Monday, October 13, 2003

NYX #1 - A Review

Written by: Joe Quesada
Penciled by: Joshua Middleton
Inked by: Beaulieu
Colored by: Cadenhead
Lettered by: Elipoulous
Editor: Cebulski
Publisher: Marvel Comics

*cue sad saxophone music*

I wake up in a daze at my desk, the empty glass the first thing I see as my eyes shift into focus. I should take it as an omen of the day to come. That, and a grim reminder that optimist or pessimist, it doesn’t matter when your glass is all empty or not full. Despite my better judgment, I pull myself up. I’m a comic book critic and a damn good honest one. Sadly, only in a better world do good and honest equal rich and my work doesn’t pay the Bills.

The morning mail brings bad news, the one thing that travels faster than light and is more common than stupidity in our universe. The Bills demand attention, specifically Bill my landlord and Bill my accountant. And then there’s the letter about a job. Guy named Daron Dol wants me to look into a new case. Name of NYX. I’d heard a little buzz about the book on the streets, but hadn’t heard much. Then again, books with X in the title are a dime a dozen. At least, they are if you know the right comic shops to browse the bargain bins at. After throwing on my face and my trusty ol’ trenchcoat, I hit the streets aiming for the local comic store.

The store was typical for its ilk. Stained carpet covered the floor and the room was thick with the smell of dust and sweat. The cause of the later stood all about me, salivating over the latest bits of paper and ink that would feed their respective addictions. I bellied up to the counter and nodded to Chris, a comic slinger who I could usually count on for an honest tip.

“NYX, Chris. Heard anything?” Chris looked nervous. Of course he always looked vaguely nervous, like the deer as the headlights bear down on him. He paused, like he was carefully considering his words, before speaking.

“Is about mutant teenagers, Mister Morrison. In New York City.”

“Oh, you’ve gotta have more than that, Chris. There’s a ton of books about that. Didn’t they just start a New Mutants title for that kind of thing? What makes this one so special?”

Chris was beginning his trademarked pause when a gaming grunt from the far end of the counter called for help at the dice display. Seeing an out, Chris ran with it and I found myself alone again, no more the wiser than when I had come in. Knowing future conversation would prove unproductive, I moved to the comic wall.

It took me a few minutes to find a copy of NYX. A cursory glance at the wall showed nothing new in the N-section. Playing a hunch, I looked up to the top two shelves- home to the “adult” comics. Everything that didn’t meet “The Code” or got one of Marvel’s nice new PSR+ ratings. And there it was. Just to the left of the new Punisher book. It took me a minute to pull the book down.

I look at the cover and wince. Meaningless cheesecake of what appears to be an illegal minor and badly drawn in that anime style that is so popular. Still, there is one sign of hope- I see the name Quesada and rejoice. Joey Q- a wonderful artist, whose work on Daredevil helped to revolutionize a sagging company. Then I realize that Quesada is the first name- the space usually reserved for the writer. I open the book and flip through it, looking for a title page.

Joey Q is indeed the writer. And some patsy named Middleton is the artist. I should take it as a warning sign that nobody else got their first names put on the title page, like they were hoping to avoid attention… or the egos of the higher-ups demanded they go by just their surnames. I note that Middleton’s name comes first here- a clear sign of their priorities in promoting this book.

The story centers on a dame named Kiden, who ain’t much of a kid. The plot is nothing special… girl goes wrong after cop father dies, the subject of a hundred after-school specials. As I read on, I see why this book is on the top shelf. Junior-high girls doing drugs while sitting on the toilet. Petty theft of cigarettes. Sneaking into nightclubs and staying out all night. I double check the cover again to confirm that this is indeed a Marvel comic and not an offering from Avatar Press.

I’m not so far gone from my own high school days to see the truth in this book. Lord knows girls like Kiden are a lot more common than they should be. Still, I think to myself, who are they trying to reach with this book? The older comics-reading crowd will be lost or turned off by such a frank portrayal of modern teenage life. The rating will keep most of the kids who could use a cautionary tale against this kind of behavior away from it- most comic stores are all too responsible about selling books like this to minors. And as for the mutant angle promised by the X in the name, well… it’s limited to two pages at the end where it looked like Kiden’s mutant powers kicked in while fighting a bully, so the Marvel zombies and X-Fans are likely to be disappointed.

It’s a shame, I think as I put the book back on the shelf. Someone who could make a good, realistic book about a teenage girl with superpowers could clean up. Shame all the books being written in this genre are being written for PSR Plus crowds- books like Emma Frost which could be so good for getting a young lady interested in comics if it weren’t for a few panels here and there and a cover that has no purpose over than to serve as cheap titillation for overgrown adolescents.

I move back to the counter, thinking I can confront Chris again. The customers are gone for the moment, so there’s nothing to stop me from getting some answers from him.

“Alright, Chris. What’s the deal with NYX? It’s a book for teens that no teenager can read. It’s a mutant book with no mutant powers until the last page where she freezes time?”

“She does not freeze time, Mister Morrison.”

“She doesn’t?”

“No, Mister Morrison. That is her Ecstasy kicking in.”

“Wait… so her only power is super-strength or something?”

“As far as I know, Mister Morrison.”

“Well, that sucks! I mean, how many super-strong women are their already? I mean, stopping time is an original power at least. Heck, Marvel could use a few more superspeedsters if that’s her power…”

“I think you should be quiet, Mister Morrison.”

“No really! The visual storytelling on this book is awful! And another thing…”

I’m so busy ranting I don’t hear the Marvel Zombies behind me. On the bright side, I’m so high on adrenaline and fan boy rage, I barely feel the billyclub hit the back of my neck as I sink into dreamland.

When I come to, I have a headache again… but not the good kind you get after a night with a St. Paulie girl and her eleven sisters. I haven’t hurt like this since the Kurtz debacle at the Dallas ComicCon. As I dust myself off and pull myself from the comic shop dumpster, I reflect that what I really need right now is a hot shower, a warm woman and a cold drink. And I know where I can get at least two of the three…

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