illustration (c) José Villarrubia 2000 digital
illustration (c) José Villarrubia 2000
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Art by Chip Zdarsky. Copyright 2002.

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'Counter-X': a counterpart no longer

Writers: Warren Ellis & Steven Grant
Artist:Ariel Olivetti
Colorist: Christie Scheele
Letterer: Richard Starkings & Comicraft
Ongoing Series (four-issue arc, 'No Direction Home', #'s 63 through 66)
Published by Marvel Comics 2000
$2.25 US

Reviewed by Brent A. Keane

You've got more power, more knowledge and more attitude than should be allowed. You're the so-called "mutant shaman of the 21st Century". You are Nathan Grey, the X-Man. What do you do next?

You travel several realities downspiral in order to learn how a creature from a broken universe has crossed the gap between dimensions, and for what purpose.

Not exactly Disneyland.

The retooled version of X-MAN is a decent example of why I continue to read comics; big ideas, moody and evocative art, wicked dialogue. This was the book I was looking forward to most when the 'Counter-X' revamp was announced, and it met my expectations effortlessly.

X-MAN had long been thought of as the red-headed bastard child of the omnipresent X-Men line of books. It was a spin-off from the highly successful 'Age of Apocalypse' arc that dominated the sales charts some five years ago. Five years of mutant angst, pointless crossovers, and generally substandard work. Opportunities missed, potential waiting to be mined. Thank goodness that someone at Marvel decided to give the book an overhaul.

Nathan Grey – somehow, referring to him as 'Nate' seems grotesquely cloying – is now a man with a mission: to watch over his 'tribe', the mutant race. We do not know why he has come to this calling, all we know is that it is his job, and his alone. He is no longer the simpering, whiny adolescent that we knew and despised – Nathan Grey has come into his own.

Usually, the name Warren Ellis alone would be cause enough to pick up a book; the fact that Steven Grant co-wrote and scripted these issues only increases the enjoyment level, with his atypical and cynical approach to proceedings.

Ariel Olivetti, not unlike his titlke character, has matured considerably; while his linework still tends to border on sketchy at times, when compared to some of his earlier work (i.e. JLA: PARADISE LOST ), there appears to be a mastery of composition, as well a greater sense of polish. The sombre, muted palette utilzed by Scheele is also remarkable.

Finally, X-MAN is a book worth taking notice of. It has gone from being an unnecessary addition to a line of books already overburdened by redundant series, to a entity wholly complete unto itself. No footnotes or gatefolds full of minutae; just a high-concept sci-fi story, straightforwardly told, that leaves you wanting more. Why can't more comics be like this?


This is Brent A. Keane's first review for Popimage. Be gentle.

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