BY AARON BLOCK
[At the end of each month, Aaron surveys the comics he read, celebrates the best, considers the rest, and takes stock of what it means to be a contemporary comic fan.]
Note: this month’s Pull List is mondo-big, so it’ll be broken up into three pieces. Here’s the first part.
Back in March when I first wrote about Xombi, I noted that the title’s future was uncertain at best, given the state of the market and the limited readership for an oddball sci-fi/adventure title. Six months later, it turns out my suspicions were correct—Xombi #6 marks the end of the series. I’ll always want more, but if Xombi has to end, I’m glad it ended like this.
Writer John Rozum gives all of the major characters their spotlight moment in the final battle against Finch; Catholic Girl fights off a squad of flying monocular robots, Nun the Less sabotages the Ninth Stronghold’s defenses, Julian fights off a trio of blood mummies. Naturally, David and Annie get the most glory as they outsmart Finch (thanks in part to a literal pearl of wisdom – Rozum clearly enjoys working wordplay into the fabric of his story’s world) and restore the stronghold to its original state. Rozum brings the various plot threads together neatly, which wouldn’t be much of an accomplishment for a six-issue series, except that every one has been packed with characters and concepts. Rozum can’t help himself even in the final issue, introducing monstrous adversaries like the Blood Mummies (female mummies with both internal and external circulatory systems who are covered in silk bandages created by the spiders that constantly patrol their bodies and wield weapons that change based on the phase of the moon) and Dental Phantoms. As much as I’ll miss the characters, I’ll miss Rozum’s wit and inventiveness even more.
That said, the real strength of this issue is not the humor or the resolution of the invasion plot, but rather the completion of David’s emotional arc. When the series began David was struggling with his place in the world, having recently become the Xombi. In issue six, presented with an opportunity to live with a beautiful girl in a perfect world among other people who will age just as slowly as he will, David opts instead to stay on Earth with his friends, to cope with his difference rather than hide from his fate. The sequence is rendered beautifully—artist Frazer Irving again makes use of floating heads for extended dialogue, relying on facial expressions alone to sell Annie’s disappointment and David’s brief moment of doubt before saying goodbye.
Thanks to Irving, Xombi is easily one of the best looking books of the year. His frames glow with otherworldly color, and his framing frequently breaks out of the standard grid approach, appropriate for the rich, unusual world the characters live in. Irving strikes a delicate balance between a kind of cartoonish expressionism and realistic detail, making the wildest of Rozum’s ideas seem plausible. I don’t always need, or even want, my comics to look real, but I enjoy the playful tension in Irving’s possible/impossible approach.
As far as we know, there’s no future for Xombi in the DC relaunch. But given the company’s new interest in non-superhero titles, there’s at least a chance that the publisher will bring Rozum and Irving together again. If not, then at least we have six issues worth of storytelling that was never once missed its mark.