By Josh Hechinger
Welcome to From Strip to Script, where I take a page of finished comic art and try to derive a script from it.
In this installment: Sam’s just been murdered by a dinosaur-man from the ‘60s! But is Sam actually a secret immortal?! Maybe?! This comic could be about that, but the time-travelling mercenary who decided to guide Sam’s destiny is going to flash back to a mission with his (other) mercenary crew! Is that relevant?! I dunno! Pre-Hellboy Mike Mignola doing 16 pages of Marvel merc art is gonna happen, though!
All things considered, I’m pretty fond of X-Force issue 8. But then, any comic that opens with a screaming megalomaniac dinosaur-man is likely to be up my alley. That it shortly transitions into a weirdo heist-fight comic just further endears it to me.
The bit we’re looking at comes courtesy of Steve Buccellato (colors), Chris Eliopoulos (letters), Rob Liefeld (plot), Mike Mignola (pencils), Fabian Nicieza (script), Bob Wiacek (inker).
PAGE NINE (Four Panels)
P1. CABLE takes point. GRIZZLY, DOMINO, KANE, and BRIDGE are behind him on an endless staircase.
– DOMINO Wait a minute! This entire complex is empty?!
– DOMINO What gives?
– CABLE I don’t know. And I don’t like it.
– CABLE I want everyone’s hair on edge, people.
P2. BRIDGE and KANE shadow DOMINO as they creep down the stairs. Mercenaries as Scooby Gang.
– BRIDGE We knew this was a research facility, Nate.
– DOMINO But where are the researchers?
P3. CABLE, GRIZZLY, and DOMINO are on the floor of the expansive secret base, approaching the gigantic Kirby machine; HAMMER, KANE, and BRIDGE are still kinda up there on the steps.
– CABLE This is the EMCHAC, right, Hammer?
– HAMMER Energy Matrix Channeler and Converter.
– HAMMER Hydra’s working on the next century’s equivalent of the hydrogen bomb.
P4. Everybody’s on the floor; KANE’S sweeping the foreground, spooked. CABLE’S casually pointing HAMMER to the elephant in the room (meaning the overlarge Kirby machine).
– KANE But it’s totally dependent on the component we were hired to steal back, right?
– CABLE Right. According to the mission-op, the fiber ionic fibrillator should be accessed in the EMCHAC.
– HAMMER You watch my back and give me five minutes, and I’ll have it for you.
– HAMMER Even gift-wrap it, if you’d like.
So, What’d We Learn?
– Aw jeez. I had the ToyBiz figs of every single one of these cats, save Hammer, who I don’t think ever got a toy. Hammer’s the Pete Best of the Wild/Six Pack.
– The three tall panels set the pace and tension for the descent into the secret base. The first tall panel is wide-ish and shows you the order in which the Pack is travelling (Mignola being Mignola, these figures are largely shadows and body shapes, with details that Buccellato can give spot colors to). It’s very much an establishing shot. The second panel tightens up on the Pack creeping Scooby-Gang-style down the stairs to build tension further, and then the last tall panel finishes the descent down the stairs; it’s the widest, because they’ve reached the ground floor.
– There’s some Resident Evil “camera” work here, too; we’re watching the Pack come at us, rather than see what’s ahead of them. That’s Tension Building 101: having situational awareness less than or equal to the fictional characters we’re following.
– Cable’s the “star”, but it’s interesting to me how this page really follows his comrades, even as he leads them…specifically Domino in the first three panels (she’s the first one to speak, she gets the close up, she’s the one who catches up with Cable and Grizzly first), then Kane in the last. Again, it’s a tension thing; don’t track the hero, he’s got plot armor…track his buddies if you want the audience to think something might jump out and wreck everyone.
– The oscillating staircase in P1 is an inspired touch; it looks cool, of course, but it also kinda zigs and zags in such a way that it sorta primes the eye to accept chopping the team into pairs or trios (which the rest of the page does).
– Kane in the last panel seems like a gag to me; everyone else is standing around pretty casually, but that bow-legged like he’s jumping around pointing his gun at whatever makes a noise. Y’know, very “Gotcha! …Oh, it was just the radiator…”.
Philly-based comic writer Josh Hechinger is a Cancer, and his blood type is A+.