Saturday, March 18, 2006

Comics Review: March 18

Ultimate X-Men: Date Night (66-68)

For this week, it's Robert Kirkman's debut on "Ultimate X-Men".

The good news first: conceptually speaking, Kirkman is on solid ground. He pulls off a reinterpretation (or "Ultimization", if you will) at least on par with Vaughan; the best kind of revamp, where your familiarity with the original character colors how you perceive the new version, thus allowing the writer to play tricks with reader expectations. "Date Night" introduces us to Ultimate Lilandra - not exactly someone you'd expect to find, but Kirkman makes it work. He also adds some interesting twists concerning the Sabretooth/Wolverine relationship and the Phoenix, which apparently foreshadow future storylines.

Character-wise, Kirkman is largely following Vaughan's lead: you've got the friendship between Ororo and Logan, Kurt being deeply uncomfortable with Peter's homosexuality, and Scott trying to adapt to Jean's expectations (but is he really doing it of his own volition? Or is Jean "suggesting" a little too strongly?). However, he stumbles a bit with Kitty (who comes off as a self-centered brat, not quite in line with previous depictions), and Rogue and Bobby... well, it misses a note somewhere. They basically reset to status quo between them, except a lot happened to her while she was away and Kirkman doesn't really deal with that.

And now the bad news: despite solid ideas, Kirkman fails to overcome the greatest problem he faces as a writer - he's about as engaging as watching hair grow on Laura Bush's chin. There's no excitement here, no thrill. Fights are cut short, deeply personal conversations are completely cliche, and if there's supposed to be a foreboding air around the Church of Shi'ar Enlightenment, Kirkman doesn't project it well.

This is something that has always characterized Kirkman's writing as far as I can tell: as an "idea man", he's passably average, but when it comes to dramatizing those ideas, he does so in the most boring ways imaginable. Those that can appreciate his work purely on the level of "hey, that's a nice idea" will probably get more out of this, but if you're looking to be entertained, it might be best if you go elsewhere.

EDIT: I don't expect things will get any better. Even after we get rid of Kirkman, we'll still have Singer. This book is dropped.