- The Washington Times - Friday, May 26, 2006

This chronic feature lets me review what’s recently passed my bloodshot pupils. So pull up a chair, break out the sarcasm filter and welcome to:

Mr. Zad’s X-Men comic critique

X-Factor, Nos. 1 to 4 (Marvel Comics, $2.99 each)

Legendary comics scribe Peter David revisits the plotlines from his 2004 five-part miniseries about the mutant Jamie Madrox (aka the Multiple Man) through a new series that continues the adventures of the team founded by former X-Men.

Readers quickly learn that Madrox, who has the power to create physically identical duplicates of himself, each based on an aspect of his personality, has set up a detective agency in the heart of Mutant Town (in the middle of New York City, of course).

He has help from Strong Guy, Rahne (Wolfsbane) Sinclair, Siryn, the powerless Rictor, Monet and the omniscient Layla Miller as he deals with rival agency Singularity Investigations and tackles cases in a wisecracking, Sam-Spade style.

Mr. David plays off the definition of “X-factor” throughout the issues to deliver an unpredictable and humorous story only occasionally weighted down by an X-Men world in which 90 percent of the mutant population has lost its power. Read the avalanche of books devoted to the “House of M” and its aftermath for more details.

The heavy circumstances that surround the current X-Factor group do not stop Mr. David from a clever course of plot development through cinema-noir visions injected with offbeat humor, which are perfectly propelled by the shadowy and sexy art of Ryan Sook.

Of all of the retooled X-Men splinter titles available, this one is the most fun and transcends the normal soap-operatic silliness usually associated with X-Men pulp.

Wolverine, Nos. 36 to 40

(Marvel Comics, $2.99 each)

What initially attracted me to the story arc “Origins & Endings” was not another revelation about the famed, adamantium-laced mutant’s complex life but the name Texiera, as in Mark Texiera, one of my favorite artists.

Unfortunately, he seems to be only the inker to artist Javier Saltares’ pencil work — and Mr. Texiera’s brilliantly hard-edged and realistic style is completely lost on the pages.

Alas, I am stuck with the hairy star of the X-Men comics and films on yet another mission to avenge his past and right the wrongs done against his mind and body.

This time, though, the clawed one’s memory has been fully restored, and he is ready to exact revenge against the Silver Samurai and the Winter Soldier. Although after readers slice through the cliched and violent plot of Daniel Way, they will not care.

Plenty of graphic violence mixes with panels of flashbacks related to the hero’s difficult life while S.H.I.E.L.D. (Strategic Hazard Intervention, Espionage and Logistics Directorate) operatives and the Avengers worry about their buddy.

Suffice to report, this uninspired and useless tale will not be remembered as one of the X-Man’s best outings.

Apocalypse vs. Dracula, No. 1

(Marvel Comics, $2.99)

I have to believe that Marvel’s X-Men editors have run out of ideas when they feel the need to waste paper on a bloodsucker who will dare challenge the X-Men’s most dangerous supervillain.

Writer Frank Tieri offers a story within a four-issue miniseries that’s not as inspired as when the Punisher hung out with Archie Andrews. It details the return of the immortal Apocalypse to take care of Vlad the Impaler, whom he already once squashed back in 1459.

The silly story fueled by the bright and overly pop artwork of Clay Henry is just too far-fetched and definitely unnecessary for an X-Men fan to waste money on.

“X-Men: The Ultimate Guide,” oversized book

(DK Publishing, $24.99)

This third edition of the colorful resource now adds current storylines such as the “House of M” along with information on the movies and cartoon series to completely overwhelm new fans of Marvel’s mutant population.

Through 192, 9-by-11-inch pages, and art by familiar masters such as Greg Land, Jack Kirby, John Byrne and George Perez, the hardcover book covers each decade of the X-Men’s existence. It also unintentionally shows how incredibly complicated and multitiered the adventure has become for the many heroes and villains who have been born with the mutant X gene over the last 43 years.

I loved the large illustrations and photographs, the detailed character biographies and the Summers family history, but the target demographic (the 10-year-old) will grow weary of the words and just appreciate the imagery.

Unfortunately, the book’s relevance is short lived, since the X-Men universe is a jumbled mythology that often changes at the whim of a highly ranked writer, producer or editor. I am afraid this book will now need an update every six months just to keep track of the mess.

Zadzooks! wants to know you exist. Call 202/636-3016; fax 202/269-1853; e-mail [email protected]washingtontimes.com or write to Joseph Szadkowski, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20002.

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