Energy Enough for One Review

*(EDIT 4/24/06 3:35AM): Well, and this I guess - word is out among those paying direct attention to the Japanese serialization scene that Naoki Urasawa's 20th Century Boys has recently drawn to a close. It is indicated that the series will thus be complete in 22 collected volumes. No word on what Urasawa's next move will be, as he seems to like working on more than one series at a time - Pluto continues onward, regardless.

And according to that same thread, Tsugumi Ohba's and Takeshi Obata's popular Death Note is maybe ending too, though nobody seems sure. A thread at Anime News Network indicates that it's currently up to Chapter 110 in serialization. Dismayingly, pretty much everyone seems to agree the series suffers a nasty dip in quality in its later volumes (it's currently up to Vol. 10 in Japan, with Vol. 5 due out in the US very soon)...

X-Statix Presents: Dead Girl #4 (of 5)

In which the plot kind of slows down as writer Peter Milligan decides to do a little character work, having revived all of these characters and all. Even if the protagonist is nominally Dead Girl, and really Dr. Strange, there’s no reason why Milligan can’t take some time out to examine where members of the old X-Statix cast at large stand, even if it kind of causes the story to halt as we approach the finish line. There’s certainly worse ways to fatten up the issue count, particularly since Milligan’s now gone all the way and brought Edie back. Obviously something can be done with that.

But this book, just like its parent series in its prime, thrives on confounding expectations, and thus we’re immediately told that last issue’s shocking tearful reunion actually wasn’t that shocking - Edie and Guy have met up quite a few times in the afterlife, it seems, but Edie has been going out of her way to avoid him lately as his sensitivity has really started to chafe over the course of eternity. It’s a funny little trick, and neatly turns the tables on what looked like the triumphant climax of a grand search by Guy last issue - he’s really more of a stalker, once our perceptions have shifted, and Milligan has a great time subverting such heroic narrative impulses, not to mention the romantic notion of ‘together forever after death,’ which only ever sounds nice to the living, who don’t actually have to deal with sticking around with one person forever.

Actually, Guy is more than a little similar to nominal series villain, the Pitiful One (and just as Dr. Strange is actually the protagonist of this series, his mentor The Ancient One is really the antagonist) - certainly our masked mastermind never tires of moaning to anyone who’ll listen about his countless unsuccessful clashes with Marvel heroes great and small, much like Guy won’t let go of his past with Edie. Cute bit of doubling there. Fortunately Guy is still a little better off, so after a nice pep-talk from the Phantom Rider (why the Phantom Rider, you ask? why not the Phantom Rider?) he’s acting like a hero and beating the shit out of Ant-Man, which is maybe redundant to say. Meanwhile, the Pitiful One gets his ass handed to him by Dr. Strange’s assistant Wong, another mark in the ledger.

Oh, and Dr. Strange and Dead Girl are still flirting it up. I really have no idea where that’s going, but I expect some sort of payoff next issue.

There’s also a bit more overt visual humor than usual from artists Nick Dragotta and Mike Allred, what with people’s heads laying passed out atop file cabinets, or the villains dragging Strange’s frozen corporal form around with them everywhere, knocking stuff over as they go. Hmmm, maybe the Phantom Rider’s in here just because he makes for such a nice sight gag, riding his horse through office cubicles and mighty canyons alike. A bit like how this series has galloped through both genre commentary and the playing of certain old refrains, for old times' sake. It hasn't fallen out of the saddle yet, and I've no reason to suspect it will come next issue's finale.