe, Niles doesn’t waste any time being coy: It’s Barrow, it’s cold, it’s dark, and part of the population will kill you and suck out your blood if you let them. Deal with it! You’ll also note that Robbins’s lettering is more “horror” than in the original – red letters on a black background, as difficult as it is for my old eyes to read, evokes a creepy feeling.
Sienkiewicz gives us a fully-painted series, which is nice. It helps that there’s a lot of snow in the book – I don’t know if the snow is a computer effect or if Sienkiewicz painted it, old-school-style, but it works much better against the painted backgrounds than it does in, say, the first page of Wolverine: The End. With Sienkiewicz’s rather abstract style, the snow simply adds to the indistinct and blurry imagery, making everything look a bit weird and messy and uncomfortable. Nothing is solid in Barrow – it’s all a haze of snow and blood. We see this in the final panel, where the vampires are trying to maintain an appearance of gentility (check out Colonel Sanders in the background) but Sienkiewicz’s blood spatters and frantic strokes reveal them for the monsters they are. It’s a nice constrast, and might not work if Sienkiewicz did this in pencils, where his exaggerated work might make the vampires too silly (it might not, of course, but I’m just speculating).
So that’s the first page of this series, and it sets up the rest of it fairly well. Obviously, if you like Sienkiewicz and/or Niles, you’re going to keep reading. But if this is your first exposure to either of these two gentlemen, this page seems to make the book accessible – the information is there, and Sienkiewicz’s artwork seems suited to the subject matter. That’s all you can ask for, right?
While you’re waiting for the new artist (quite frankly, I don’t know why you would), be sure to check out the archives!