Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Universe X

Yeah. So here's the story. Jim Krueger and Alex Ross lovingly crafted this super detailed alternate ending for the Marvel Universe in the 12 issue miniseries Earth X. It's super mired in mythology and Marvel history, so if you're not familiar with what's gone down before, you'll probably be lost. They followed up with another twelve issue miniseries (well more, considering how many one-shots were published) called Universe X, the second part of the vast trilogy.

In Earth X, it turns out that the human race are antibodies created by Celestials to protect the Celestial egg hidden in the middle of the Earth and Galactus is the opposing force, trying to keep the Celestial population as low as possible. Well, Galactus and the Marvel heroes kick the crap out of the Celestials and stuff happens. It's all very heady and ominous and there's a lot of talk about morality and destiny and fate and whatnot. It's good.

Universe X, however, is a different story. Mar-Vell has been reincarnated as a human child conceived of Him (Adam Warlock) and Her, and he takes Captain America and travels the globe assembling the world's most powerful items so that they can kill Death. There's a lot more that happens, including the revelation of the secret origin of Odin, Mephisto, Thor, Uatu, Thanos, Mar-Vell and practically everybody. There's a hidden reason for everything in this series.

There's a couple major problems with Universe X. The first is that it's incredibly complicated, but not in the good way. Stuff happens and then I need characters to explain it to me. Important stuff is given two panels while a conversation about humanity between the new Watcher (Aaron Stack) and Uatu is given pages upon pages. The idea that Mephisto gives the gift of time travel to the human race so that an alternate universe is created every time someone jumps era is so murky. There's no solid explanation for why this benefits him. Mephisto's powers are not very clearly explained. If he's not a demon or a devil or the Devil, then how is he so powerful? I suppose an answer for this is in Earth X, when it's revealed that there's three stages of mutation for humans: the regular one, a mass one, and then a mutation that evolves beyond shape or time (which is what Odin is, an alien that has evolved into what people want him to be). Okay, so we need a devil so we create one?

This whole trilogy is one big paean to Lamarckism evolution, and seems incongruous with previous explanations of the whole rise of the superman, such as Neil Gaiman's 1602 explanation.

I certainly didn't hate this series. I was quite entertained by it, well, entertained by what made sense. I think that re-reading this will clear up some of the confusion. I'm currently working on Paradise X, and I'm already on the second half.

Universe X benefits from better art than Earth X. Krueger and Ross are joined by Dougie Brathewaite, who has a nice realistic but still cartoony style. Kind of like a cross between Kirby and Maleev. If that helps.

But again Krueger's dialogue suffers greatly. There's numerous instances where I was so pulled from the issue because of clunky word-balloons that I had to read them again, just to savour the absolute terribleness of the sentences. This isn't to say that the whole thing has bad dialogue, because I'd say about three quarters of the book is fine, but what bad dialogue there is, it's really bad.

Alex Ross' covers are pretty ballin', especially the ones that all fit together to make a gigantic Mar-Vell poster. I've never been a huge Ross fan, more so enjoying him in small doses, such as covers, so this was fine with me. And Ross' fanboyish love of the Silver Age isn't as annoying in this case as in Marvels - it's quite loving without being B.J.-ish.

I wanted to go over this in minute detail, but since there's so much detail and so many characters that I would have to devote an entire blog to it, and since I don't love it enough for that level of blogging, I will settle with a review. Look for my post about Paradise X soon.

I recommend this to fans of the Marvel Universe and fans of Alex Ross. If you're a DC kid, or an indie fan, stay the f*%& away.

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