Every day this month, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. Today's page is from The Incredible Hercules #125, which was published by Marvel and is cover dated March 2009. Enjoy!
This is the finale of a story arc called "Love and War," and it's written by Greg Pak and Fred van Lente, drawn by Salva Espin and Clayton Henry (this page, however, is Espin - Henry takes over later in the issue), colored by Lee Loughridge (I'm going to assume he colored this page) and Rául Treviño, and lettered by Joe Caramagna. The idea behind the arc is that reality has been changed so that women are in charge. But that's all I'm going to tell you!
Pak and van Lente do give us information about this change, and if you've read a Marvel comic in the past 50 years, you can probably tell that something's up. The Avengers are fighting a "War on Patriarchy" by engaging terrorists called the "Y-Men." They manage to get in a reference to Ms. Fantastic's powers (she can create "protective" domes), and the armor the terrorist is wearing (he's never called "Iron Man") is to protect the wearer from the "mind bolts of White Phoenix." So that's handy to know. The tried-and-true "news report" to impart information is used here, and there's nothing wrong with that - it's a good way to do it, and feels less artificial than having a character talk about their powers and the situation out loud (plus, it lets us know that the world has changed slightly - modern commentators would not use "honorable combat," for instance). Obviously, van Lente and Pak make sure there's plenty of action on the page so that the information feels less intrusive and more complementary to the ass-kicking that we love in our comics!
Espin gives us that ass-kicking nicely. He redesigns the Stark armor just enough to show that Greek culture is very influential in this new reality (which is, of course, the case). The first panel does a nice job introducing the players - "Iron Man" in the center, White Phoenix, "Wolverine" (she looks a lot like X-23, of course, but in this world, there's no male Wolverine, so she gets the name), Spider-Woman, and Ms. Fantastic ringing him, and the destruction behind them all providing a good if depressing backstop. The scene is angled left to right, oddly drawing the eye right to Ms. Fantastic's fantastic buttocks, but it's also nicely centered around Iron Man's heart. In the second panel, Iron Man's throw is from left to right, and in the third panel, the action also moves that way. These choices, as we've seen before, keep the page flowing from panel to panel and on to the next page. Espin doesn't do anything too clever with the layout, but it's a professional job nevertheless. At no point do we need to stop and re-calibrate what we're seeing - this comic is generally an action-filled romp, so the writers certainly don't want the artists to disrupt the enjoyable flow they have going. Espin certainly keeps everything moving well. Even the odd choice of having Spider-Woman with hair flowing out behind her, through what, a hole in her mask? doesn't bother us too much, because it's COMICS! We can deal with such absurdities every once in a while.
Loughridge doesn't do too much with the coloring - everything is slightly orangey mainly because of the setting, in the middle of a battle zone. Modern comics allow nice touches like the glowing parts of the Stark armor, and because Loughridge doesn't overdo the digital stuff, it looks pretty neat. It also provides a good contrast when, in the third panel, Iron Man's front is in shadows because of the bright glare from behind him. That's a well colored panel.
It's always nice to see writers and artists who know their craft. This page might not be revolutionary, but it does its job. That's harder than you might think!
Next: Remember when Steve Rude drew comics? Good times! More good times can be found in the archives!