Every day this year, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. Today's page is from Moon Knight (volume 6) #26, which was published by Marvel and is cover dated March 2009. Enjoy!
Jefte Palo took over on art for the final arc of the sixth volume of Moon Knight (yes, I'm fairly sure I know what I'm talking about with regard to it being "volume 6"), and Mike Benson, having "killed off" the hero in the previous issue, sends him to Mexico so he can hide out, which is where we begin. Palo's artwork is diametrically opposed to Mark Texeira's on the previous arc, but that's okay, because the tone shifts a bit too. So let's check out this first page!
The first thing we notice, perhaps, is Palo's harsh line work. Over the years, Texeira has begun to use softer lines (the first time I saw his art, in Stalkers, it was even harsher than Palo's is here), and I don't know if the work is being colored directly from pencils. Palo is obviously inking this, and he also uses harder corners than Texeira. If you're reading this comic monthly, you get the sense not that this is a more brutal Moon Knight (he did just kill someone, after all), but a more brutal situation. Moon Knight (or Jake Lockley, his alias in this arc) is in a bad place, surrounded by bad men, and even if we didn't begin with him taping up his open wounds, Palo's artwork foreshadows that. But we do get the wounds, and Palo begins with a close-up, gradually pulling back to show Jake sitting on a chair (an uncomfortable metal folding chair, you'll notice). The very act of taping the wounds looks painful and arduous - no one is helping out, and Jake has to grit his teeth (literally!) and get it done. The extent of his injuries also becomes clearer as Palo pulls back - his wounds reach up his arm to his shoulder. In Panel 4, he takes a swig from the bottle, and we can assume that he's having some issues with alcohol. Then Jake stands up, and we see his face for the first time. Palo gives him a stone-faced expression, with slit eyes and a set jaw. He's a serious dude with some serious problems, and we see that clearly. Lee Loughridge colored this, and as Loughridge knows what he's doing, it's a fine page. He uses blues in the background but makes Jake black, highlighting the lines of his muscles but otherwise drenching him in darkness. This makes the final panel, when he stands up and his face is lit, more dramatic. It's certainly not an innovative scene, but it's an effective one. Palo's layout is an inverted "S," which works for the most part. The movement of the eyes from Joe Caramagna's word balloon in Panel 2 to the one in Panel 3 might be a bit jarring, but otherwise, the layout works fine.
Benson gets us into this story with a strange narrator. We don't know who's talking, but Caramagna's ragged word balloons imply it's someone or something a bit strange. The first piece of dialogue contains a double meaning - the voice is talking about addiction, but is it Jake's addiction to alcohol, which we see him imbibing, or to Moon Knight? Then we discover that Jake is apparently fighting in an obvious underground fight club, and the voice implies that we're in Mexico. Finally, Jake speaks, and the voice is sarcastically excited that he elicited a response. If we've been reading along, we know what the voice is, but if we haven't, perhaps we suspect that Jake isn't all that sane. On the next page, we find out that he's not. So Benson does a fairly good job setting up the place and the situation and also gives us a bit of insight into Jake's state of mind. I absolutely loathe Jake's one line of dialogue, because I do not like the "Oooh, we don't swear in our books but we put stupid symbols over the bad language" trend that has infected Marvel and DC books, and the burp seems a bit out of character for Jake, but I'm not going to worry about it too much. It's a pretty good beginning to an issue and an arc.
As it's the first day of the month, I have another idea for the next theme month, coming up in October (dang, October already?). I'm going to open up the entire month to you, the readers. Send me an e-mail (the address is firstname.lastname@example.org) with the first page you want to see. Now, if I have it, I'll show it, but if I don't, I'll get back to you and ask you to scan it for me and attach it to an e-mail. If YOU don't have it, then we're SOL, aren't we? Obviously, there's a limitation on this. I will show the first 31 examples that I have access to, and I ask you to submit only ONE first page in your e-mail. I'd like you to use your real name, but if you don't want it to show up on the blog (because every day I'll say who submitted the page), let me know what name you post under. If you have any web site you'd like to plug, feel free to include that, too. I don't know how many people are going to send me e-mails today, but if I don't get 31 examples, I'll keep accepting e-mails as long as it takes for me to reach that number. I don't know if this will work, but while I know what I'm doing in December, I can't think of another theme for October! Remember: you can scan the archives to make sure your choice isn't one I've used before, and I hope that enough people e-mail me before I have to start working on October's entries!