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Out of the Ashes

I’m back. Took a mini-vacation during the spring and summer term break, cause I really needed it. Spent a lot of that time compiling super geeky fan-vids. I would link to them, but I’m too embarrassed. I’d rather leave them to the seeming anonymity of random youtubers. I’ll give you a few hints though – they feature X-Men characters and romantic relationships.

But here I am, with full intentions to post new-ish content. You can start to rejoice immediately.

I’ll review “new” books again, I promise. Today, I feel like kicking back and showing some love to a TPB that I’ve read more than once. This is a book that I own, and am proud to have as part of my collection. I swear, this has absolutely nothing to do with my fanvids. *knowing wink*

Here we are now: Phoenix Endsong.

Dan gave this to me for my birthday last year. I have a feeling this book was relatively unknown to me until I started searching for phoenix tattoo designs. You simply cannot google the words “phoenix” and “jean grey” without hitting on an image from this absolutely, insanely GORGEOUS book.

If you haven’t read this, you should. I wouldn’t suggest it for anyone new to the X-Universe, because it’s laden with references to previous incarnations of The Phoenix and her relationships. It’s also closely following the Grant Morrison New X-Men run, which is not my personal favorite. Not as great as everyone says, to my knowledge. Bringing in the Ice Queen as a main character and eliminating Gambit and Rogue will never win me over as a fan. I dig the realistic approach to the series, but I get tired of…revamps to these characters. Reboots to the X-Men team. These folks already have 10 different realities. Difficult to keep their stories and lives straight…with years and years of history to account for. I understand the concepts behind reboots, but…ok…I am yammering now.

Anywho – the story behind why these characters are together, and who some of them are was not immediately clear to me, and probably wouldn’t be to the first time reader, either. But the beauty (oh, and there is a lot of beauty) of the book, is if you have even a functional knowledge of  the Jean Grey/Phoenix mythology, you can love and mostly understand this book. I chose to ignore Quentin Quire and the Stepford Cuckoos. And Emma Frost and Cyclops mackin’ on one another. Too creepy. *shudder* I don’t dig that shite in any timeline.

Right – but Phoenix Endsong, despite mucking about in some version of the X-Men reality I don’t particularly care for – is a stand alone (for the purpose of the love of this book, I’m ignoring Phoenix Warsong). You can read it, and enjoy it, and it doesn’t try to completely alter the direction of any series. No veiled criticism there – I promise. 🙂

The writing is kept minimal, yet effective and we have Greg Pak to thank for that. He is kind and generous enough to let the writing and imagery co-mingle together and enhance one another. I would say the image frequently surpasses the writing. Good lord there are some stunning panels in this book. I sometimes open it up and just page through it for the visuals. All that credit goes to Greg Land .

I just discovered via the lovely tangles of the interweb, that Land has been accused of directly tracing certain poses from photos that he used for “reference.” There are a few examples I found through some light scouting…and some pretty severe net charges of plagiarism and foul play. Just google “Greg Land” and “trace” to see for yourself.

Maybe it’s just me…but I’ve seen enough shitty comic book art, to not complain much when something looks pretty. The anger is that he is “stealing” the art work of others  – yes, those poor starving playboy photographers. The examples did not show much of his work being stolen from other comic book artists, just that he “reuses” some poses from his own work, and makes the characters look like porn stars and/or celebrities. Personally, I don’t see what’s wrong with that. I’ve seen Jim Lee drawings of Gambit that totally made him look like Jean Claude Van Damme but nobody cried foul in the 90’s. Probably because it was harder to compare images back then. Ah, the wonders of Google image search.

My argument: popular/mainstream comic books make everyone look like supermodels and porn stars. Especially women. I read somewhere that comic books are porn for pre-teens. And that is surely the case. I think lately there’s been a trend away from that, but let’s not forget the root of all superheroes: spandex/latex and bulging parts. Comics are largely about the glory and beauty of the human body.

Granted – some of the examples used to out Land as a tracer are pretty convincingly not original. But…if these same folks put the effort into digging through the entire pantheon of comic-dom, I’m sure they would find artists reusing poses and drawing their characters to look like celebrities, or even like one another. Again, let me reference Jim Lee. All his men and women pretty much looked the same to me. *shrug* And his version of Rogue could have doubled as Dolly Parton on more than one occasion.

As someone who has read and re-read Phoenix Endsong, I can’t say that I found a lot of inconsistencies with how the characters were drawn. If Land was tracing or light-boxing as some have proposed, he would have done that with the entire book. It also doesn’t work because the scenery he draws is incredibly gorgeous as well. If he really sucked so badly at drawing, and could ONLY trace, it would be pretty obvious. It just doesn’t look like the hand of a serial tracer to me. And the idea that someone would expend all that time and energy in tracing…it would probably be more time consuming than free-handing an original, having to fit a traced image into a scene. Especially for a character who appears multiple times in the same book.

I think it’s a lot of over-blown geek sniping. It’s especially telling when most of the people freaking out are “poor starving artists” trying to break into comics themselves.

One other beef…some of these characters – like Spiderman, Thor, Captain America, and Scarlet Witch are over 50 years old. If you’ve seen them in one pose, you’ve seen them in a dozen just like it. Spiderman swinging on his web-vine…Oooh, that’s original.

Also – if particular artists reuse poses and facial expressions and lines and movements…I think that’s called a style.

I like Greg Land’s style. It’s emotional and dramatic. The comic book characters look like real people, with dynamic facial expressions. It’s attention grabbing, and worked perfectly for the Endsong story – which is basically comparable to an opera or a piece of theatre or even cinema.

Sooo – now I’m a little bummed out that this artist is called a plagiarist, because I had been thinking about reading more books he’s drawn (ahem, traced). I’m still a bit skeptical about all that…

Anyways – Endsong is an enjoyable chapter in the on-going Phoenix saga. Even if you don’t want to drop the dough on it, check it out from the library or borrow a copy from a friend.

I might even loan you mine. Maybe.

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About tinyheroes

Mindy Crouchley is a 33 year old woman with a degree in English and Technical Writing from Portland State University. She has accumulated three+ years experience in the Marketing and Communications field - with an emphasis on creating digital media content. She has been reading comic books since she was 10 years old. She currently lives in outer southeast Portland with her spouse Dan Robertson, her baby girl, and their dog - Jabba the pug. She spends her free time devouring books, crafting cosplay, video gaming, attending comic cons, writing stories/screenplays, attending book to film adaptation club meetings, volunteering, and watching copious amounts of TV and movies.

One response to “Out of the Ashes”

  1. Hisham says :

    Thank for the recommendation. It’s a much better sendoff for Jean Grey than what was provided for her in the regular series.

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