Headlines   2004 Review Index   April 6, 2004
Suspended Animation &

Michael Vance

Mark Allen

Michael Vance Books

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X-Men: God Loves, Man Kills

     Back in 1982, Marvel released what was, in the minds of many, the best X-Men story to ever see publication. It stands out, at least partially, because it so defined the growing mutant hysteria within the fictional world of Marvel.  The specific campaign was a product of the mislead, but dangerously-committed "reverend," William Stryker. 

     For those who have seen the second X-Men movie, the small-but-important influence will be obvious.  Though not a military figure, the reverend's crusade proves just as ominous as that of his big screen counterpart.  With a force of high-tech weaponry, and loyal soldiers, he pursues the X-Men in one of their most perilous adventures.

     From an entertainment standpoint, this is a dream project.  Chris Claremont, known for a long and creatively fruitful relationship with Marvel's premier mutants, pens a highly-emotional tale that defines the characters to this day, while providing nail-biting action and suspense.  He even manages to teach a bit.

     I know nothing of Claremont's spiritual life or beliefs.  But where the Christian stance of a loving God who never sanctions a crusade of hate and bigotry is concerned, he gets it right; and the reverend gets it in the end. The icing on the cake, as it were, is the amazing artwork of Brent Anderson.  Dynamic realism is the order of the day, here.  Anderson demonstrates a mastery of the human form, in both anatomy and movement, and manages to elicit the strong emotions of the story through character expression and posture.

     Amazingly augmented by colorist Steve Oliff, this is one of those projects that makes it hard to imagine it could be done any better.

     X-Men: God Loves, Man Kills, is one of those rare works that readers will go back to repeatedly.  It is recommended for all but the youngest readers, due to the darkness of the subject matter, and some intense violence. 

     X-Men: God Loves, Man Kills, published by Marvel Comics, 64 pages, original price, $5.95. Find it at comic shops, conventions and online auctions.

     Review by Mark Allen

The Crystal Ballroom

     The Crystal Ballroom is not a comic book or strip, or a book about comics. It is a heavily illustrated, autobiographical novella by and about a comic book artist and writer, Frank Thorne.

     So why is it in a review column on comics?

     It is the story of a teenage boy in a small town in the 1940s who is discovering sex, and the Big Band music of Harry James and Artie Shaw, and Flash Gordon in the movies and in newspapers, and pulp magazines. It is about growing up.

     So why are you breaking your own rule about what you review?

     It is beautifully illustrated with more than 80 pencil drawings of men

working in garages, magnificent old houses and movie theaters and cars, boys playing horns, and naked women.

     Here it comes. He breaks his own reviewing rule and gives us the sermon on pornography again.

     These naked women are pornographic, and necessary to honestly and accurately tell this  poignant story of the painful, nasty, ugly, misguided, and ignorant first stirrings of sex in every boy I have ever known, including myself. Its revelation of those same sexual feeling in young girls is equally as disconcerting and truthful. Huh? Necessary?

     It is a beautifully written and drawn memoir that stirred deep feelings of longing for my past in a small town in the 1950s, discovering girls, and the Rock and Roll of Elvis and The Four Seasons, and Alley Oop in comic strips, and Superman in comic books. Even as I wrote this review, I was overcome by hurtful and joyful nostalgia again. 

     This is simply a wonderful book, a 'must read' for adults who, if offended by blatant sex, can nevertheless set that aside for the non-exploitative truth about teenage, male sexuality.

     How could you not buy it?

     And I broke my own rule because I can.

     The Crystal Ballroom/114 pgs. & $19.95 from Fantagraphics/available at www.fantagraphics.com and at comics and bookstores.

     Review by Michael Vance


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