|Major WM Releaser
Device: dell axim
: X-Men Noir
(Click to go to the release post)Writer(s)
: Fred Van Lente
(Click to see other books from this writer released on this site)Review source
: Paul Brian McCoy
(Don't click it, read the review here...
: X Men Noir #2
What am I to make of a comics community that disparages a work because it is, as they put it, an "Elseworlds" story? Yes, the Noir titles are not set in continuity. They are set in the 1930s and, so far, do not feature superheroics in the traditional sense, but draw their inspirations from the pulp adventures of the time. I didn't read the Spider-Man Noir that was released a couple of weeks ago since I'm not a Spider-Fan, but I thought the first issue of X Men Noir was fantastic.More info
No, this series will not have any bearing on the ongoing X-titles. Instead, Van Lente and Calero are giving us a fully realized alternate world, where the X-Men tropes and characters are filtered through a noir sensibility. So instead of mutant powers, these versions have criminal skills that reflect their mainstream names and personalities. It's a lot like Neil Gaiman's 1602, without the shoehorned-in links to actual continuity and super-powers.
As in most noir works, our "heroes" don't reflect your basic black and white moralities. Noir heroes are flawed, usually criminally, and on paths to self-destruction. And that's what these X Men are. Crooked cops and government officials on the take are another staple of the noir style, and we also get that here with The Brotherhood, and in this issue's introduction of Sebastian Shaw and The Hellfire Club.
What's most surprising about this work is how readily the X-Men slip into the X Men scenario. Sure, the motivations are tweaked to more of a "revenge on a corrupt system" angle, and the characterizations are less nobly heroic, but they work really well. The only overt twist from the traditional X-Men world is that Magneto and his Brotherhood are not the enemies of mankind. Here, they are The System. They are the power in town, running things almost completely, and punishing and brutalizing the more traditional criminal element to maintain their own type of order.
This allows an interesting exploration of Magneto's relationship to the rest of the mutant community in the mainstream comics. In the Noir version, Magnus ignores the law in order to force criminals, like last issue's Blackie Cassidy and this issue's references to Angelo Unuscione, or Unus the Untouchable, into line, doing what's best for the real criminal element of the city, Sebastian Shaw. Magnus, so far, doesn't feel any connection to the criminal element, seeing himself as superior. A controller, rather than a leader.
It's a nice variation on the Magneto we're familiar with. His relationship with Shaw also humanizes him somewhat, establishing that he's ultimately just a lackey of the politicos. I don't think this will sit well with him as the story goes on. Magnus isn't a character who will be under someone else's thumb forever.
Aside from telling an entertaining crime story, Van Lente has also filled this book with little nods to X-Men history. Nearly every character is some variation on a traditional character, and I would think that an X-Fan would get a kick out of spotting the references. For example, Moses Magnum is credited as the Urban Planner designing Shaw's city. That was an obvious one, though. I know I'm missing a lot of bits that would make this an even more enjoyable read.
One moment that made me laugh was the use of a recording by Dr. Xavier, describing his X Men. One of Mr. McCoy's "less attractive qualities" is pretty funny, especially when he speaks later and reinforces the Doctor's evaluation. Yes, it's a little silly, but it works for me. Also, if you're a fan of Woody Allen's film Zelig, you might like Van Lente's use of Rogue here.
The art, on the other hand, is the reason this issues drops from 4 to 3.5 bullets. For some reason, Calero's work seems more awkward here. The use of shadows is a little too much, even for a noir story. There are actually a couple of panels where I just can't tell what's happening at all. The action sequence toward the end of the issue is also too murky to follow and confusing in its staging.
And Dr. Xavier is apparently Gandhi this issue. I double-checked, and in the first issue, Ben Kingsley's portrayal of Gandhi was not photo-referenced. This time around, though, it's unmistakable. And a little annoying. There were also a few panels where Magnus seems to be modeled on Rutger Hauer, but that wasn't as distracting, since Calero plays with the reference enough to not make it too obvious. The Ben Kingsley swipe is too much, even though I don't usually mind that sort of thing.
On a final note, I want to mention the prose back-up, "The Sentinels" by Bolivar Trask (Fred Van Lente). I don't want to say too much, but if you're a fan of Old-School Scienti-fiction, this is a treat. Van Lente parodies the thirties pulp science fiction style while loading the story with X-Men references. Essentially, this is the story of Nimrod, a Sentinel protecting New New New York from hideous, underground-dwelling Muties. It's good stuff, and helps make this comic something special.
Yes, it is an "Elseworlds " story. But it's a damn good one, with a fully realized alternate world that isn't just a gimmicky twist, but actually utilizes the conventions of Noir to color the traditional presentations of these characters and their relationships. When did we, as a community, decide that the quality of a story isn't as important as its role in continuity? That's what I don't get. If you dismiss this book because it's not in continuity, or not "real," then you are living up to any insulting ridicule that gets hurled at comic readers. You are a cliche.
Writer: Fred Van Lente
Artist: Dennis Calero
Publisher: Marvel Comics
|Post rewarded by Ojay on Sun Oct 23, 2011 5:51 pm.
|Nice reviewed! 5 WRZ$ reward. Thanks Zach!