Every day this year, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. Today's page is from Superman Beyond #2, which was published by DC and is cover dated March 2009. This scan is from the Final Crisis trade paperback, which was published in 2009. Enjoy!
Whatever you may think of Grant Morrison's Final Crisis, it had some neat moments, and the second issue of his Superman detour begins with one of those. Ultraman does some 'splainin', as he tells us what kind of world he's from and how he came to believe in "universal evil as a living thing." He helpfully explains what this evil is doing, what his name is, and what we're all going to do when he gets here. See? It's all very simple and believable!
Doug Mahnke, who drew this, gives us a fairly common layout, with the three similarly-sized panels at the top leading to a larger panel at the bottom as a big "reveal." He also begins with a close-up and slowly pulls out to show the entire scene, another common design. One reason it's so common is because it works, as we're able to understand the mindset of Ultraman in the first panel just from his angry face, and then we're just waiting for the other shoe to drop because we know an angry dude like that probably did something bad, which we see in Panel 4. In order to help us move through the page, Mahnke makes sure that Ultraman is always on the bisector of the page, leading us downward instead of left to right. There's no real reason to move left to right, anyway - Ultraman is the only figure on the page, and Morrison's word balloons are on either side of him, so we don't need the art to move our eyes. Mahnke has always been good with facial expressions, so Ultraman's crazed rage is perfectly captured in Panel 1, with the spit curl linking him to Superman and possibly (depending on your reaction to it) disconcerting us - is this really Superman, and why is he so angry? Notice that Mahnke changes his expression from Panel 1 to Panel 2 - in the first panel, he looks a bit more determined, and then in Panel 2, his eyes widen, his lips grimace a bit more, and he looks more crazed when he speaks of finding something greater than himself. He raises his head in supplication in Panel 3, and through the glowing ball, we can see the logo on his chest, assuring us that this is NOT Superman. Mahnke draws his cape slowly rising, implying a wind from the depths, which is linked to the fact that Mandrakk is "crawling up from darkness." Finally, in Panel 4, we see the destruction around him, and he's crouching on a pile of junk (something Merryman takes very personally on the next page). He is kneeling as he speaks of kneeling, and the wind is rising, because his cape is flapping even higher over his head. He raises the glowing orb above his head as an offering. Mahnke handles the movement of Ultraman very well - we get a sense of slow-motion supplication, almost as if it's difficult for him to acknowledge Mandrakk's superiority. David Baron colors the page very nicely, with the red and blue of Ultraman's costume a slightly less bright variation on Superman's costume (naturally, since Ultraman is eeeeeevil) and the yellows and oranges of the destruction around him helping him stand out a bit. The orb helps illuminate his insane face in Panel 2, which I would imagine is the point.
This is a pretty good first page - Morrison gets across some crucial information, and Mahnke does a nice job showing how Ultraman feels about it all. Final Crisis is less confusing than you might have thought at first glance, and this page is a good example of its straight-forwardness!
Next: A Marvel Knights book! Nothing bad ever came out of Marvel Knights, right? Don't forget the archives - they're waiting there just for you!