Saturday, August 16, 2008

Marvel Knights X-Men: Logan and Angel

Dedication to a couple of different creators has spurred me to pick up a pair of superfluous X-Men miniseries that I otherwise wouldn't have bothered with, both from the Marvel Knights imprint (which means their connection to continuity is fluid at best).

Writer Brian K. Vaughan has all but disappeared from comics in the last year or so, spending his time on the writing staff of Lost and regularly putting out only issues of Ex Machina. His Wolverine series Logan, drawn by Eduardo Risso, was in the can for quite some time before being released by Marvel, and although it's a perfectly serviceable Wolverine story (and entirely plausible within the character's continuity), it also has the air of a contract-fulfilling inventory story. So it's far from Vaughan's best work, and far from a revolutionary take on an overused character. The story is full of familiar Wolverine tropes - his connection to Japan and Japanese culture, his easy bedding of exotic women, his healing factor bringing him back from even the gravest injuries, his facing down of a similarly unkillable foe. It's also yet another story that purports to tell about a previously unknown event from Logan's past; the guy has so many hidden stories and old foes and former lovers that it's a wonder he ever had any time to be a tortured loner.

Risso's gritty art is definitely not a traditional superhero style, and combined with colorist Dean White's watercolors it gives the story the feel of a fable or a dream. But aside from a few lyrical reveries, the narrative is straightforward and cliched, almost no different from a dozen other Wolverine tales that have come before, or even that clutter shelves now. Putting Logan in the middle of the nuclear explosion at Hiroshima is only crass if it's handled poorly, and Vaughan seems respectful enough. What's more absurd is the increased level of harm that the character can now survive. Once he's escaped unscathed from a nuke, it's hard to get worked up over his battle with the forgettable villain. I'd love to see Vaughan return to comics full time, but only if he's not coasting through lame company exercises like this one.

Angel: Revelations, which has seen three of its five issues released to date, is a little more successful if only because its lead character hasn't been overexposed nearly as much as Wolverine has. At the same time, the story here by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa is a pretty standard origin stuff, with young Warren Worthington ashamed of his mutant powers and subject to the taunts of a rich, entitled bully at his swanky boarding school. There's also a weird subplot about some sort of demented priest tracking down mutants; presumably it will all come together in the last two issues.

I didn't pick up Revelations for Angel's origin or for Aguirre-Sacasa's writing, though; I picked it up because it's the grand comics return of artist Adam Pollina, whose stint on X-Force with writer John Francis Moore (and earlier with Jeph Loeb) in the mid-'90s is one of my favorite superhero-comics runs. He's put out only sporadic work since leaving that book in 1998, including a few disappointing creator-owned miniseries, and seemed more focused on pursuing work outside of the comics industry. But he's back in full force with Revelations, taking the distinctive elongated lines of his artwork and exaggerating them even further, making that basic origin story into something creepy and unsettling. Pollina's Warren is like one long, thin torso, and the double-page spread of Angel's wings finally opening up in the third issue is breathtaking. Pollina made traditional superhero action into something off-kilter and funky in his X-Force work, and here he does that to an even greater degree with an even more conventional narrative. If he sticks around in comics this time, it'd be great to see him paired with a writer who can come up with something more original and provocative for him to draw; Brian K. Vaughan, perhaps?

The Logan hardcover collection is in stores August 20; Angel: Revelations #4 comes out August 27

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