Sep 16, 2015

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 204: X-Calibre #4, June 1995


On the list of rotten things that happen to characters in Warren Ellis comics, having the Shadow King make Mystique simultaneously shift into every form she's ever held has got to be amongst the most awful. Not that anyone else in this comic gets treated much better than this. Ellis does here, to the nth degree, what he's really good at: torturing characters and destroying happiness. My understanding, from those who've met him, is that in person he's a lovely, unassuming gentleman. In his fictions he's anything but, and that's honestly one of the reasons I sometimes have trouble starting up one of his series, be it one I've read or one that's new. Something unimaginably awful is going to happen to one of the characters in that series, and it's not always going to be to the character who deserves (if such a thing can be deserved) it.

Now, this said, let's also bear in mind that, in this case at least, he's dealing with superhumans, these paragons of virtue or decadence, these myths encased in comic book flesh. And the things these characters do, be they virtuous deeds or heinous crimes, are often so far beyond the realm of normal human experience that we can't always be surprised when the tortures and misfortunes that befall them are also of that ilk. And this is something that I think Ellis understands very well, along similar, though in many ways opposite, lines as the mythic hero theory of Grant Morrison. Where Morrison might place the characters in situations that can only be overcome by the deployment of mythic forces, physical or mental, and these tasks prove the heroes worthy of their god-like status, Ellis is more likely to demonstrate the sorts of tortures these kinds of characters can endure and still retain a modicum of their sanity and drive. Sometimes a very small modicum.

Still and all, I would hate to be written by Warren Ellis. It'd be nice to have such snappy dialogue, but I couldn't leave the house for fear of being eaten by rabid squirrels over the course of 10 hours or something. And on that lovely note, I'll see you tomorrow.

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