Evil Geek Book Report – X-Men Noir
I found out that during my non comic years Marvel had released a slew of 4 issue mini series taking known characters and giving them Noir reimaginings. Some of them make perfect sense like Daredevil (although wasn’t his series already noir at the time?) or the Punisher and others seem like it would be an interesting stretch, like Spider-Man, Iron Man and the X-Men.
Being that Film Noir is my favorite genre of movies as well as its pulp novel ancestors, I jumped right on this and picked up Iron Man Noir. It showed us Tony Stark in the 1930s as an Indiana Jones archetype, a playboy and thrill seeking adventurer who catalogs his travels for a men’s magazine. It definitely leaned heavily on the pulp adventure side of things rather than Noir. With that said, it was an excellent mini series. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for X-Men.
X-Men definitely embraces the Noir esthetic. Everything is dark and shadowy, people hang out dressed in suits drinking and gambling in smoke-filled clubs, the urban areas are a mess and the plot is fraught with double crosses, terrible morals and bad decisions. Everything I love and yet it falls flat.
What we have in this story is the two dynamically opposed forces at the root of all X-mythology. Magneto is recast as Eric Magnus a crooked chief detective in the NYPD and running an organized crime racket with the Brotherhood. Xavier on the other hand is psychiatrist who operates a school for sociopaths which he believes is the next evolutionary step in human kind. The books start with Xavier in jail after the death of X-Men, Warren Worthington III who leapt from a building believing he could fly. The other X-Men (Beast, Cyclops and Iceman) are now on the run. Another X-Men, Jean Grey washes up dead on the shore with slash marks on her face and thus our story is kicked off. A series of twists and turns bring us through the NYC underground, Chinatown and the Hellfire Club as the X-Men search for Jean Grey’s killer and Magnus looks for former X-Men, Ann-Marie Rankin who is adept at mimicking others. Magnus plans to use her and break away from Unus the Untouchable in his quest to control all of NYC’s criminal operations.
The book has a lot going for it, but ultimately doesn’t deliver. For one there are just too many characters introduced, which if the series was longer would be no problem, but in four issues it just seems crammed. The same goes for the plot threads as well, it would have benefited from more simplicity. Although, the more you know about the regular X-Universe the more you’ll be rewarded by seeing all sorts of characters or names from many different eras woven into the story. It’s notable to mention that in this reality none of the X-Men have any powers, helping to make this more realistic and bound to the rules of the real world.
Not a bad read, but I’d definitely save your money on this one. Although there is a direct sequel called X-Men Noir: Mark Of Cain which seems to shift the series into more pulp adventure territory with the X-Men in the jungles of Madripoor searching for the Gem Of Cyttorak. Has anyone out there read any other titles in the Marvel Noir series? I’m interested in Spider-Man Noir and Deadpool Pulp but after reading this, I’m not so sure I want to continue…
All images and characters depicted are copyright of their respective owners