This book re-imagines the X-Men for the gritty and stylish noir genre, relocating them back to the early 20th century. The story opens with the body of Jean Grey found brutally murdered as our protagonist, Tom Halloway starts his first day as a detective on the trail of the elusive gang the X-Men who are linked to numerous murders throughout the city. But things are not as they seem especially with the morally dubious Chief of Police Magnus in charge.
My biggest complaint about the book is the artwork. All of the characters dress alike wearing similar suits, hats, long coats, and their facial features aren’t especially prominent. A few characters stood out like Cyclops who wears red glasses, Logan with his haircut, Xavier for his non-haircut (baldness) but other than that all of the characters look the same. The female characters, what few there are, are even worse because they are basically identical. I couldn’t tell who they were. Is that… Scarlet Witch? Or Mystique? Or Rogue? Or Kitty? Or Jubilee? I know it’s noir but Denis Calero’s approach is too dark, drawing in too many shadows across faces. That and the washed out colour palette and overall darkness of the book, coupled with the difficulty in distinguishing the characters in the first place, makes for a really confusing read. Wait, who’s that? Is that Angel? Nope. Oh, that was Beast? But… argh!
Then there’s the main character, Tom Halloway. Yes, THE Tom Halloway. You know, that most famous of X-Men Tom Halloway. Don’t recognise the name? Me either! I don’t know who Halloway is but for some reason he’s the main character in the book – and he dresses like Superman!!
You know how in regular X-Men books they’re referred to as “Homo Superior”, the next stage in evolution? It makes sense because they have powers and so on. In this book they don’t have any powers – none, zilch – but still writer Fred Van Lente tries to work in a similar line except it makes no sense. Apparently the X-Men are sociopaths (which, in this book, is a good thing – why…?) and they are the next phase in human behavioural evolution! Whaaaaaat?
They might not have powers but they are recognisable for certain objects associated with their characters. So Gambit has playing cards, Iceman, rather hilariously, has an ice-pick (!) and Cyclops has red glasses though they’re not protecting everyone from his deadly lasers so… no clue why he has them. I’m also clueless why Logan has a piece of wood with 3 knives stuck in it as a hand-held weapon. Yeah I get that it’s supposed to mirror his claws but they look just impractical as hell, as if they’d hurt him more than his opponents. And seeing how he doesn’t have a healing factor, I don’t know why he’d stick with them.
I’ve read the other Marvel Noir books in the series and they at least give those characters some semblance of power that they’re known for. For example Deadpool is a master swordsman and hears voices in his head, Spidey has some Spider-man powers, and Tony Stark gets a crude Iron Man suit made up. But in this book? These aren’t X-Men. They’re basically ordinary people with guns. It’s not “X-Men Noir” it’s just “Noir”.
And not even good noir. I couldn’t tell what was going on at the best of times, there were too many characters, and an incomprehensible plot. There’s also a backup pulp story featuring Sentinels and Morlocks that is written in the unreadable style of the pulps with! too! many! exclamation! marks! I tried reading the first one and ending up skipping the rest. “Marvel Noir” is an interesting series, I’m all for new takes on old characters, but “X-Men Noir” is definitely the weakest book in the series. I heartily recommend skipping it and trying instead “Spider-man Noir: Eyes Without a Face”, “Deadpool Noir” or “Iron Man Noir”.
A Guide to the Beasts of East AfricaMaster of LoveDandelion SeedYes, Darling