Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Xombi #1 (1994)

Xombi #1
Regular Series
DC Comics/Milestone

In honour of tomorrow's release of Xombi #1 from DC, I thought I'd take a look at Xombi #1 from DC/Milestone.

I've written about Milestone Media before, so I'll spare the history lesson this time. And focus on the comic.

It's great.

When people talk about John Rozum's writing on Xombi, they usually refer to it as the "Vertigo title" of the Dakota Universe, but with the way that Vertigo has changed over the years, this might confuse some people. It's like early-period Vertigo (Pollack's Doom Patrol, Nocenti's Kid Eternity, Milligan's Shade, the Changing Man) -- an offkilter tale that blends philosophy, religion, and the trappings of something like superheroics.

This is evident right from the first page, where a hospital staffmember has enlisted the help of special Catholic agents Nun of the Above and Catholic Girl to investigate the sudden appearance of frogs in his hospital. And not just normal frogs, either. Frogs who are drawn to the use of teleportation magic, and who apparently repeat fragments of overheard conversations instead of a simple "Ribbit."

After a couple of pages devoted to this bit of foreshadowing, the rest of the issue is spent chronicling the origin of the title character. Although "xombi" isn't so much a name as a descriptor, as we learn throughout the series; the protagonist's name is David Kim, a Korean-American medical researcher working with nanotechnology.

Unfortunately for Kim, his research is of interest to people outside of the medical community. People who are capable of creating beings called "rustling husks", murderous homunculi made from the bodies of insects that died trapped between panes of glass. They're foul creatures that have no problem killing anyone who gets in their way, and proceed to do just that.

As much as I love the comic, though, it isn't perfect. JJ Birch's art leaves a bit to be desired at times -- for the most part, Kim looks Caucasian rather than Korean, and some of the facial expressions are a bit off. He is, however, spot on with the more outlandish pieces, such as the husks and their weaponry, and he does some very nice things with page layouts. He pencilled and inked the entire series (except for the 0 issue which preceded the series proper by several months), so it will be interesting to see how his art progresses over the 21 issues.

On the whole, this issue is highly recommended, as is the new #1, also written by Rozum, set to come out on March 16th. Trust me, you won't be disappointed.

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