Monday, May 17, 2004

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Just a quick look at some of the odds 'n' ends, book-wise that is, that I've picked up over the last several weeks.

Am I the only one that thinks of yo-yos when I scan the title of this collection? Duncan Imperial? get it? Anyway, I'm sure that there has been tons and tons of cogent commentary devoted to all of Grant Morrison's X-Men stories, and I don't know how much new I can add to it- but I'm gonna give it a shot anyway. Not being an X-fan, I didn't exactly make it a priority to be on board when Grant went from DC to Marvel and started scripting this book; he had just finished up Invisibles, which I liked more in concept than in actual execution, and was not enthused about his taking over characters that I frankly had less than no interest in. So, I didn't buy New X-Men, nor its sister in X-pectation defying, Milligan & Allred's X-Force. Still, my admiration for these creators won out and I decided to do a comparison test, and then buy the winner on a regular basis, and I bought the first trades of both NX-M and X-F, gave them a good reading, and while I was surprised to find myself enjoying them both, I liked Milligan & Allred's anything-goes XF just a wee bit more so that's the one I went with. I figured that I'd perhaps try Morrison's X book again down the road, and that time was now. It pretty much continues what he started in the first trade, with Xavier's sinister twin sister, Emma Frost and the weird students at Xavier's school, the Disneyesque Beast, Lilandra and all those aliens, pretty much everything that's been done with the X-Men since Byrne and Claremont had their day in the sun...but you know with Morrison it won't be that simple. That being said, this is as close to a mainstream superhero adventure as I've ever read from Grant; he doesn't really deviate too much from the roles each of these characters have filled since the early 80s. What he does do, though, is avoid the dreary, hamfisted melodrama which caused me to stop buying so long ago and kept me away from originated and perfected by Claremont but faithfully carried on by his many acolytes and successors through the years. Morrison's having none of that- sure, there's drama, but it's understated drama and never slides into the bathetic indulgences that have been the hallmark of the X-books for so long. And the action in the first two trades glides along at a breakneck pace...we go from corporate evil to alien invasion to another scuffle with Cassandra Nova and there's barely a minute to blink between cataclysms. If I've gotta read superheroes, then for God's sake let them be like this- lean, taut, and significantly low in bullshit. The art in the second trade is a bit of a distraction, because at least in the first one we had mostly Frank Quitely, but due to reasons beyond the ken of mortal men needed fill-ins for many of the subsequent issues and the styles clash a little. Quitely has that widescreen-epic-yet-calm-cool-and-passive stylistic thing going on, with all his puffy-looking characters- but still somehow extremely imaginative and compelling; Igor Kordey's style is a lot looser, more sloppily inked, and to be honest I like his work a lot (especially on the Black Widow mini of a few years ago)...but coming before or after Quitely's prim style it's a bit of an adjustment. Ethan Van Sciver falls somewhere in between- you can tell people like Perez and Bolland were influences, and he reminds me a lot of other Morrison collaborators like Phil Jiminez and Chris Weston...just a wee bit stiff and posed, but still more than adequate and (to me) another mental adjustment. So while Morrison's New X-Men will probably never rank very high on my all-time favorite comics series list, these are compelling and enjoyable stories. I think I'll pick up at least the next couple of trades sooner or later.

I had originally intended to buy this when it came out; in fact I had gotten it in my holds stack because at the time I was still a big Kyle Baker fan. But I took one look at this, with its absolutely brutal coloring and less-than-exciting (not exactly a real religious person here) subject matter, and decided that I didn't want to spend the 20 bucks for the privilege (and I still got a 20% discount back then!) of owning it, so I put it back. Two years later, however, I came across it in a 75% off box (probably my long-ago holds copy!) and said, sure- what the hell, I'll buy it for more or less five bucks! And you know what? I'm glad I did. Yes, the coloring is still nauseating (I wish Baker would rethink his color palette choices- he makes Lee Loughridge look like a master), but the script is witty (even if it meanders a LOT) and Baker's art is- once you look past the garish magentas and teals and mottled browns and purples- very, very good. Baker essentially adapts the story of David straight from the bible, beginning with his childhood in King Saul's palace and ending in stragely abrupt fashion with David as an adult, post-Bathsheba and aware of God's displeasure with his recent actions. Then bang. The end. What the f-? Was Baker perhaps anticipating a part two? Either way, I suppose we'll never know. But if you run across a copy of this somewhere for five, or heck-even ten bucks somewhere, pick it up. I thought it was a hoot and well worth what I gave for it. It's the closest thing to Marshall Efron's Painless, Simplified, and Illustrated Sunday School that I've ever encountered. And if you remember that mid-to-late 70s Sunday morning show, which aired at something like 5 or 6 am, then you know what I mean.

I've got more, but it will have to be later. Stay tuned- same Bat-time, same Bat-channel.

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