Tuna Sandwiches and Bad Shrimp

Article written by:
Jethro Koon
Author: Jethro Koon


The DC soft reboot marketing machine is rolling out great books (Morrison, JH Williams, Azzarello), potentially great ones (Grifter, JLDark), and horrors (Leifeld, Krul, Suicide Squad). Allow me to—like many others—be sentimental and grieve the old books loss in the shuffle and restructuring like a parent does a child going off to college (or something like that inappropriate American metaphor). Allow me to mourn the loss of Xombi. It never really fit into the Flashpoint crap (nothing really did, of course). It didn't have any of the recognizable superheroes, and was, for all intents, a Vertigo book misplaced onto the DC stable of pastel spandex and Geoff Johns.

He establishes, by the very first page, an atmosphere of shadows, of secrets and odd happenings. By the second page, he injects instant humor in a panel, diffusing pretensions of being an Alan Moore marathon by mention of tuna sandwich. In four panels, he tells us the general theme of the book. This is a horror book that deals with the occult. And right now, things that shouldn't be happening are, all around the world. He does this all without a diarrhea of words.

By the third and fourth pages we get introduced to Julian Parker (who isn't the titular Xombi) and David Kim (who is). Like a group of really cool and eccentric dudes (Trenchcoat Brigade ?), they've noticed the oddness and decide to investigate.


Segueing away from that for a bit, another thing I liked with Rozum's writing is how he effortlessly and confidently throws things at us. Parker has talking coins and Kim can turn crumpled pieces of paper into popcorn. It isn't strangeness for strangeness's sake. It is strangely effective. By showing us these novel abilities, Rozum is drawing us in (or well, it certainly drew me in) at the same time giving exposition to this world's particular mythology by introducing us through the characters. It helps that the ideas, the novelties, are hardy things. Again, it isn't strangeness for strangeness's sake, but genuinely interesting like a Norwegian Ninja. The slight tongue-in-cheek-ness also helps. Note how he (Rozum) later introduces us to supporting characters by way of a bubble in the panel, as if Kim is mentally noting their name and powers. It's a strained and old method, but the possible disgust is held in check by the sheer bravado of their screen names, so to say. 'Catholic Girl', 'Nun of the Above', 'Nun the Less'.

It, on paper, should repulse us, but in the delivery, it comes off as rather adorable. Rozum shows deft control of all the elements he's introducing us. The dialogue flows well, the humor is well-placed, and everything is dealt with in a forward manner, never detaining us with boredom.

In the middle of all this is David Kim, the Xombi. The book is meant to be very reader friendly, explaining the basics quickly and works from that, never boring us with tedious flashback sequences and timey wimey strings of time continuum. David Kim, as we learn, is much older than he looks. He was a medical researcher which in comics is much more exciting than it really is. As is with things, an accident happens and, luckily, some intelligent nanites save him and turn him into the ideal Asian man, sort of a Bruce Lee 2.0, but potentially Korean because America knows all about our unnerving passion for the people from the South of the North and South.

We of course immediately learn that this is backhanded comic fate working its magic. Just like Peter Parker getting powers and then Uncle Ben dying soon after that. Or Johnny Storm expecting to be written back to existence eventually because he's a famous character before remembering Uncle Ben. Here, Kim does live and he's all buff now, but his friend Kelly was 'consumed' by the nanites as raw material to repair the damage on his body. This is laid out within a few pages, showing us Kim's origin story without going on and on, and immediately adding a tragic and macabre element to his character. It's on the opposite end of the decompression spectrum so many comics fall for.

Another positive is Frazer Irving's art. I've been rattling on and on about atmosphere the past few sentences and equal props to Irving is due. Given how I see the story to be set-up as, Irving's art is a better match than anyone else's I'm familiar with. His art is something that's very thematic and moody. He bleeds colour throughout a page, casting the top panels (of that page) magenta, and the bottom panel in rust, with black being the sole constant containing and pervading through everything. It's a very monochromatic look that lends an flick of urbanity (neo-noir, even) to the book, possibly reflecting David Kim's high-tech origins (more future) and how he tells us that he's a magnet of (occult) weirdness (more past). In a very snotty sense, he helps bridge the book from 'just entertainment' to something resembling 'serious art'. At the very least, it manages to enhance the darker than usual tone by distancing it from the rainbows of other books, a distinguishing style.

Huh, what do you mean you've never heard of this book?

Jethro also writes at Adhiakin.


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