By Miles Baker, Owen K. Craig, and Tom Kerr
For the next few weeks Owen is working in the small Northern Ontario town of Meaford and is not able to access a comic book store. Instead, before he left, he used random.org’s random integer generator to create some random numbers. He then counted down the shelf number, comic box, and comic until he found his RANDOM ARCHIVE COMIC OF THE WEEK!
The Uncanny X-Men #359
Written by Joe Kelly and Steve Seagle
Art by Chris Bachalo and Ryan Benjamin
Marvel Comics, 1998
The X-Men got me into comics, and as such, they will always have a special place in my nerdy heart. But the more I read comic books, the more I realize something: more often than not, X-Men comics are terrible. I was lucky enough to miss the comics of the 90s, which I’ve heard was a near-unreadable time for my favourite band of mutants. Today, however, I’ve drawn a random book from that time and will judge for myself.
This issue centers on Rogue, who happens to be my favourite X-Man, so I was off to a good start. In this issue, she is offered a possible cure for her mutant power, which would allow her to touch people again. I’ve always found the idea that Rogue’s power sucks away her humanity by barring her from human contact to be an interesting one, and to juxtapose this story with one about Jean Grey losing her powers and feeling cut off from humanity works really well.
Chris Bachalo as a penciller is an acquired taste, one I have not acquired quite yet. In this book, especially, his pencils are off-putting and the characters come off as rubbery and inhuman. I don’t know how much that might (or might not) have been due to co-penciller Ryan Benjamin, but it was rather distracting.
Lastly, the issue of continuity must be addressed. One of the major complaints about X-Men books from the 90s is that you couldn’t read one book without reading about ten more. This issue had a little flap under the cover supposedly bringing you up to speed. But if that were the case, we wouldn’t need captions like “. . . near-invulnerability gleaned from the lasting touch of the former super-heroine Ms. Marvel years ago.” Seems to me, that’s the kind of information that could’ve been brought up in the recap, rather than in awkward text mid-issue.
The writing was good, if forced by the constraints of continuity-ridden plots, but with awkward artwork I found the book a tough read. I can’t recommend the book to anyone but the most hardcore of X-Men fans. And even then — only the ones who love Rogue.
Written by Jeph Joeb
Art by Simone Bianchi
Marvel Comics, 2007
The final line of this issue reads “and somewhere in the wind, I can hear the quiet, disturbing sound of . . . laughter . . .”
The laughter that Jeph Loeb can hear faintly in the distance is me, laughing at what a sad train wreck of an issue this is. Hyped as the final battle between Wolverine and Sabretooth, this arc was supposedly intended to breathe new life into the character and offer a new direction for the book. If this concluding chapter is any indication, the new life may be stillborn, and the new direction might be a spiral downward.
It doesn’t help matters that Loeb relies on two of the most overused devices in comicdom to tell his story — firstly, the constant use of captions to offer internal monologue; and secondly, frequently jumping back and forth between “Now” and “Earlier” as opposed to telling a linear story. Though neither is a bad device in and of itself, I’ve grown tired and resentful of both, and the issue would probably work better without them. And then, of course, there’s the fact that the writing itself is poor — characters like Cyclops, Emma Frost, and Wolverine all talk more like poor caricatures of themselves than their actual selves. Awkwardly inserted “hip” lingo and topical references to Canadian socialized health care all make Loeb sound like he’s trying desperately to be cool, and failing.
It is difficult to say much about the plot here without giving away some important spoilers, so let me simply say that it is convoluted, occasionally cheap, and plainly disappointing. Why, oh why, do so many writers think a character’s entire mythos needs to be changed for the character to be interesting again? Ed Brubaker respected, honoured, and drew from the mythos of Captain America when he took over that book a while back, and made it one of my favourite monthly reads. Maybe Loeb should take lessons.
Simone Bianchi’s artwork and the Comicraft lettering are both frustratingly melodramatic (although it could almost be argued as an achievement that lettering manages to be melodramatic), but still enjoyable and worthy of better writing than this. Even for the most ardent Wolverine lover, it’s hard to imagine any better reaction to this comic than boredom. Abandon all hope, ye who drop $3.75 (plus tax) on this.
Fallen Angel #18
Written by Peter David
Art by J.K. Woodward
IDW Publishing, 2007
The manager of the store where I buy my comics warned me before I bought this issue: “Did you buy the last one?” He knew that Fallen Angel isn’t one of my usual buys (because he knows I like to buy crap), and said I’d be pretty lost without the context. He was right, but I still liked this book.
The art is a little uneven. Woodward’s painted (and more suggestive than literal) backgrounds create an interesting contrast with his firm-lined characters. But from panel to panel the quality varies greatly; in some panels, the hooded characters look like they are missing half of their skulls, even though it has been established they have them.
Peter David, who I am familiar with from my days of reading Y.A. Star Trek novels, is clearly enjoying that he can include whatever the hell he likes at IDW: swearing, partial nudity, questioning God and His actions — the things he’d really like to do on X-Factor but can’t in case Strong Guy is optioned for a movie one day. David might be having too much fun though. Lee, his overcooked-steak-tough heroine, is too quip-y. They are great quips, but goddamn she’s sarcastic — even the internal monologue is quip-ridden. But Lee is interesting and I’m curious about her and her struggles from the quick glance I’ve been given them. I plan on acquiring more Fallen Angel soon to figure out what the hell just happened.