Sunday, August 04, 2019

And good news for fans of cryptograms

I don't buy X-Men comics as a rule - they've been really rubbish for many years now. But the latest 'epic' is weird and cool enough that I thought that even the ludicrously high price they sell for was justified here, and I've got the first two parts, House of X issue 1 of 6, and Powers of X issue 1 of 6.

It's "two series that are one", you see, and one issue of one or the other is coming out weekly over a 12-week period (in an interesting sequence, too, listed at the back of each comic to avoid confusion; House 1, Powers 1, House 2, Powers 2, Powers 3, House 3, House 4...). They cost $5.99 each, which means that British comic shops feel it's okay to round up the exchange rate and sell them for £4.99, so we're looking at sixty quid for the whole adventure. You could buy quite a lot of real books or movies for that money.

So what makes them worth the extravagance, you ask? Well, as comics go, they're chunky things - 56 pages, not counting the covers, and even excluding the ads (mostly for other Marvel comics, rather than the more intrusive kind of paid advert) you get well over 40 pages of actual content in each issue. And the way it's presented is intriguing and worth reading multiple times too, decidedly different from the average comic. A lot of text summarising different aspects of the universe it depicts, as well as the traditional visual storytelling.

The whole thing is written by Jonathan Hickman, and to describe the story is almost impossible, so I recommend that you check it out for yourselves - knowing anything about the X-Men beyond the basic concepts of the series (mutants with super-powers, hated and feared by humanity) isn't really necessary, and it's not really any kind of continuation of the storylines that have been appearing in the comics in recent years (which I haven't read, for the most part, so that's good). While House of X is set in the present day, it involves the X-Men behaving in a different and rather scary way, with revelations about exactly what's going on still to come, probably, by the end of the series if we're lucky. Powers of X covers four different time zones, brilliantly described as X⁰: year 1, X¹: year 10, X²: year 100, and X³: year 1000. "X means ten" has been done by X-Men comics before, naturally, but I love this kind of nerdishness in my comics.

X¹ is the present moment, with the events of House of X continuing on; X² is a really nicely done extrapolation of that into the status quo of 90 years of X-Men comics later. All the events of the present day have been resolved long since, but the whole general war is still going on. It actually works better than the previous famous X-Men future-based stories have in the past. I like it a lot, anyway.

There's extra nerdishness in the form of things written in the 'language' of Krakoa the living island, which is actually just symbols representing letters, for the readers to decipher - there's a separate symbol for 'th', which is another example of the kind of extra touch I like to see.

It's not perfect - the art is a bit ugly here and there, and I don't think it always conveys quite what the writer intended, and the whole thing feels a bit fan-fictionish (think up a cool idea and then try to write a story around it), and they do get those Krakoa characters wrong at least once, probably twice... but it's generally awesome enough that I'm getting it for the next ten weeks, just based on the promise of the first two issues. Sixty quid well spent!