After being really rather disappointed with the first issue of this series, I thought this second chapter was a big improvement. I still don’t think Shawn Crystal’s artwork is the best fit, but the story was a lot more focused, and it seemed like, apart from one or two scenes, that Hope wasn’t trying so hard to earn his ‘MAX’ rating by being shocking.
The issue begins with Fantomex and EVA deep underwater, heading towards a secret, hidden base at the bottom of the Marianas trench. The reason they are there is because the villainous ‘Grover Lane’ group have sent Fantomex down there to retrieve a key. It turns out that, in 2025, a huge meteorite will crash into the Earth, destroying all of Europe and generally causing chaos. To stop this, 7 powerful nations got together to build a force-field, that can only be activated by all 7 nations using their key at the same time. Grover Lane want to use this force-field for nefarious means, but to do so, they need an 8th, master key that the designer of the force-field keeps for himself at the bottom of the ocean. If Fantomex wants Agent Flemyng to live, he’ll get that key for Grover Lane.
So he does, fighting a Kraken to get in, and having a very enjoyable conversation with a hologram of the inventor. We got to see the ‘Greatest Thief In History’ meet the ‘Greatest Inventor In History’, which was great stuff. I’m actually really liking the world that Hope has created here, it’s clearly not at Marvel Universe full of superheroes, instead, it’s more like the inspiration behind Fantomex, Diabolik’s world, where he’s the only masked person around, and world famous. I’d like to see more stories set in this universe actually, it’s certainly different. Just as Fantomex is about to find the key, the hologram of the inventor enacts a failsafe, filling his base with water, and letting the Kraken in again, and the issue ends with it about to eat Fantomex, oh dear oh dear.
The strangest scene in this issue involved Agent Flemyng being beaten up by the female Grover Lane agent, and it looked like she was about to be raped. This is the only example of Hope trying too hard to shock I think, but it is a little bit interesting to see a lesbian rape scene, and I wonder, will fans who hate rape scenes in comics have a different view on this because it’s two women, rather than a man? I suppose since it’s written by a man, people will have the same hatred for it as they do the scene in Kick-Ass 2, but it’s an interesting concept, and one that shows how rape is not just a male power thing, or misogynistic. Plus, it certainly gives the Grover Lane agent a different hook as a villain, especially since the two male agents are a bit bland.
As I said, I still don’t feel that Crystal’s cartoonish art is best suited to a MAX comic, but it’s by no means bad, and I still love the use of Benday dots. This was an improvement over #1 by a lot, let’s hope that Hope (heh) can keep up the upward trajectory, and that by the end, this is something special.