Fantomex MAX is certainly a departure from the other stories in the Marvel MAX line. Fury MAX is a gritty, realistic, gory, unapologetic war story, and Wolverine MAX is a very character driven drama that sort of acts as a ‘what if Wolverine was a real person’ story, but Fantomex MAX is none of those things. Instead, it skews away from the real and the gritty, and seems to reach for over-the-top, sci-fi, B-movie motifs. The humor is very tongue in cheek, and the characters are very exaggerated. If you bought this book for the same reasons that I did (to see a Fantomex spy-thriller that’s heavy on the intrigue and charm) then you might be disappointed.
That’s not to say that this title is a bad read. Far from it, actually. The book is fun for its own reasons, not the least of which is its over-the-top wacky gore. It’s very similar to a lot of the Deadpool books out there in that it doesn’t take itself too seriously (it actually goes out of its way to make sure it doesn’t take itself seriously) but still maintains a consistent tone, though the tone is hard to describe. It’s definitely not politically correct, or subtle. It has elements from hard-boiled detective fiction, early sci-fi, and E.C. Comics-era horror. It’s The Cabin in the Woods of comics in that it works fine as its own book, but readers will likely get much more out of it if they’ve been involved in the culture for a while.
Going into this book cold, the thing I was most curious about was how the writer was going to treat E.V.A., Fantomex’s living spaceship. I have to say that Hope’s treatment of the character was really jarring. E.V.A. in the comics doesn’t really have a developed character. She doesn’t speak much and when she does it’s not with a lot of personality. In Fantomex MAX she’s very boldly sexualized and petty. She nags Fantomex constantly which serves to masculinize Fantomex but also makes the book a bit misogynistic.
The treatment of Fanotmex’s character is strange as well. In mainstream books he’s suave, mysterious, and always off doing cool-guy things. In MAX, he’s much more rough and roguish. The word “cad” comes to mind. Part of this could be the fact that he takes center stage in this book, and it’s hard to be mysterious when you’re the book’s front man, but much of it comes from his crass dialogue and interactions with E.V.A.
In closing, Fantomex MAX isn’t a bad book, but it falls short of the potential for what a mature Fantomex book could be. Hope takes advantage of the ability to use curse words, but not in a way that enhances the book at all. Crystal’s art is on point. It’s well suited for this kind of story, and he pulls off the disembowelments and decapitations beautifully.
Andrew Hope (W), Shawn Crystal (A) ・Marvel Comics, $3.99, October 2, 2013