Saturday, April 19, 2008

Paradise X

Well, remember when I reviewed Universe X and I found it entertaining but confusing? I finished with Paradise X and I have some thoughts and some complaints and some positive things to say about it. So here goes.

To recap, the Celestial egg has been destroyed along with all of the world's vibranium, which somehow keeps the world on its axis or something, but the Absorbing Man has turned into Manhattan and vibranium, so it's all gravy, baby. Everybody on the planet has been mutated thanks to the Black Bolt and the release of the terrigen mists. Mar-Vell has destroyed Death with the Ultimate Nullifier and has created an alternative realm of the dead where people can live out their own minuscule paradises. He's also elevated a cast of A-listers into angels who help the dead move from the old school realm into the new school realm. X-51 has sent out alternate universe heroes as heralds to other universes in an attempt to warn them of the Celestial egg hidden inside their Earth. Wolverine turns out to be the missing link between the real humans (extinct) and the Celestial-tweaked humans (that exist today). Reed Richards and a bunch of other smartypants have realized that they need a Death, so they bring back Jude the Entropic Man, a super obscure character, who is the living embodiment of death, but Mephisto lets him loose and Jude makes his way through the world. Meanwhile, in Britain, Medusa and Brian Braddock are about to be married, but Meggan, his first wife, comes back from a living death (encased in stone) thus creating what is called "conflict".

Some other sh*t happens and then there's a bunch of monologues and conversations on the subject of destiny and man's potential and blah blah blah. In the end, it's almost like nothing happened except Reed became the new Eternity, so it's all gravy, baby.

Here's the good. The art is pretty terrific, especially the Ragnarök double issue, in which Loki and Thor take on their "father", and we find out the secret origin of the one we've come to call Odin.

As well, the dialogue seems to have been brought back from terrible to acceptable. This isn't Bendis or Morrison level of dialogue, but it's better than the Juddster. It's not so awkward that I'm pulled right out of the comic book, so that's cool.

What I really liked was the Punisher's co-starring role, and not because he's a wild card or anything like that (I'm looking at you, Agent Smith). It's a fairly decent examination of who Frank Castle is, what his nature is, and whether or not he was always destined to be the Punisher. His personal paradise is a lie, retconning the death of his family from history, and he comes to see the value of truth over self-delusion, and begins kicking the crap outta people. It might be one of the better statements on Frank Castle as a character (rather than a caricature) that I've ever read. Ballin'.

Now the bad. Nothing happens. It's all very boring. There's lots of "revelations" on the origin of characters and things, which contradicts some other revelation gave us. It's confusing. The whole paradise concept is so shaky and not clearly enough defined that I was fuddled for most of the talk. The best parts of this series involved everything other than the paradises.

Losing Uatu and X-51 as the main characters really hurt this thing. One of the reasons why Earth X was so successful was the tension between those two characters, the intimacy of the thing. But with Paradise X, the cast is so huge, there's no one character we can identify with. Especially Steve Rogers, who has been elevated to the position of angel. He's barely recognizable as Captain America (design wise and character wise). And he's supposed to be the main character? I think not.

Oh well.

It was still entertaining and I look forward to reading the whole thing again to absorb some of the more subtle details. Recommended for fans of the Marvel U, rather than casual superhero fans.

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