by Andrew Hope (Writer), Shawn Crystal (Artist), Lee Loughridge (Colorist)

The Story
: Fantomex makes a lot of trouble, which means some people have to stop him at all cost.

The Review
: The Max impring of Marvel comics is a bit of an interesting conundrum. Having seen some very potent work from authors like Garth Ennis, it allowed authors to tell story featuring materials that weren’t necessarily suited for massive audiences. Series like Punisher Max and Fury Max got out, dealing with a lot of harsh subjects of life throughout the explosive violence and the huge number of swear words. However, not all series managed to have the same complex views on mature subjects, as some saw the possibility of mature subjects as an excuse to be as nonchalantly violent and shocking as possible. With Fantomex getting the Max treatment, on which side of the fence does his series is sitting currently?

It is to my utter disappointment to see that the latter seems to be much closer to the reality presented by this series than the former, as the first issue of Fantomex Max reads much more like a series trying to pass itself as being mature than being actually relevant with whichever themes it’s trying to present.

One of the most obvious aspects that shows how much the author is striving for the ”mature” audience would be the over-reliance of swear words by the vast majority of its cast, as there is not a single page where profanities aren’t used at least once. The constant cursing isn’t exactly the worst part of the problem, though, as the dialogue is clumsy at best, with constant expositions ungracefully thrown at the readers constantly and several lines that truly do lack in subtlety.

What is also a mess is the characterization of most of the characters presented here, who comes as either heavy-handed or simply are one-note. The Grover Lane team, when shown, is simply basking in its evil intentions and methods, which really do make them rather laughable as antagonists, yet not in a good way. They don’t seem to have much personalities, as they are presented with nothing but basic traits and appearances, with nothing more to make the readers interested in who they are and what they do. They are evil and that’s pretty much it.

The pacing of the story seems to be a bit off as well, as the story moves too quickly in some aspects, while it goes much too slowly with others. The introduction to the Grover Lane team is rather lengthy without amounting to much beside setting antagonists, while the mystery of what Fantomex is doing doesn’t seem to receive much panels as agent Flemyng and Grover Lane.

Another problem with the book seems to be the lack of clear, or at least strong direction for the book to begin with. While the fact that a violent team of government agents is gunning for Fantomex is actually an idea for a direction, it’s not a particularly strong one. It doesn’t really play with the intricacies of the character, his origin or even with what makes him a rather engaging one. It merely plays on the fact that he is a thief for entertainment purposes, which is only a single aspect of a much more complex whole.

Perhaps the stronger aspects of this issue is Fantomex itself, who seems to be handled with the weirdness and the charm he is usually written with. His dialogue is written with the eloquence and charm he usually displays, the way he does things is shown rightly and the mystery behind him is conserved, which is a nice bonus for a series based on him.

Another saving grace, though not an especially strong one, is the art by Shawn Crystal. The semi-cartoonish and some of the elongated and hyperbolized traits are a nice touch, allowing the issue to have an identity of its own through the art if not with some of the story elements. While the panelling isn’t as nice, there are enough intricacies filling them that the pages are interesting nonetheless, with the use of white space in some pages that do make some of the weirder objects pop out of the pages. What is also apparent is the way the characters are drawn, with their poses being done well-enough, but there is a single weakness with how their emotions are represented. Simply put, the range of emotions isn’t that great, with anger, confusion and other such reactions being those shown mostly on the page. The art is solid enough, yet it could have been a bit better.

The colorization is the same in that regard, as Lee Loughridge doesn’t seem to have much diversity in some key moments. There are some nice touches, like the color dots in some pages that are reminiscent of comics from older times, yet it doesn’t save the issue from the fact that are a bit overbearing with their heavy use of the same colorization over and over. Loughridge do try to make uses of contrasts here and there, yet the heavy use of deep blue, white, brown and orange doesn’t really do much to help the visuals presented by Shawn Crystal.

The Conclusion: Suggesting a mature story rather than telling one, the heavy use of swearing and violence doesn’t do much for this issue as the lack of direction and the unsubtle methods of Andrew Hope aren’t really helped by the adequate, yet not particularly brilliant work of Lee Loughridge and Shawn Crystal. Not recommended.

Grade: C-

Hugo Robberts Larivière