Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Earth X, a Diatribe

I first read Earth X a few years ago.  I was largely unimpressed and decided not to read the sequels: Universe X and Paradise X.  The whole series spans five large trade paper backs and I didn’t want to invest in the story.  For some reason I decided to pick up Earth X again and give it a shot, and this time I was quickly engrossed… or at least interested.

Earth X places the Marvel universe in the unspecified future.  Captain America is an old man fighting a war against a large metaphor.  Reed Richards, devastated over the deaths of his wife and the Human Torch, lives in seclusion in the remains of Dr. Doom’s mostly abandoned fortress.  Wolverine is a fat, lazy slob who refuses to get off the couch.  Peter Parker is much the same.  In this future, familiar super-heroes are supplanted by a new breed of humanity: everyone has super powers.

In the midst of this, the Watcher pulls the cyborg X-51 to the moon and names him the new Watcher.  The world is ending and the Watcher wants X-51 to tell him everything that’s happening, as the Watcher has been blinded.  There’s also a time machine and about a million side-plots.  And dinosaurs.

The bulk of Earth X is told in a somewhat passive voice through conversation between X-51 and the Watcher.  The Reader sees different events happening on earth, but immersion is mostly omitted, ironically forcing the Reader to take part as a watcher.  Inserted throughout the trade paperback is various info-dumps that basically serve to fill in the Reader on more information about what exactly is going on.  These info-dumps are yawn-inducing at best, largely unimportant and extremely uninteresting.  They’re kind of like deleted scenes on a DVD.

This time around I still felt that Earth X was a bit heavy handed and too philosophical for its own good, but the story was somewhat entertaining.  When I finished the introductory issue I happily picked up the first volume of Universe X to see where the story was heading.  Not where I thought, which was a good thing, but the story turned more ridiculous as the pages depleted.  By the conclusion of Universe X Volume 2 I was ready to quit again, but I hung in there, hoping the concluding volumes would be okay.

Halfway through Volume One of Paradise X I gave up the ghost and quit.  The groans were too loud for me to continue.  I developed a tic and a severe allergy to the Marvel Universe.  I was no longer at all interested.  I flipped through the rest of Volume I and did the same for Volume II, skimming over the artwork and totally ignoring the text.  There were a few cool-looking scenes, and if I could somehow read the comic without the words I might continue, but I could not, and I just didn’t have it in me to start again. 

Maybe I’m just the wrong audience for this kind of mega-comic.  I’ve been a lifelong comic book reader, a lifelong fan of Marvel (albeit niched to really only just Spider-Man and the X-Men for most of my growing years), and I’ve even been known to enjoy an occasional philosophical tangent for no other reason than to wander down different avenues of thought.  But the Earth X saga failed (twice) to live up to expectation.  The writing was terrible and the plot was such a mess that meaning was lost in untranslated psychobabble.  Joss Whedon wrote the introduction for Earth X, praising the series as innovative and entertaining.  I disagree with Mr. Whedon here.  It may have been innovative when it was written, but I cannot imagine it ever being entertaining.

All in all I really cannot recommend the five-volume saga of Earth X.  There were plenty of people who enjoyed it, but count me out on this one.  Sorry.