Monday, August 4, 2008

NYX: No Way Home #1

NYX has had a somewhat colorful publishing history. From the original proposal, greenlit and then suddenly canceled before production could begin, to the finished series, marred by so many delays that its artist split for an exclusive contract with DC after four issues, it hasn't been smooth sailing so far. With this new #1, I'm sure Marvel's goal is to leave all that chaos behind in favor of a more regular publishing schedule, a more reliable creative team and a closer focus on the events contained within the book, rather than those surrounding its creation.

Marjorie Liu picks up where Joe Quesada left off, scribing the adventures of a close-knit group of homeless mutant teens in Manhattan. She takes her time reintroducing us to the cast, and while that gives the new artist a lot of room to familiarize himself with the players, it doesn't exactly make for compelling reading. In fact, there isn't really anything of substance here until the final pages of the issue. It's great that the new writer is displaying her commitment to characterization, sharing with us the minute ways each mutant's life has changed for the ordinary, but if the primary goal of this first chapter is to capture on-the-fence buyers' imaginations and sign them up for the remainder of the series, this isn't a success. The kids' mutant powers, which should be what sets them apart and drives the reader's interest in their personalities, are barely touched upon. This is about ten pages' worth of drab, conversational storyline stretched over the course of an entire issue.

Original series artist Josh Middleton has long since moved on to bigger and better things, so it's up to Kalman Andrasofszky to fill his shoes and help readers move past the shake-up. Fortunately, the new guy produces fine work, and the transition is an easy one. He doesn't try to mimic Middleton, but the two do work a similar style so there are a few natural similarities. Both artists depend on a lush, stylized, organic treatment, and where Middleton would often rely on his own colors to provide much of the page's detail, Andrasofszky is much more dependent on traditional pen and ink. Josh's work is often painstakingly detailed, but his ability to show restraint at opportune moments keeps it from feeling too busy.

The new series artist shines most brightly in his backdrops, although that's not to demean his work in the foregrounds, either. His New York is bustling with activity, alive and unmistakable in every panel. I'm sure Liu didn't mention that panhandler wordlessly seeking a buck or the junkie passed out in the stairwell anywhere in her script, but their addition does a whole lot to tether the book in the real world. There's always something going on, the lead characters aren't above interacting with the extras, and I like that.

This new launch for NYX isn't an unbridled success. Where my initial fears were for the change in artists, it turns out my greater concern should have been for the writing. While Kalman Andrasofszky's artwork is genuinely intriguing, Marjorie Liu's storytelling leaves its counterpart hanging. With a little more direction, this could be outstanding. Right now it's just worth flipping through.

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is poor and 10 is amazing...
Overall Score: 6

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