Posts Tagged ‘Golden Age’

EG’s Review: X-Men Noir

September 16, 2009

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X-Men Noir
Writer – Fred Van Lente
Artist – Dennis Calero
Letters – Blambot’s Nate Piekos
Publisher – Marvel Comics

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Summary –

Honestly, this is a tough book to summarize. I mean, I’d love to just start with the concept and say, “What if the X-Men were translated into the world of the crime drama of the 1940’s?” But, the truth is, this is no where near that easy to describe.

Nevertheless, I’ll endeavor to give an idea of what goes on in this book..

A body washes up on Welfare Island, a redheaded woman with an “X” tattoo, covered in slash marks, grouped in threes. The “X” tattoo brands the woman as someone that spent time in a reform school run by former psychologist/current convict Charles Xavier. Xavier is in prison after it is discovered that he was training his pupils, honing their criminal abilities. Even without their mentor, though, the “X-Men,” as they call themselves, are still active in the criminal world.

At the scene of the crime, we are introduced to young detective Peter Magnus, son of the Chief of Detectives, Eric Magnus, whose life is turned upside down when he finds out that his father is under the thumb of the criminal organization known as the Hellfire Club, and that the organization essentially runs the city.

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As the story progresses, we see a lot of characters with familiar names, but wildly different personalities than we are used to in the regular Marvel Universe.

Perhaps the key character to the entire story is Thomas Halloway, a reporter and costumed vigilante who seems to be the only one truly interested in finding out who murdered the woman washed up on the island. (If you are up on your Golden Age Marvel, you’ll recognize this as the original “Angel” – a nice nod, given this is an X-Men book.)

The story essentially splits early on, and we are left with one story loosely following Peter Magnus, and the stronger story following Thomas Halloway. The two do eventually come together, but not in a way that seems particularly necessary.

After the completion of the Magnus storyline, we follow the Thomas Halloway as he eventually discovers the murderer, and discover a couple of surprises along the way.

Along with the sequential art story, we are given a prose science fiction story, a throwback to pulp stories, that also references a lot of stories and characters from the Marvel Universe.

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Review –

I’ll admit, I don’t regularly read any X-titles right now, but I’m familiar with the characters. If you are coming to this title expecting “What if…” versions of the X-Men you are familiar with, you are going to be disappointed. For the most part, only names and the slightest essence of the characters are taken from the known mythology and applied to this new setting.

Which, in and of itself, isn’t a bad thing. It is not a new idea, and has been used with varying degrees of success in other projects (the “Just Imagine Stan Lee…” and Tangent Universe titles from DC, and the Marvel Mangaverse spring to mind immediately), so the concept is valid. The execution, sadly, is not great.

The characters in this story seem to sit on a fence. Instead of breaking completely with the characters of the regular Marvel Universe, the writer gives the characters moments of connection to those counterparts, but it is often tenuous at best. For example – Quicksilver is fast, so there is a line where Peter is referred to as fast… and that is about it. Given that the story is so completely breaking with the “normal” of the regular Marvel Universe, I can’t help but think that a clean break would have better served the story.

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There are also a lot of characters thrown into this story. We are being introduced into this world and narrowing the focus on fewer characters would have let us get to know those characters a little better, which would have been a major benefit to the story.

I also found the split story was a detrement. When I first started reading, I thought Peter was going to be the central character of the story, but quickly learned that his was essentially a pumped up subplot. Had that aspect been removed from the book entirely, allowing more focus on the single mystery where we followed Thomas Holloway, I think the entire story would have been more engaging, and certainly tighter.

The prose story is kind of a highlight of the series, but seems completely out of context with the story. I kept looking for some parallel (other than “Look, here’s another story where we use names from the X-Men universe”), but if it is there, I failed to grasp it. Still, it is a neat homage to pulp science fiction of yesteryear.

As for the art, while the tone is fitting for the work, the figures are stiff. And, while I don’t mind an artist occasionally cutting and pasting a repeated image, in this book it seems to be done a lot. (I love nine panel grid, I really do, but only when it is handled correctly. Using the same image of a head in all nine panels just looks plain lazy, and makes me want to direct the artist to Wally Wood’s famous 22 Panels That Always Work!)

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And (this may be a first for me), I found the word balloons/lettering distracting. It is hard for me to nail down exactly why I found them so distracting, but I think the lettering is too small for the balloons. It allowed for a lot of white space around the lettering, which, given the color tone of the pages, really stood out.

Overall, I found getting through this series difficult, with just an okay story and lots of shortcomings. As a result, I’m giving this one and a half out of five Running Steves.

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I may have dropped it down to just one, but I got the hardcover from the library, and since I didn’t have to pay to read this series, I’m feeling generous!

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Clothes Make the Man: Wally West

September 9, 2009

The Blackest Night falls from the skies.
The darkness grows as all light dies.
We crave your hearts and your demise.
By my black hand…
The dead shall rise!

