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Ontology on the gone!

The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society
Miscellanea and Ephemeron

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04/29/2004 Archived Entry: "Comics Review: Marvel Bits"

Behind the cut: Short reviews of Marvel Age: Spider-Man #3, District X #1, and Uncanny X-Men #444.

The intent of the Marvel Age series is to recreate some of the classic stories that originally introduced characters like Sandman, updating the art, and contemporizing the dialog. In that vein, the plot of Marvel Age: Spider-Man #3 is credited to Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, the team that originally created Spider-Man an age-and-a-half ago. The artwork is by Jonboy Meyers, and Danial Quantz is credited with writing the script.

Aside from the kick of seeing Lee and Ditko sharing a Spider-Man credit, there isn't a great deal to recommend this book. The artwork is frenetic and busy, the dialog is pure cheese, and the plot is non-existent. There are some nice moments, such as when Peter launches into an elaborate internal monologue in the midst of a battle that isn't going so well for him. The resultant montage of thought-bubbles, faces, and assorted fantasies works, and captures some of the energy of Lee/Ditko in their prime. Peter's interaction with Jonah Jameson is entertaining and punchy; much more interesting than the elaborate slap-up between Spider-Man and the Sandman, the featured villain. It doesn't add up to anything new, and the Essential Spider-Man collections have the virtue of featuring Stan Lee's writing, and Steve Ditko's art, as opposed to their names.

District X #1 transplants the television series The District into the middle of Manhattan and imagines a poor urban neighborhood as a haven for mutants shunned by the rest of society, and trapped in a descending cycle of unemployment, addiction, poverty, and petty/violent crime. The Marvel character Bishop is placed in the Craig T. Nelson role, leading the local police precinct, and providing a center for the action. It's a good premise, and delivers an intriguing view of what it would be like to live day-to-day in a world with mutants. Not when the super-heroes and villains are slugging out elaborate fantasies of world domination, but rather, day-to-day police work, handling vagrants, responding to domestic disputes, and making arrests.

David Yardin's illustrations are wonderfully detailed, with background elements like buildings, non-speaking characters, furniture, cars, and graffiti rendered with as much care the main action. The character designs tend toward realism. Pneumatic chests and skin-tight uni's are absent. There aren't epic battles here. The climax is a terrifying mash of bad decisions and violence, like most "fights," and lasts a grand total of three pages. District X is worth seeking out, and could develop into the kind of character study of a community that defines the reporting done by David Simon and Ed Burns, and dramatized by a second, better television series, The Wire. Here's hoping.

Uncanny X-Men #444, written by Chris Claremont, illustrated by Alan Davis, is pure soap. It's a perfectly adequate, well-paced introduction to the X-Men, and the current state of play in the Marvel Universe, but darn little actually happens, beyond a somewhat incomprehensible pick-up baseball game, and a half-seen session in the Danger Room.

The second half of the issue depicts a fight between the "X-treme Sanctions Executive," comprised of Marvel Girl, Cannonball, Storm, and Bishop (he of District X), and a group of super-powered mercs called Weaponeers, and ends on a cliff-hanger involving yet another group of X-Men. It's the archetypal super-hero "team book," and offers no more or less than what's implied therein. The artwork is predictably focused on the various hard-bodies that are the stars, and most pages feature some degree of cheesecake. For all that, the layouts are well designed, and it's reasonably clear what's happening at all times. Except during the blasted baseball game, that made no sense whatsoever.

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