Tuesday, September 11, 2007

X-MEN #4 – January 1992

The Resurrection and the Flesh

Jim Lee (Plot); John Byrne (Script), Jim Lee (Pencils), Scott Williams (Inks), Joe Rosas (Colors), Tom Orzechowski (Letters).

Omega Red is revived by the Hand as a part of the Upstarts competition. They soon team up to capture Wolverine, Gambit, Rogue, Jubilee, and Beast. Consumed with guilt over her treatment of Magneto, Moira McTaggert moves away from the mansion.

Continuity Notes
For the most part, Gambit still isn’t speaking in “dese” or “dats”. I was looking through some of Claremont’s last issues recently and noticed that Gambit didn’t speak that way in his initial appearances, either. His accent is mostly conveyed at this point by saying chunks of his dialogue in French. There’s only one “dat” in this issue, so I’m wondering when his accent became so comically exaggerated.

(Note - I’m skipping the first three issues of this series because they’re the conclusion of the Claremont/Lee run that began in 1989. I view those issues as a bridge between the writer-driven comics of the ‘80s and the artist-driven comics of the ‘90s. Since they don’t really fit into either, I’d rather move ahead to Jim Lee’s clear start as writer of the series.)

My first impression of Liefeld’s art was that it was weird looking. I guess I didn’t find it too weird since I loyally followed X-Force during his run, but I don’t remember being that excited about it. Jim Lee, on the other hand, always had a large impact on me. I first saw his work on Punisher War Journal, with inks by Carl Potts and Klaus Janson. When he took over Uncanny X-Men, I was thrilled. It seemed so attractive and energetic at the same time, basically everything I wanted to see in a comic. I didn’t realize that his work was kind of an amalgam of manga-influenced artists like Art Adams and Michael Golden, and more realistic traditionalists like John Buscema. I just thought it looked cool.

I clearly wasn’t alone, since Lee was the most popular artist in comics by this point. He was a very stylized artist, but he still had a foot in reality, placing him above “weird” artists like Todd McFarlane and Rob Liefeld. Jim Lee was a Frankenstein of the best artists in mainstream comics and we were powerless before him. I look at this issue now and can see lots of pointless detail lines over everything, and some of the figures look flat, but it still looks nice enough. Lee hasn’t gotten to the point where the detail lines distract from the actual drawing, or cover up the acting. The cover is a good example of this. Wolverine’s scowl has been done a million times, but I like the way Gambit and Jubilee look here. If there’s an attractive way to pull off people gritting their teeth, Lee does it here. I could do without half of the detail lines on Gambit’s face, but other than that, it looks nice. Jubilee’s expression is a nice use of cartoony exaggeration.

I don’t know what type of coloring process Joe Rosas was using at the time, but it really stood out. It was probably an early attempt at using computers to color comics, but nothing sticks out as garish or gaudy. It still looks nice today.

Byrne’s scripting is very similar to heavy text style that the Claremont issues are known for. It’s also just as theatrical. Most mainstream comics at this time were fairly verbose, so it’s hard to say if there was a conscious effort to stay in Claremont’s style, or if Byrne was scripting as he normally would.

A lot of space in this issue is dedicated to Moira McTaggert. She’s given such a large send-off that you would think that her leaving would have some significance to future storylines, but I don’t think that happened. There’s also a lengthy scene with the X-Men playing basketball that does a decent job of showing off the characters’ personalities and giving them something fun to do.

For some reason, Omega Red and the Hand know where the X-Men live. The team is ambushed as they’re driving away from the mansion, so that’s the only conclusion you can draw. This is the type of plot convenience I didn’t notice as a kid, but it really stands out now. There’s not even a throwaway explanation like “we’ve heard lots of reports of mutant activity around Salem Center, so we’ve been canvassing the area”. Other than this flaw, it’s a decent issue.

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