Monday, July 2, 2012

X-Men # 31: Blank Generation Part 2

Speak X-Men #31 Speak! [1]

What transpires here? Why bother congesting the cyberspace sprawl with another comic book review blog? Posts at The Low-Frequency Listener[2] hope to highlight aspects of a comic that might escape an initial reading. Hopefully, awareness of previously overlooked features will enhance a reader’s perception and add to the appreciation and enjoyment of the comic book.

With such ideas in mind, I found myself holding X-Men # 31, wondering what could possibly be written about this book. Upon re-reading (and re-re-reading it again and again), the book itself provided the answers to my questions:

L-FL: Why did I just spend $3.99 on this 20 page story interrupted with too many advertisements?

X-Men #31: Because I’m worth it! Brian Wood wrote me! In this issue Wood provides a grand story ranging broadly (a new strain of mutant DNA reveals a new species of mutants) while not losing its focus on individual characters (Storm debates what information to withhold (or lie, depending on one's understanding) from Scott Summers). Also, Colossus tussles a giant mutant squid beast, Domino hits her target while clinging to the outside of a jet, and Psylocke chases an ever-growing mutant stomping towards Quebec City. Even though the story spans a mere 20 pages, it doesn’t “feel” short or skimpy. A fine variety for comic book reading rests between these covers; if you want greater depth, read Against the Day.

L-FL: Ok yes, the story is good, but how’s the art?

X-Men #31: Do you need to ask? Have you looked within my stapled pages?

David López (pencils) and Álvard López (inks) provide clear panels that clearly depict the occurring events at a glance. The compositions are concise, clear, and accessible. The characters radiate a sense of movement and motion that López conveys with the character positioning (note how Storm is off balance with the other characters in the top panel on the page to the right) and subtly tilting the frame (note how the top panel is slightly askew). These techniques combined with the action of the plot help readers imagine the characters in action.

 And the expressions on the faces! Look on page 27 (counting the ads...or you can just look at the page to the left of these words...) at the bottom panel with Psylocke. Sorrow, concern, perhaps a bit of fear exude from he expression. Her head's slight downward tilt accompanying the mere 7 short lines that mark the brow, and the 6 lines  beneath each eye immediately convey Psylocke's reaction to her brain scan of the alien…and her findings are dire…although to learn about those findings fully, you need to buy the next issue.

L-FL: Keeping on the idea of the art for a bit, I noticed a lot of the backgrounds in the panels are pretty sparse.

X-Men #31: Yeah, but come on, this is an action comic, not a Victorian romance adaptation. If your interest resides with an abundance of detailed minutia about furniture, indulge yourself in The Spoils of Poynton.

Consider those sparse panels on page 4. The fight’s taking place in the ocean, and unless you’re amidst icebergs or an invasion fleet, ocean scenery doesn't vary much, so the sunset color washes fit the environment. Also, the absence of details brings the action and the characters to the foreground. Come on, you’re reading an X-Men comic, do you want to see Colossus punch a monster, or do you want to look at cross-hatchings on a cloud?

López can and does provide intricate backgrounds when needed (the need comes from providing a clear location to the reader  that the writer conveys, and solidly grounding and positioning the characters in some specific location). Look on page 20 (counting ads...or just glance to the right); the details of the forest fill the top panel. You can count the leaves, if that’s really what you want from a comic. A clear setting is established yet the details give way to the characters and their reactions. In 5 of the six panels, trees appear to ground the location. If every panel contained every tree in the Canadian forest, the page's composition would clutter and wash away. The unfilled negative space within the panels  make the entire page a striking image. Take care that you don’t miss the page because of the panels.

L-FL: Why is this Storm the perfect Storm?

X-Men #31: Because she is awesome. Storm exerts a strong confidence in her leadership and care for the mutants she commands. Her struggle with what information to reveal to Scott Summers, and her motivations behind withholding information, add to her savvy sense of leadership and give her a bit of a rebellious and independent urge without utter anarchy. Her consideration of future consequences add to her leadership allure.  Plus, she likes and trusts graduate students, which always ingratiates an individual with me.

L-FL: When is issue #32 on sale?

X-Men #31: July 18th. Now please read through me again, and let that Silva guy know he’s missing a fine story…unless he wants to pick up issues 30 and 31….   

[1] X-Men #31 marks the first Marvel book Marvel reviewed at The Low-Frequency Listener, a different approach seemed fitting. The title was adapted from Jonathan Lethem’s essay “Speak, Hoyt-Schermerhorn: Doom and Romance on a Subway Platform.” which is well worth the read, along with the other essays in the collection The Disappointment Artist.

[2] Keith Silva at Interested in Sophisticated Fun? encouraged me to start this blog. I couldn’t have done it without his kind words and assistance; thank you Keith.

My first fanboy teeth cut themselves on Marvel comics. With this current resurgence of comic book indulgence I kept looking for Marvel works to captivate and fire my imagination once again…wanting to cry “Make mine Marvel!” and needing only an excuse of a good book for the cry. But the house of ideas appears less astonishing from those heady days of reading Thor #416. Interest smoldered briefly with Rick Remender and Jerome Opeña’s Uncanny X-Force but after Opeña no longer helmed the illustrations I left the title. Daredevil, without Paolo Rivera couldn’t  command my attention.  But X-Men 30 and 31 have me impatiently awaiting the forthcoming issues. And while I don’t think I’ll ever again be able to cry “Make mine Marvel!” with clear consciousness (friend Silva has sworn off all big two titles), I will gladly cheer and laud the Wood, López , López and Rosenberg X-Men. Independent creators (Wood and Remender) bring a fresh freedom and verve to the Marvel titles, and Wood’s work on X-Men has me hooked. Silva, man, you’re missing out on this one….

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