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*Shuffle, stumble, moan* Braaaaiiiinnnnnnssssss!

Huh?  Oh…

Greetings one and all, and welcome to another fun-filled entry here at the Steve Austin Book Club!

(What is that you say?  No posts in over 13 months?  Huh.  Well, looky there.  Guess you are right.  Oh, well, no dwelling on the laziness of your hosts!  Seriously – we did the “rising from the dead” bit right there at the front, okay?!?)

In case you haven’t heard, Barry Allen is back.  And, in case you are under 30, Barry Allen was the Silver Age Flash, Wally’s uncle.

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(Figured I’d go ahead and explain that, since DC is pulling a character back into the land of the living that has been dead for over two decades.  DC: Giving the fans what they never demanded!)

With Barry back, it does beg the question, what about Wally?  Wally West, former Kid Flash, has been wearing the red tights for 22 years, but now his uncle is back, and what does the DC Universe need with TWO Flashes?

Of course, there have been two Flashes for a while – first, Barry and Jay Garrick, who is the Golden Age Flash:

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Then Wally and Jay:

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And, if there are two Flashes, what’s the big deal with adding a third?

Well… it seems it is the costume.

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Wally essentially wears the same costume as his uncle Barry did… does.  (Sorry, keep forgetting.  Barry isn’t dead anymore.  No need to dwell on his emotional death, full of heroic sacrifice, or how Wally managed to be the only character to fully assume the mantle of his mentor… and is essentially being reduced to the Kyle Rayner/chamber pot holder position now that his uncle is back.)

What was I saying?  Oh, yeah, the similar costumes.  There are differences – Wally has no wings on his boots, and his belt is different – but they aren’t big enough differences.

Which is a shame, because at one point in time, Wally West was regularly wearing a costume that, while similar to Barry Allen’s costume, was distinct enough that the two could be easily told apart.

Going back in time to the Flash comic series that started in 1987, Wally West was still living under the shadow of Barry Allen and wearing the exact same costume his uncle wore. 

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He was also significantly less powerful, having a limited top speed and requiring massive amounts of food to sustain himself.  All that started to change, though, as Wally came to grips with his new role.  Eventually, he even realized it was his own feelings of inferiority to his uncle that were holding him back.  With issue #50 of that series, Wally West started wearing his own version of the Flash costume (designed/updated by Greg LaRocque).  This costume was a darker red, metallic in tone, added the angled belt, removed the boot wings, and had white lenses that covered Wally’s eyes.

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When you look at Barry’s costume and this version of Wally’s costume, it really is pretty easy to distinguish between the two.

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But, after about 80 issues or so, the suit reverted to the Barry Allen version with just the modified belt and lack of boot wings.  Why?  I don’t know.  Maybe the artists wanted the expression that seeing the eyes allowed.  Or, maybe they couldn’t get the metallic red to look right.

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Regardless, we have come to the point where, once again, Wally West’s suit is a near identical copy of his uncle’s suit.

At least until issue #6 of the Flash: Rebirth miniseries.

(Which is really an odd thing to call it, since all the Flashes of the DCU returned PRIOR to that mini.)

In the final issue of that miniseries, we have been told Wally West’s new costume will be revealed.

There have been no clues about what the costume will look like, but there has been a lot of fanart guessing what it might be like.

Most of them seem to assume a costume that resembles (in style, at least) Wally West’s red and yellow costume from when he was Kid Flash.

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There was also a time in the past where Wally kinda “became” the Speed Force itself, and we saw a costume that was kind of a cool variant of his Kid Flash costume.

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A lot of folks seem to think Wally will take on the colors of the original Flash, Jay Garrick.

Which gives us something like this:

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Or this:

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And, if we do see this something like that, I think it is a given that we will see Jay Garrick either retire or be killed before the end of the miniseries.  Which would be sad, for those among us that have been fans of the JSA series.

I’ve heard, though, that the new costume will not contain any blue.  Which leads me to another option, seen previously in the weekly series Trinity – where an alternate history Jay Garrick wore this little number:

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It does kinda look like a cross between Jay’s costume and Wally’s costume, doesn’t it?

Me, I’m still hoping to see Wally wear the “Dark Flash” costume worn by the alternate universe speedster, Walter West:

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Of course, I have another thought… a possibility.  We have to remember that Geoff Johns is writing this miniseries.  And, to bring this post full circle, he’s also writing a little thing called “Blackest Night.”

Given that, and the fact that you can’t really have two guys in the same costume with the same name running around the DCU (at least regularly in the same universe), what if the new costume being designed for Wally isn’t a new costume as a hero… but as a Black Lantern?

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There is a horrible prerequisite to being a Black Lantern, though, isn’t there?

Just some food for thought.