An underappericated comic from Milestone's glory days returns for another performance, but is the new show as good as the Original Act?
Credits & Solicit Info:
Writer: John Rozum
Artist and Covers: Frazer Irving
Letterer: Dave Sharpe
Assistant Editor: Rickey Purdin
Associate Editor: Harvey Richards
Editor: Rachel Gluckstern
Alternate Cover done by Brendan McCarthy
What happens when you take a human processing plant, add a multi-layered plot, a dynamic world and supporting cast? You get an early contender for the Best Comic Series of 2011.
To truly understand history, one of the concepts that cannot be ignored is how misconceptions of past events can cloud the historical perspective of those said events. The Comic/Graphical Storytelling medium has a quite a few of these misconceptions that stand out, namely the fact that comics still have to deal with "stigma" of being solely kids entertainment, despite the many classic examples that prove otherwise (Which is due to the decades of this being true.). An example of a direct historical misconception centers around the whole saga of Marvel's bankruptcy and recovery, due to the focus on the quality of the books at the time of the bankruptcy, and the quality during the company's recovery, without taking note of the business decisions outside of Marvel's publishing shell that truly were the catalysts for those events. Despite the greater overall impact of the two former misconceptions, there is one misconception that is probably more damaging, due to the perpetual cycle of ignorance that surrounds it is this misinterpretation of what Milestone Comics really was.
As for Milestone comics itself, this reviewer has learned that usually discussing the company (especially in certain places) leads to some borderline continuous discussions, which are mostly due to the misconceptions that have become the widespread interpretation of Milestone's legacy. To answer the question as to what they might be, there are two that form the nucleus of the improper translation of the company's legacy, with the second one having a much greater impact than the one than the first. As for the misinterpretations themselves, the first of these can be summed up in the statement that "Milestone was a DC imprint", something that is simply factually incorrect. Unlike Vertigo, (which was a brainchild of DC employees) Milestone was able to accomplish a business deal that gave DC the publishing rights, along with keeping editorial and trademark control, terms that were simply unheard at the time. The lasting impact of this deal would not only be those who would follow in its footsteps (Wildstorm), but what could be accomplished when the principals of Interdependence (not to mention the Principles of the Joint Venture, and Other People's Money) are put into play.
As for the second historical misinterpretation, it can only be summed up as the false belief that Milestone was solely a Black Comic Imprint. This notion is far more damaging than the former, because it not only paints a false stripe on the work itself, but on what the owners were trying to accomplish, as well. When Denys Cowan, Michael Davis, Derek T. Dingle and the Late Great Dwayne McDuffie got together for this undertaking, there main goal was to correct the imbalance of minority representation in comics altogether, and while Icon, Static, and Hardware (all black characters) could be considered Milestone's Big 3, that statement discounts the Universe around them. True to vision of the founders, Milestone would feature characters from a myriad of races and cultures, with the Blood Syndicate and Shadow Cabinet being two of the most universally diverse teams even devised, even featuring a situation that would've been considered extremely taboo at the time in a Lesbian Marriage. Beyond that very important note, one of the most understated accomplishments of Milestone would be the careers that it would help to launch. A culturally diverse list that would notably include (along with others) Humberto Ramos (Impulse, The Spectacular Spider-Man, The Amazing Spider-Man), John Paul Lion (Earth X), Jamal Igle (Firestorm, Nightwing), The Late Maddie Blaustein (Static, Hardware, Deathwish) and J.H. Williams III (Promethea, Chase, Batwoman: Elegy). With everything that's happened lately, it's almost poetic justice that one of Milestone's Alumni is returning back to his Milestone work, and re-launching Xombi with a new Issue 1, which has gotten a little bit of Internet hype, due to return of said writer. How does comic hold up beyond said hype? Well, let's just say that I was not prepared for how good this book actually is.
When it was revealed that John Rozum was going to return to Xombi, I have to admit that I got a little bit nervous, because of some of the more high profile returns of famous writers (Mark Waid on Flash and Chris Claremont on X-Men are the prime examples) have failed to recapture enough of the spark that made their original runs so great. It was with this trepidation that I prepared myself to handle the disappointment that could accompany this highly anticipated release. Fortunately, my worries proved to be unwarranted in a pretty epic fashion.
From the moment you open this Comic one of the first things that jumps out at you is the high level narration that this book sports. Not only does it grab you with a happening that would be considered impossible in the real world, but it enhances the overall story due to way it helps to keep things moving with each bubble serving a purpose to the overall story, something that gets taken for granted more than we're willing to admit. The dialogue also measures up to the narration as it not only sounds great to read out aloud, but gives us great insight to the characters themselves by using just the right blend of humor, drama, suspense, horror and even a mundane activity as watching a movie and drinking beers to introduce us to a moral dilemma that David has to deal with due to the powers that he possesses.
Despite the major plusses in those categories, the thing that stands out the most to me is the overall story, itself. For starters, John Rozum is not afraid to have readers use their heads in figuring out what's going in the storyline (and the world at large) as the plot deals with the world experiencing the impossible becoming possible, with an escapee from a secret Church Prison (the name is to cool to spoil) having a probable connection to these events. In addition, the other subplots and story aspects include having one of the supporting characters running away from an organization led by discarded Religious and Political propaganda, Angels that possess the faces of those who catch their gaze, and even a long forgotten legend as the cliffhanger. Xombi #1's one writing swings for the fences in every possible, and the result is a successful homecoming for the man who started it all.
When it comes to works in this medium that involve horror some sort, this reviewer can't help but feel underwhelmed by the horror aspects that these comics are trying to bring to bear. A major contributor that causes this is art that is being drawn for the sake of inducing fear, than for the sake of giving the story the artistic weight to work, something that Xombi #1 doesn't suffer through. This book has the perfect blend fear inducing visuals that are not only advanced by the characters, but how they contribute a world that is not overtly dark, but very dangerous nevertheless. Not being content to stop there, Frazer Irving also puts in the same amount of effort in characters and the non-horror backdrops that surround them, creating a look that's you don't get to see often in comics, which only helps this book to stand out more than it already did. Even if he isn't the original artist, Frazer Irving delivers in a way that would the original art team very proud.
After taking the time to sit down and read this comic from cover to cover, an important aspect of the Milestone project became extremely clear to me, and that was the fact that the company did its best to put out the best books they possibly could. Not holding back in any aspect, every comic was meant to have some type of lasting impact, even if that lasting impact was simply to entertain the audience. Xombi #1 captures the spirit of the company that created the concept, and delivers a comic that gives not only old fans something to smile about, but new fans to realize they truly missed something special. In a world where the future is uncertain for the medium at large, this is the quality level that creative shepherds of the medium need to aspire to with each book that it publish. In conclusion, I would like to implore all of those who read these reviews to not take this as a note for wait for some type of collected edition(especially when you take DC's trade policies into consideration), but to make sure you put this on your monthly pull lists, and recommend to your friends. If truly unique and quality books are going to survive, then we need to make sure they receive every advantage that the consumers can give them.
Story ****3/4: The Reader is immediately dropped into a dramatic, high stakes, intelligent story that is masterfully told, and leaves them wanting for more.
Art ****1/2: Fraser Irving creates a world within DC that is like none other, with a unique drawing style that has the mundane and spectacular exist in amazing harmony.
Accessibility ****3/4: The only thing that could improve in this area is a way for fans to check out the old stories without having to go on a Witch Hunt of Sorts. Otherwise everything else that needs to done is done, including a Thank You note to the man who made this character possible.
Final Judgment: ****3/4 (Exemplary)
Review by: Linwood Earl Knight