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 Miller! Today's page is from Elektra Lives Again, which was published by Marvel and is cover dated 1990 (this version is from 1996, however). Enjoy!
After transforming the industry and getting pissed off at Hollywood (granted, my timeline might be a bit off with regard to the latter point), Miller decided to return to Elektra, who by now had been killed and resurrected almost as much as Jean Grey. Man, comics. At some point, Miller became fascinated with Greek culture (300 was still in the future at this point, but you can see where it comes from), and he drew Elektra far more "Greek"-looking than she had ever been, which was nice. But she's not on the first page, so let's get to that!
Miller is back inking himself, if indeed those are inks (this credits say he did "line art") and not simply Varley painting black lines over his pencil art. You'll notice that this page, at least, is "softer" than a lot of Miller art - probably Varley's influence, and one that doesn't last. Miller seems to be experimenting a bit on this page - only the last panel, where Matt enters the church, really looks "Miller-esque," and I'm not sure why he would do this page in a softer style when the rest of the book, honestly, looks like Miller (not the Miller of Sin City, but the Miller of DKR, which isn't surprising as he hadn't quite moved on to the Sin City Miller yet). Miller does use some of the tricks that he used in The Dark Knight Returns - the first two panels don't focus on Matt (we don't know his name yet, but I'm taking liberties) himself, but just parts of his body, adding a sense of chaos and scale to the big city; Matt is just one among millions. Miller also does a nice job going from the brightness of the street to the utter darkness of the church - it's an inversion of a cliché, that the church provides spiritual light from the darkness of the world, and it shows that Matt's soul is in turmoil even though his life on the outside might appear okay.
Miller's writing gives us a pretty good sense of Matt Murdock and the city, circa 1990. We can see that Matt is blind, so the descriptions of the people around him help not only highlight his blindness but let us know how he perceives the world. Miller's deliberate pseudo-run-on sentences (they're not really, but they feel like it) mimic thought patterns and introduce a lot of information about Matt's perceptions, and they also allow Miller to slip Elektra into the narrative almost stealthily. We might not know anything about Elektra (well, from the title we can guess she's going to "live again,"), but Miller makes it clear that she's very important to Matt.
I'm not sure if Jim Novak (the letterer) or Miller came up with the font in the upper left, but in a story about a Greek woman, it's a good touch, as it looks "Greek." Subtle stuff like this is always interesting, because it shows that the creators are actually thinking about the entire package and not just the writing or the art.
I apologize for the large white areas along the top and bottom of the page. This was released in 1990 in hardcover, and I assume that the artwork fit the page size. When it came time to reprint it, obviously Marvel had to fit it onto a different page size, so the art is a bit more cramped than usual. Maybe I should have chosen a different Miller work, but I thought this was an interesting page because it showed both the old-school Miller and hinted about where he was going. With tomorrow's comic, he is pretty much the full-fledged late-career Frank Miller we all know and love. Stay tuned! Or, check out the archives!