Sometimes a comic book page just stops me in my tracks, when I am flicking through the stack. That happened today to me in Batman: Urban Legends #8. It's not a big storytelling reveal, it's not a dazzling action scene, it's not anything that's so clever it wears its Acme Novelty Library on its sleeve. There are far splashier pages that are also very inventive throughout the story – and issue. It's just another page in another Batman comic book, or which there are dozens today alone. I can't see anyone using it as their avatar. But damn, if it doesn't do some wonderful things with the medium. And I realised that no one else would celebrate it, if I didn't.
This is just one page written by Alyssa Wong, drawn by Vasco Georgiev, coloured by Rain Beredo, lettered by Becca Carey, edited by Jess Chen, and published by DC Comics. Let's break it down a little
So we have a scene with Beth Kane, also known as Red Alice, standing, filling the page from top two bottom. The focus is on her, even if much of the dialogue is from others., Kate Kane (Batwoman) and Gotham Police Commissioner Renee Montoya. Those dialogue panels are in the foreground of the page, Kate Kane overlapping and pointing out from it even further, so as to knock the background back again. But Beth Kane refuses to be knocked back, she has a stubborn pose, she isn't going anywhere.
And there is a background detail given extra presence by a gap in the foreground panels. The knife rack and bowl of popcorn sit between panels, and despite being a background detail, take the place of a panel, inviting attention and commentary. They also fill a gap between dialogue, a pregnant beat where they are basically the dialogue. Renee has fears that Beth Kane could become her aggressive, dangerous, Red Alice personality again. She asks Kate if Beth is stable – rather than asking Beth. "Who's she, the cat's mother?" is the response I would expect to hear. But the kitchen knives before that emphasise the possibility of imminent violence, justifying Renee's question in her mind at least. While the popcorn suggests movie-style entertainment. As if a Red Alice going crazy would be a movie trope, a glorification of violence, something to entertain. It tees up what is to come, before Renee leaves, leaving her mark on the table and on the comic book story. countering Beth, Renee is saying that this is her business, she has left her business card.
But the rest of the story, which does have some dazzlingly, splashily composed scenes as well, denies that one specific scene, Red Alice coming to the fore and going violent-crazy – it happens, just the audience is denied it. It refuses to allow the mental illness/violence trope to [play out on the panel, even though it is the kind of comic where everyone takes up a Batarang to do damage. And it's all set up in that one, seemingly standard comic book page in Batman Urban Legends. I just wanted to point it out, before the finger moves on and the page turns.
If you come across any other comic book pages that could do with lauding in such a fashion, do let me know… Maybe we could make Just One Page a thing.
BATMAN URBAN LEGENDS #8 CVR A COLLEEN DORAN (FEAR STATE)
(W) Various (A) Various (CA) Colleen Doran
Written By Alyssa Wong, Brandon Thomas, Dan Watters, And Christian Ward Art By Vasco Georgiev, Cian Tormey, Nikola Cizmesija, And Christian Ward Batwoman: FEAR STATE TIE-IN! Someone has hacked into the Oracle Network and has started spreading information around Gotham—Batman is dead, Cassandra Cain Batgirl is a killer, Fear Toxin is in the air. Which is true and which is false? Batwoman will find out with the help of Commissioner Renee Montoya and…Kate's sister Beth, AKA Red Alice?! Outsiders: FEAR STATE TIE-IN! Scarecrow has stirred Gotham City into a panic, and it's awakened one of his first students he experimented on, a man turned into a monster known as THE FEARFUL! The Outsiders will have to reunite with the Signal in order to stop the Fearful and keep the city at peace. But a message from the world of FUTURE STATE reaches the Signal and changes everything. Azrael: Azrael, the last acolyte of the Order of St. Dumas, has returned to the streets of Gotham City after serving with the Justice League in the stars. He's convinced he's strayed too far from his purpose, too far from his teachings, and needs to reassert himself. But he'll be met with a city that's changed forever, a city that will shake his faith. Professor Pyg: Just in time for Halloween, a tale of Super Hero horror from fan-favorite creator Christian Ward, writing and drawing a story of Batman hunting down Professor Pyg in order to find the victim of a kidnapping. Batman will dig back into his memories of youth to track down Pyg and save a child's life.
Retail: $7.99 In-Store Date: 10/12/2021