Noise to Signal

Login disabled.

Alternate Cover - 13th September 2006

Alternate Cover

It's something of a truncated week here at Alternate Cover Towers because, well, only 3 issues came out. Plus, I've been moving house and I only have Internet access at work for the moment, hence the somewhat furtive mid-afternoon update and lack of decent images. But you're big kids, you can take it. I'm taking a look at (surprise among surprises) Brian Wood's latest comic, Local #6, as well as Greg Pak's sequel to Phoenix: Endsong, the slightly less final-sounding Phoenix: Warsong. Even now, I can smell a trilogy coming. To finish up, there's Uncanny X-Men #478, the latest in Brubaker's 12-part epic.

Local #6

Local #6

Publisher Oni • Writer Brian Wood • Artist Ryan Kelly

It's been too long without an issue of Local. It's perhaps strange that a series without cliffhangers can inspire this level of yearning during its absence, but between Wood's experimentation with a single-issue runs on Local, and comics like Grant Morrison's All-Star Superman, we're perhaps seeing a return to form for the single issue format. Anyone waiting for the trade is going to just end up burning themselves on this one.

Luckily, Wood and Kelly don't disappoint with Local #6. The series, half-complete by now point, is about to reach a turning point in the life of Megan. Before that can happen, though, we have to watch her screw things up one last time.

In this issue, Megan finds herself moving in with a room-mate in Park Slope, New York - Wood's own neighbourhood. With a pedigree like that it's clear that Wood has big plans for this issue, and what results is definitely one of the better issues of the series. It's a pretty dark comedy with elements of horror. Imagine, say, that Friends took its cues from The Shining or Psycho then you're probably getting close to the tone of this. Some of Kelly's shots in this are pure Hitchcock.

As someone who's been shoved in with all kinds of people, I can especially relate to the mental problems having an insane housemate can cause. Megan deals with this in a way that backfires on her realistically, and at the end of it she just about learns her lesson. Perhaps.

Wood himself notes in the issue's supplemental material that this issue perhaps stands alone least of all of the issues so far, in that it relies on previous knowledge of the series explaining Megan's action at the end. While that's the case, it is a complete tale nonetheless, only enriched by knowledge of past issues (as it should be.) My only criticism is that the twist at the end seems to be a little less than clear. Throughout the book there's nothing but friction between the characters, and at the end I'm left wondering whether Gloria has simply been a bit more diplomatic with her opinions of Megan or whether we're just being shown the bad side of her.

Ambiguity aside, after a 2 month wait it's like giving water to a dehydrated man. Worth buying for all the right reasons.

Phoenix: Warsong #1

Phoenix: Warsong #1

Publisher Marvel • Writer Greg Pak • Artist Tyler Kirkham

Phoenix: Endsong was a great miniseries that ran last year, thematically and stylistically providing a bridge between Morrison's New X-Men and Whedon's Astonishing X-Men. It served mainly to show that Jean wasn't coming back. It heavily involved some of Morrison's supporting characters, including Quentin Quire and the Stepford Cuckoos. At the end of the series, it was hinted that the residual Phoenix force might not have left the Xavier estate after all, and now we're finally getting the tail end of that plot thread being picked up by the man who left it dangling in the first place, Greg Pak.

The first concern, however, is that Greg Land isn't around for the art. Love him or hate him, you can't deny that his pornstar-tracing perfectly airbrushed style looks great, even if it has its flaws. Instead of Land, we've got Tyler Kirkham crossing over from Top Cow as part of a deal they've had going since Silvestri showed up on NXM. He's not the best choice for this title, it seems. He's got a good handle on the characters but the storytelling and composition seems weak even compared to Land, with some traditional Image-style busy line work cluttering the page up.

Pak's story, however, is off to a strong start, with strong ideas and clear character themes that show a lot of promise. Emma is experiencing some disturbing Phoenix-related dreams, and meanwhile the Stepford Cuckoos manifest some powerful telekinesis. It's clear what's going on. The Cuckoos are one of the greatest additions Morrison made to the X-verse and their time in the spotlight is, if not necessarily overdue, nonetheless long-awaited.

I can't imagine it'll be as popular as Endsong - if nothing else, it's not a story about Jean, but about the Phoenix force and the Cuckoos. Whether Jean will appear in it is debatable, but that's one of the many mysteries that remains to be solved. It's a strong start and even without Land on art, it's hard to find anything to complain about. Pak seems to improve with every new comic he writes.

Uncanny X-Men #478

Uncanny X-Men #478

Publisher Marvel • Writer Ed Brubaker • Artist Billy Tan

After last issue's snooze-fest featuring Vulcan, the world's least appealing retcon, we're back with Brubaker's X-Men team and learning that there's disquiet in the ranks. It's a strong point of Brubaker's run that he's making me see the personalities and nuance in the characters he's chosen, even those who were made substantially weird by their presence in the Milligan run. Xavier's methods are under question, but the loyalty the characters have to him is still unwavering.

Much more interesting than Vulcan is Darwin, the evolving lad. Wihle calling him "Darwin" and suggesting that what he does is evolution is nothing short of utterly horrendously wrong, he is an interesting character, though I wonder if he's being set up as too powerful. It wouldn't surprise me if, during the remaining two thirds of this arc, he sacrificed himself or left. His powers smack of plot device, and only the fact that he turned up first in Deadly Genesis makes me think otherwise.

Artistically, while Billy Tan is going from strength to strength, D'Armata's colouring has long been a thorny issue for me. I didn't like it when it first showed up in Avengers and I've not been converted in the mean time. While the tones are realistically muted, it just leaves the whole page looking dull and metallic, especially when everything seems to have an unusual shine to it - fine for the spaceships, but not so much for skin.

This issue feels like the proverbial calm before the storm. As we approach the midway point of the arc, we can expect some big things, not least of which will be the plan of the treacherous Shi'ar the X-Men just picked up. Brubaker is putting the space opera back in X-Men and carving out a suitably epic story at the same time.

About this entry