Monday, March 16, 2009

X-MEN #63 – April 1997

Games of Deceit & Death – Part Two
Credits: Scott Lobdell (plot), Ben Raab (script), Carlos Pacheco (penciler), Art Thibert (inker), Comicraft (lettering), Chris Lichtner, Aron Lusen, & Liquid Graphics (colors)

Summary: In Hong Kong, The X-Men and Shang-Chi fight the armored ninjas. When the team tries to interrogate one of them, Sebastian Shaw enters. He requests a peaceful conversation in private. Meanwhile, Cannonball sneaks into a Fujikawa Enterprises delivery truck. Later, inside the Hong Kong chapter of the Hellfire Club, Shaw explains that he’s searching for a cure to the Legacy Virus to benefit all mutantkind. He claims that the Elixir Vitae will be the key to curing the virus. He steps into a private room and meets with Dr. Rory Campbell, who reluctantly gives him information on the Legacy Virus. That night, the X-Men infiltrate the headquarters of Fujikawa Enterprises. When Cannonball tries to shut down the building’s security, he runs into a shadowy figure. The X-Men soon enter, and are confronted by the new chief operating officer of Fujikawa Enterprises, the Kingpin.

Review: And more time is killed. Actually, the return of Kingpin was probably a big deal at the time, since the character had been exiled years earlier in Daredevil. Bringing him back in an X-book was an attempt on Bob Harras’ part to bring more cohesion to the Marvel Universe, which was an admirable goal that I don’t think lasted for very long. And, honestly, it seems to me that Kingpin’s return really should’ve been in Daredevil in the first place.

There’s nothing notable about the story itself, and the only thing that truly stands out is the ridiculously awkward dialogue that often crosses over into self-parody. Not only does Shang-Chi clumsily drop the title of the storyline into one of his extensive inner monologues, not only does Wolverine work in a “I’m the best there is…” quote, but almost every line of dialogue in this issue is some form of heavy-handed exposition. I’m not one of those fans who gripes every time a character’s power or motivation is recapped for new readers, but cramming every page with this stuff is just annoying (and plot details that actually matter, such as how the X-Men know to investigate Fujikawa, how their conversation with Shaw ended, and who the ninjas were working for, are just ignored). Instead of giving readers credit for having at least half a brain, every cast member explains in detail what their powers are as they’re actually using them for the entire issue. And Shang-Chi helpfully offers commentary on each member of the team during the fight, so we’re treated to such priceless insights as, “The X-Men’s leader – Cyclops – possesses the bearing of a warrior-born”. It often reads like one of those promotional comics you get with the kid’s meal at Burger King. Sometimes characters just spontaneously blurt out random aspects of their past continuity, such as Rory Campbell, who reminds us, “Short of installing that bloody laser field at Muir Island that cost me my leg…this could very likely be the biggest mistake of my life”. It’s the exact opposite of the “for diehards only” modern comic that assumes you know everything about the characters, but I’m not convinced that really bad exposition is better than none at all. In some ways, this reads like a parody of an early ‘80s “spell everything out” Marvel comic from Shooter’s reign.

1 comment:

Matt said...

"Not only does Shang-Chi clumsily drop the title of the storyline into one of his extensive inner monologues..."

I agree with most everything you said, except on this point -- I think "games of death and deceit"/"deceit and death" was Shang-Chi's catchphrase back in the 70s for the sort of business he engaged in. So, while it is awkward to have him state the name of the story within the story, it's really not awkward for the character to use that particular phrase.

(In fact, Google "Shang Chi deceit death," and you'll find many hits linking to Shang-Chi bios, dropping that phrase in at one point or another!)

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