Every day this year, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. Today's page is from A God Somewhere, which was published by DC/Wildstorm and is cover dated 2010. Enjoy!
A God Somewhere is a pretty cool comic (I reviewed it here), and the first page contains a lot of the themes that John Arcudi is writing about, which is nice. The narrator (it's a character in the book named Sam) gives us a hint about not only the rather depressing way the book plays out, but also comments metafictionally on the fate of supporting characters in a comic. The "star" of this comic is a man named Eric who gains superpowers, and people like Sam are only important because they're associated with him. Of course, everyone has a story, and Arcudi makes that point, too - we see this scene from this angle, as a young girl walks through carnage and discovers the corpse of her mother. Is she important? We don't know, but the final caption box implies that she's not. Arcudi constantly challenges our perceptions on this page - are we important or are we not? Are we characters in someone else's story, or are they characters in ours? Are the people portrayed on this page part of the grand narrative, or have they been created just to start the book off with a bang? We don't know any of that yet, but it's a nice, tantalizing way to start the book.
Peter Snejbjerg does a good job with leading us down the page, too, ably assisted by colorist Bjarne Hansen. In many ways it's a clichéd opening, with the establishing shot of the wreckage in the first panel, the back of the girl looking at the carnage, the shift to her front and the damage she's sustained, and then the discovery of her mother with half of her head missing. It's a cliché because it works, but it's also nice that Snejbjerg is good enough to make both the girl and the woman horrifying even though his style tends to be a bit more cartoonish. Hansen makes sure that, while the scene is dark reds and browns, the girl's face in the third style is lit on the side that's bleeding, highlighting the damage inflicted on her. Meanwhile, the final panel leads our eye from the girl crying downward to the woman's head, seeping brain all over the ground, which is right where we would turn the page. Although it's a graphic scene, Snejbjerg and Hansen make sure it's shadowed so that it's not too off-putting right out of the gate. The book is horribly violent, and this page foreshadows that and eases into it. The woman's dead eye staring directly at the reader is a nice touch, too. It ties into the caption box directly above her - she's accusing us of not caring for her, because she's just something to make the main story more "realistic." As we see later in the book, this scene is repeated from a different point of view, and even the girl's importance is minimized - these people just aren't important in the narrative of the book, even though the girl's pain at losing her mother is as real as anything else that happens in the book.
Arcudi usually writes single issues (I think this was originally pitched as a mini-series, but I can't remember), so it's not surprising that this first page is trying to get us to turn the page rather than simply set a scene like many graphic novels, which are designed as a whole and not a serial. However, Arcudi is smart enough to introduce the concepts he's going to be working with in the comic, and the artists are good enough to imply that kind of thing in the panels. It's a fine first page, and it leads into a fascinating take on the superhuman condition.
Next: Oh, the Nineties. Oh, dear. We need to have a talk, Nineties comics. It won't be pleasant for anyone! Steel yourself by checking out the archives!