X-Men: Noir #1
By Zak Edwards
December 9, 2008 - 13:31
Publisher(s): Marvel Comics
Writer(s): Fred Van Lente
Penciller(s): Dennis Calero
Letterer(s): Nate Piekos
Marvel is doing this whole ‘noir’ series, taking their major franchises and putting them in the grim and gritty world of the film noir of the nineteen forties. Those films were focused around morally ambiguous characters (usually a detective of some sort) who gets tangled up in some sort of plot, usually with a femme fatale character. Personally, I love these movies, the language they use and their use of light in particular. So I come to these with some serious expectations, one of which was destroyed right from the get go, the whole thing’s in colour! But the rest of the issue seems like it might not actually be that bad.
A lot of the series seems to be trying to modernize a lot of what the old films were, which is most of the fun of the old noir. The setting is back in the twenties, with blimps flying around and the wardrobes of those involved. But a lot of the language is off. It’s not fast and it’s not witty. In fact, writer Fred Van Lente seems to enjoy his characters giving longer speeches over striking up a dialogue between characters. But what Van Lente does with the characters is very interesting. Putting Xavier in prison as a violent radical resonates as the X-Men are placed as murderers and criminals. The actual X-Men are barely physically present in the issue but are still everywhere. Making them to be the bad guys works within noir, I just fear they will be redeemed at some point, which is a bit of a giving up in my opinion, and much too fluffy for a noir. But I enjoyed a lot of what is going on over how it is conveyed. This idea is worth looking into.
The art is coloured. That’s the first mistake. Noir is back and white, and colour only works well in the way Frank Miller coloured in Sin City. But once past this, the issue actually looks good. The costumes are in keeping with the time period, and the backgrounds have enough blimps to convince me the story is not taking place in the present. The lighting is well done, and artist Dennis Calero makes wonderful use of shadows throughout the entire issue. The interrogation scene with Xavier in particular is a prime example of Calero’s use of light, with the characters being draped in moody shadows, hiding all sorts. So besides the colour, Calero’s art is amazing, capturing much of the visual elements of the film noir genre.
7.5/10 Worth looking into. The art reflects the noir better than the writing.
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