By Fred Van Lente (Writer) and Dennis Calero (Artist)

Some Thoughts Before The Review: I am not exactly sure what to expect from X-Men: Noir. The teaser images grabbed my attention and the premise is filled with promise, but it all comes down to execution. I believe Fred Van Lente and Dennis Calero can pull the series off successfully from a creative standpoint. The real question is whether or not they can make each individual issue feel satisfying enough to overcome the negatives associated with a $3.99 price tag.

The Story: X-Men: Noir #1 is all about setting up the tone and direction of a new version of the Marvel Universe. Noir begins, like many noir tales do, with the rather grisly death of a young woman. Her name is Jean Grey and she was a member of the X-Men, a group of sociopaths operating throughout the town without the guidance of their mentor, Charles Xavier. The case leads the detectives working on it to encounter a number of the colorful characters living and operating in the city.

What’s Good: The creative team does a good job of crafting a world that fans of both the X-Men and the genre should enjoy spending time in. The snappy dialogue and moody artwork goes a long way toward capturing what it is that makes the noir genre so appealing. Also, it is a lot of fun seeing the card dealer Remy Le Beau, the Brotherhood operating under the chief of police, and many familiar faces throughout the book.

What’s Not So Good: It is never a good sign when the debut of a new series makes me instantly think about trade-waiting. While the Noir #1 handles the world quite well, the story lacks any sort of punch or urgency that would keep me interested in picking the series up. I understand that is a key component of noir in general, but it doesn’t change the fact it makes for a frustrating and unsatisfying way to spend almost four bucks. The various pieces used in the story are interesting, as mentioned above; but they aren’t really doing anything of particular interest. In other words, there are a few of good ideas but I need more then that to justify the price it costs to follow the series.

On top of the story complaint, I also want to mention how frustrating Dennis Calero’s Greg Land-styled artwork is. The obvious use of certain celebrities I can deal with. What I can’t deal with is how he constantly reuses certain images over and over. Also, it is sometimes difficult to tell characters apart– the dark colors do little to help anything in that regard. While it captures the mood well enough, it doesn’t do the reader any favors whatsoever.

Conclusion: X-Men: Noir #1 is ultimately a frustrating and unsatisfying start to a series that is saddled with an unfortunate cover price. While I hate to come down so hard on something that feels quite fresh, it didn’t succeed in selling me a story or visuals that I can feel comfortable investing in. Give it a shot if you must, but don’t expect to get too much out of it.

Grade: C-

-Kyle Posluszny