Friday, February 03, 2012

Graphic Novel Review: X-Men – With Great Power

My favorite superhero is Spider-man, it’s been that way since I was a kid, and it hasn’t changed all that much as an adult. I probably first discovered him in a combination of the Electric Company and through repeats of the ‘60s cartoon. Eventually I’d follow his exploits in Spider-man and His Amazing Friends.

I followed his exploits in comics, wherein he was married to MJ and fought the likes of Venom and was nearly killed in Kraven’s Last Hunt, though in my teens my taste moved more towards the X-Men (probably due to their outcast status and much more soap-opera stories featuring a wide cast of characters). My eventual disgust with the X-Men (jumping the shark around Onslaught) led to my fallout with coming reading in general, and even after my return I’ve struggled to find books featuring them that I enjoy, and in Spider-man’s case it’s made worse by the fact that he’s been retconned into having never been married to MJ.

 But, I was excited when a new X-Men book was introduced. It sounded like an attempt to be a self contained comic, not requiring you to know the intricacies of the various characters and all their backstories. I read the first volume, which was not without its faults (including the fact that it assumed you did know who a lot of the characters were), but I was even more intrigued by the second volume since it featured both Spider-man and my favorite of his villains – the Lizard. The X-Men are trying to do some PR for mutant-kind, by showing they can be helpful and are not to be feared.

When a menace that’s not big enough to get noticed by the likes of the Avengers comes to their attention, Cyclops sends a team led by Storm to investigate the disappearances of children in a New York City neighborhood. The team, which includes Wolverine, Gambit and Emma Frost, wind up in the sewers pursuing lizard-like creatures – running into Spider-man who has been following up on his friend/adversary Dr. Conners ever since his Lizard persona took over and drove him into hiding. In the sewers they’ll discover what happened to the Lizard, and his connection to an old foe of the X-Men, and a plot to turn these disaffected children into an army of lizard-creatures. And if that’s not difficult enough for our heroes (because who wants to fight a bunch of kids that don’t realize what they’re doing), some of the team gets affected as well – turning them against one another.

 I haven’t always loved Chris Bachalo’s art, and it’s something that a lot of people can’t stand, but I have to say I was totally into it in this comic. His comics look like comics, with dynamic poses and at times almost cartoonish character movements. Emma Frost may be the real star of this book, she’s kind of a high society gal who’s been forced to work in the sewers alongside Spider-man, whose wit is far too banal for her tastes. So of course, the two of them wind up as the only ones left who can save the day. Like other recent TPB reviews, this collection includes a random issue as well – not falling within the story-line described above. It’s much better thought of as the epilogue to the story from vol 1 of this new X-Men title. That’s not to say it’s bad, it just didn’t fit in here at all. Someone randomly picking up this book would have no idea what this issue is doing here. It belongs as part of vol 1, and if they’re rushing these TPB collections out too fast to include all the pertinent issues together than maybe Marvel ought to rethink its “waiting for trade” strategy. Nevertheless, as an X-Men/Spider-man story for this former fan of both, I felt With Great Power worked really well and I very much enjoyed the ride.


Morgan said...

I might have to check it out then. I've always been a fan of the X-men and my dad's been a fan of spiderman so I've read more spiderman comics than I could count.

Thanks for the review- I hadn't even heard of it until now!

Elfy said...

I was a huge X-Men fan as a teen, I came into the X-Men just after the whole Death of the Phoenix saga (remember that? When people were writing impassioned letters to the comic that began with the word MURDERERS!)I eventually gave up on comics in general and I no longer even pretend to understand what has happened in the Marvelverse since, but if you like the X-Men, or how they used to be you may enjoy a short lived series called Runaways.