A recent edition of John Siuntres’ excellent Word Balloon podcast saw Marvel ‘architect’ Matt Fraction talk about the difficulty of writing 20-page comics. It’s not just a matter of cutting two pages from a 22pp story, apparently …
Which confused me. As a kid raised in the days when all comics had just 17pp of story, 20pp seems pretty good. Can writing a satisfying instalment of a superhero comic of that length really be rocket science?
I dunno, but any writer having trouble with the mechanics should study an accomplished pro like Dan Jurgens, who month after month delivers first-rate superhero stories that don’t leave the reader feeling short-changed. Here’s another example, as he closes the new JLI’s first storyline, ‘The Signal Masters’.
In ‘just’ 20pp he recaps the threat to Earth from Peraxxus, has the JLI escape a death trap, travel to the planetary leech’s starship, battle the alien, persuade his ship to stop strip-mining Earth, send its master running and quiet their UN liaison’s hectoring. Unlike in, say, the Avengers of Fraction’s fellow Marvel architect Brian Bendis, there’s no standing around by team members while one or two favourites hog the action: everyone here – Booster Gold, Guy Gardner, Ice, Fire, Vixen, Godiva, Rocket Red, August General in Iron, Batman – has a part to play in the story’s resolution. What’s more, every scene is rich with characterisation as the heroes gel as a team while individual friendships and rivalries form. As team leader Booster Gold points out, job done.
Bringing the well-paced script to life is penciller Aaron Lopresti, whose own storytelling instincts complement Jurgens beautifully. His heroes look marvelous whether in well-choreographed fight scenes or the issue’s quieter – yet still intense – moments. What’s more, Lopresti sells the story’s cosmic qualities beautifully with his convincing space scenarios and interstellar craft. Lopresti’s regular partner, Matt Ryan, inks with style, while Hi-Fi and Travis Lanham provide exemplary colours and letters respectively. The striking cover comes from David Finch and Richard Friend.
I don’t for a minute believe it is simple, but the creators on this book really do make telling memorable stories look easy. Any creators intimidated by the supposed tyranny of 20pp, study well.