Every day this month, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. Today’s page is from JLA: Act of God #2, which was published by DC and is cover dated 2001. Enjoy!
JLA: Act of God is an Elseworlds comic written by Doug Moench, drawn by Dave Ross, inked by George Freeman, colored by Ben DiMagmaliw, and lettered by Kurt Hathaway. It was one of those “Prestige Format” books that DC used to published, with nicer card stock covers and longer stories with, presumably, more consequences (of course, they were usually shuffled off to “Elseworlds” so that the consequences wouldn’t affect the “real” DCU, but occasionally they were actually set in the “real” one, too).
If you notice from that first page, Moench tells us pretty much every thing we need to know in the first caption box: a “black light event … rendered Earth’s super-powered heroes powerless.” In this new world, “technology now reigns supreme.” A robot driven by someone who is very angry is attacking the Lexcorp complex after killing Steel, and Luthor is pissed off in general. That’s all we learn from the writing, but that’s not bad considering there are only 73 words on the page. We certainly don’t know if any of this makes Act of God a good comic (it does, in fact, not), but at least Moench gets us up to speed quickly.
Ross doesn’t waste a lot of space, either. The page isn’t complicated, although it’s laid out, we might think, counter-intuitively – why is the title on the upper right when we read left to right? One thing I remember from journalism class in college is that newspapers put their most important story on the right, not necessarily at the top but definitely above the fold, because that’s where the eye goes naturally. So the title, while not in the spot where we think we would read it first, is actually where it should be. Meanwhile, Ross draws the eye from the dialogue of the robot-driver down to the robot’s “fist” and then straight to the dialogue balloon above Luthor’s panel. It’s economical and efficient. Only when we step back and look at the whole do we notice Steel’s twisted and broken body in the foreground of the first panel. Ross doesn’t draw all the viscera, but the silhouette shows us pretty clearly how horrific Steel’s death was. The lines of the page are fascinating – the robot is angled from upper left to lower right, with the fist’s motion lines cutting across that but not completely interrupting it, and even Luthor and his minion are tilted slightly that way to aim us toward the bottom corner and a turn of the page. It’s a deceptively simple page layout but it works to keep us moving. Ross might not be the best draftsman, but he knows what he’s doing when it comes to making your eye go where it wants to.
So: a simple and efficient first page that recaps what has happened and moves us into the rest of the issue. Moench and Ross are a bit old-school, so they know what they’re doing. Act of God might not be that good, but it’s not because the technical aspects of the first page are bad!
Next: Surely Guy Davis won’t let us down!