Sunday, June 16, 2013

Marvel Mangaverse Vol. 4 – X-Men: Ronin

Title: Marvel Mangaverse Vol. 4 – X-Men: Ronin

ISBN: 0785111158
Price: $13.99
Publisher/Year: Marvel, 2003
Artist: Makoto Nakatsuka, Hiromi Nakatsuka
Writer: J. Torres
Collects: X-Men: Ronin #1–5

Rating: 2/5

The Hellfire Club, aka the yakuza or something, want to recruit Jean Grey [the slutty redhead as seen above] to their organization of evil. The X-Men intervene and save Jean from certain death. Emma Frost, the evil slutty blonde trying to recruit Jean convinces the city that the X-Men are monsters. This sends the city into hysteria so the local police chief starts using human piloted robots to hunt down those damn mutants. Gundams? No, Sentinels. Mansions are blown up, villains are killed, etc. etc. To be honest, the storyline is as if the writer threw a bunch of elements of X-Men in a blender and wrote what resulted from that blender.

The crappy artwork itself is just only a minor thing in a long list of complaints that can be leveled against this book. But we'll start off with the obvious, which is of course the artwork. Let's get one thing straight here people. Manga, basically evolved to look like the shittiest form of art possible because the artists are expected to turnout several hundred pages of this stuff per week. Not because it's supposed to represent a culture, not because it's somehow "cool" or "artsy". It's just mass produced tripe that Japanese artists churn out to grace the weekly magazines for people to read on the daily two hour train ride to school and work in Tokyo. At least most of it is, as there are always a few gems to be found. Sadly X-Men Ronin is not one of them. Oh sure, it's got the gratuitous cleavage and borderline pedophilic material to make it look like a manga. It has no sense of human proportion. It's got the ol' "saucer-eyes" look. But compared to the standards of what makes manga bad, even this is below those standards.

This book was obviously not written by somebody who writes for comics! The writing actually comes off more as if it were written by one of those aforementioned otaku that like to write yaoi (slash fiction) based on their favorite anime shows and was picked off of FanFiction.net by Marvel for sounding "really Japanesey". It physically hurts me whenever I have to read through the poor dialogue and the the insistence of making everything sound like if it came off of some ninja movie. In fact, by the end of the series, it all just turns into Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but with people with special powers and a guy with a really long tongue in the role of Splinter in place of anthropomorphic turtles and rats. The X-Men as a "masterless clan" who fight for the "honor" of all mutants? WTF indeed.

The only thing that could save this comic now would be for one of them to sprout tentacles and you know...

The characters seen in X-Men Ronin are not similar to the X-Men heroes and villains in any way, shape or form. Often, characters will switch personality, power, gender, or moral compass for little to no reason. If you're doing an X-Men story, you do not make Toad an old Japanese sensei who guides the young X-Men. Toad is a sycophantic lackey, not a wise old man with a long tongue. That's certainly not the only massive character change, though; for example, take Emma Frost's henchmen, Iceman, Pyro and Colossus. Iceman and Colossus are obviously out of place because they've never been shown as evil, except that shit storyline in the 90's where Colossus joined Magneto for some poorly explained reason. Not only that, Iceman looks like the bastard child of Jack Frost and Colossus doesn't even have metal skin - from the art it appears his skin becomes rock upon transformation. I want Colossus, not the Thing! And Pyro is still somehow the strangest departure of all - first of all, Pyro's British instead of Australian, and most importantly, Pyro's now a girl. Because scantily clad Jean Grey, Storm, Emma Frost and Tessa weren't enough! They needed a female Human Torch in a leather bra! Oh, and, the best for last: Xavier is evil.

You could certainly take my complaints of character differences as nothing more than fanboy bitching, but my opinion of it is that if you're going to make an X-Men story, why bother making one if you're not going to use anything resembling the characters? For several of them, the only similarity they have with the original are the powerset, and even then that's dicey. None of the characters in their manga forms display any bit of personality, old or new. Storm and Jean are in this solely to draw in the sex offenders crowd; Cyclops is a case of 'nice house, but nobody's home'. Toad is Master Splinter. In fact, the only person who shows even a bit of personality not from the 'manga stock personalities' is Wolverine, and even then, how hard is it to write Wolverine? All you need to do is have him pop his claws a few times, say "bub" and be a dick to Cyclops.

Some of the costumes are stupid. Okay, that's not accurate - all of the costumes are stupid. The worst offender would have to be Cyclops. The real Cyclops hasn't had much luck in terms of costumes - from his original blue and yellow togs to his Jim Lee costume that contained too many Goddamn pouches that never seemed to hold anything. He's never had a very good costume. But compared to his costume in X-Men Ronin, his blue and yellow condom outfit from the Kirby days looks good.  He's wearing red blocky armor with a laser pointer helmet. How much lamer can you get?

Okay...no.

Is this worthy X-Men material?

X-Men stories, well, the good ones at least, are about persecution and hatred against outsiders. This story does indeed portray the pseudo X-Men as outsiders, but does not adequately display the message of the X-Men. The X-Men at best serve as characters relatable to minorities, whether black or Latino or gay, or just people who don't 'fit in' and are treated poorly as a result of it. Ronin sort of does that, but it's completely uninspired. It's nothing more than cookie cutter X-fare with manga storytelling. The bizarre amalgam of X-Men characters and stock manga characters make much of it feel unfamiliar other than the 'yes, people dislike mutants'. Plus, there's no Magneto. You can't have the X-Men without Magneto! But then again, considering how they fucked up everything with these characters, maybe that's a good thing.

Is this worthy Manga material?

One thing that this series takes seriously is trying to make itself as mangafied as possible. Even the Sentinels are no longer just plain giant robots. They've become stock manga piloted mechs. But this is where we enter into the eternal debate about just what makes something manga. It's been agreed that everything that comes directly out of Japan can be classified as "manga", while everything else that adheres to the style, but is not produced in Japan is "manga-esque". I guess Marvel knew this, so that's why they went so far as to hiring a Japanese manga artist to do the artwork. But this does not make it manga. In fact, I don't even know what Marvel was thinking about when they decided to go with their Mangaverse line of mangafied comics. This obviously will not sell in Japan and the manga reading public in the U.S. is normally not into super-hero type comics or even any type of western style types of comics or storytelling for that matter. This is really just an attempt to cash in on the lucrative "otaku" fanbase market in America. I think Marvel should be smart enough not to follow in the steps of Todd McFarlane. He was the first one to whore out to the "mangawave" style of comics, and look where most of his stuff ends up in now. That's right. In the quarter bin in the back of your local comic book dealer.

A bizarre mishmash of X-Men and manga, the miniseries is unlikely to satisfy the X-Men fan or the manga fan. Read only if you're a diehard X-Men fan who needs to read every story.

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