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. This week: Frank Quitely! Today’s page is from Batman and Robin #1, which was published by DC and is cover dated August 2009. Enjoy!
The first page of Batman and Robin (written by Grant Morrison, colored by Alex Sinclair, and lettered by Pat Brosseau) gives us a stereotypical Batman opening, with bad guys fleeing, thinking they’d gotten away with a crime, but realizing too late that Batman is onto them. It’s been done to death, so why would anyone want to keep reading?
Well, Quitely is a big reason. In the first panel, we get the wonderful explosive sound effects, which are always fun to see. It’s a beautiful panel, full of energy and madness, from the flipping police car to the getaway car hovering for a brief moment to the spinning car on the right side, tail light after-effects trailing out of the tunnel. Why is there an explosion? That’s not for us to question, just enjoy!
Then we zoom in close inside the car. We get panicked thugs and the diabolical Toad in the driver’s seat, with his large red eyes set too far apart, his flattened nose, and his wide, grotesque mouth, all under an incongruous bowler hat. You’ll note that the mustached bad guy is looking back into the car to point our eyes that way, and if we’re too quick, we might miss the Bat-flying machine coming at the car, as seen through its rear window. The third panel alters our view point so we don’t see the Bat-flier, as Mustache Man looks up, realizing they’re screwed. Finally, Quitely shifts our perceptions again, so we’re looking down on the car, and Mustache Man is really panicking now. It’s a very nice way to imply movement through static images and keep the surprise and tension building. We know Batman is going to catch up to the punks, but at least Quitely keeps us in suspense while acknowledging that rather than springing Bats and Robin on us.
Morrison doesn’t do much in terms of information, but he does get some across while still keeping out of Quitely’s way. The bad guys always think it will be easy, and it never is. Toad remains calm, although he ironically remarks that they’d need wings to catch him, which of course is what Batman has (a minger is an ugly person, by the way). He also continues to be unintentionally ironic when he comments that Batman is dead, which, of course, he ain’t. Just that little bit of information is enough, probably, to intrigue a casual reader. Is Batman really dead? If so, who’s gaining on the bad guys? And why the Toad? What the hell?
You’ll notice that Quitely inks himself here. I was not thrilled with Jamie Grant’s digital inking and coloring in yesterday’s installment, and this page feels much more organic and “real,” perhaps because it’s Gotham rather than Metropolis, so of course it’s not going to be as sterile. Quitely’s bolder inks seem to make this a more plausible place, even with the presence of, say, a large Toad-man. I know it’s just a personal preference, but Quitely’s art on this book is better than that on All Star Superman, and I don’t think it has much to do with the actual pencils.
Next: A new artist for a week! Who will it be? Honestly, I don’t know as I type these words (on 24 January) (obviously, by the time I post this, I’ll know, but work with me, people!). You’ll just have to wait and see, and so will I! Of course, there’s always the archives!