Sunday, March 01, 2009

NYX: No Way Home

NYX: No Way Home
Writer: Marjorie Liu
Pencillers: Kalman Andrasofszky and Sara Pichelli
Inkers: Kalman Andrasofszky, Ramon Perez and Sara Pichelli
Colourist: John Rauch
Letterers: Joe Caramagna and Chris Eliopoulos
Editor: John Barber

It's been a long time since the first NYX series. Originally planned as an ongoing title, the book launched in 2003, and spluttered out seven issues over two years before being aborted - "cancelled" is too orderly a word.

The book was supposed to be about teenage mutant runaways in New York City, and was written by editor-in-chief Joe Quesada. It got nowhere fast, and had just about finished introducing the characters in time to get axed. In hindsight, the book might illustrate the best and worst of the Bill Jemas era: it looked great, and it was willing to depart radically from the superhero formula, but at the same time it was glacially slow, more than a little self-indulgent, and not quite as clever as it sometimes appeared to think.

The original series had two main selling points. One was the undeniably beautiful art of Josh Middleton - who quit after four issues. The other was the introduction of X-23, who had an initial surge of popularity. But she was relocated to the mainstream X-books quite some time ago. So the creators of this sequel - novelist Marjorie Liu and artist Kalman Andrasofszky - don't have much to work with.

What they've produced is certainly more polished than the original series. And that's not just because it actually came out. It's less meandering, more plot-driven, and better at defining the characters. On the other hand, in doing so, it ends up less distinctive, and forces the cast into a more conventional Marvel Universe story, with proper villains who must be fought.

Since we last saw them, the three remaining characters - Kiden, Tatiana and Bobby - have been renting a flat together, looking after Bobby's autistic little brother, and generally living a passable life on the margins of society. And now, in this series, Bad People come after them.

What does the story achieve? Well, it gives the characters some villains to fight in future stories. It appears to write out supporting character Cameron Palmer, and potentially replaces her as the group's mother figure with late-nineties X-Man Cecilia Reyes. And it explains what the ghost of Kiden's father is up to: he's trying to stop her getting killed, which apparently involves an awful lot of inscrutable and plot-convenient manoeuvring.

In other words, it's mainly more set-up for future NYX stories. And that would be fine if this was the first, or even the second, arc in an ongoing series. Except it's not; it's a miniseries, for a property which we'll probably never see again. Judged on its own - and it is on its own, here in the real world - it's not much of a story. It bounces along acceptably enough, to be sure, but shorn of its set-up role, there's not much to it.

Now, that said, Andrasofzsky acquits himself pretty well in Middleton's shoes, and even a blur of fill-in pencillers and inkers don't compromise the book too much. Colourist John Rauch makes sure to keep the palette refreshingly bright and upbeat. Heaven knows I appreciate a book that doesn't feel the need to keep hammering me over the head with how angst-ridden it is.

And the characters are much better defined in Liu's hands. Kiden remains something of a generically feisty teenager. But Tatiana is well written as a character who lacks confidence but stands her ground under pressure, and there's an interesting tension between Bobby's loyalty to the group and his understandable instinct for self-preservation (which, for a change, isn't used to make him unsympathetic). The villains are rather more off-the-peg, but at least there's a suggestion that their sadism as a rite of passage for the kids, which will do them good in the long run.

For all that, though, the series doesn't really work as a stand-alone story. And you can't justify a comic by arguing that it would be a decent opening act for some hypothetical series we'll probably never see. It is what it is - and what it is, is another six issues of set-up. Still, it has its moments, and I'd welcome seeing more from the creative team; just with a little more focus on producing something self-contained.

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