Friday, January 8, 2010

Cover Up: X-Men #175

The cover to X-Men #175 has always been a favorite of mine, mostly because it is crazy.

In classic comic book style, there's not an inch that isn't either filled with action or leading the viewer's eye toward it; it's "dynamic" cranked up into the red. The image by artist Paul Smith is a scene that could easily be hobbled by coming across as too crowded or busy, but instead it's filled with a sense of movement and of a dozen things happening at once. Flames roar in the background, concrete is heaving beneath the heroes' feet (emphasizing the tilted perspective and reaffirming the idea of instability), Kirby Crackle swirls through the sky — and that's just the setting.

Every character seems to be in mid-step, bracing for the impact of combat or launching their own attack. Nothing is static, and every pose is different and true to the character. In other words, it's the controlled chaos you should expect from a fight scene.

One way this is revved up is by having everyone use their powers. I have to admit, the fanboy in me loves that. Look at that giant energy claw blasted effortlessly by Phoenix, her sheer power dominating the center of the scene; and look at Colossus, her target and the team's strongman, straining under the assault. Cyclops is blasting from below, Rogue and Storm are airborne, Nightcrawler is teleporting in with his trademark cloud of brimstone, Kitty's phasing and Wolverine has his claws ready. Even Lockheed is there, tiny in comparison to Phoenix and in the context of the scene. The whole thing is bedlam, but it still comes together.

Smith's work — with its clean lines, expressive body language and distinct facial expressions — is something I've always liked, and considering this was the 20th anniversary issue and Smith's last issue on the title, I really get the feeling that he just went for it. What always makes an impression on me, though, is the way Smith never loses sight of the basic elements needed to pull it off successfully.

You wouldn't know it until you read it, but the story itself focuses on Cyclops. And by placing him in the middle of the scene, framed by the rest of the characters, the cover focuses on him, too. It's a credit to Smith that, in spite of the sheer amount of stuff that's going on here, nothing is wasted and nothing is lost.

What do you think of this cover? Let me know in the comments.


Siskoid said...

One of my favorites to, perhaps in part because it was my first issue of Uncanny X-Men.

Yes, lovely (as is the next one over with Cyclops struggling against tentacles under water and blasting the X-Men logo).

Siskoid said...

Ah I knew it! I had this feeling that I'd reviewed the book's innards at some point. And here it is in the middle of Wedding Week: The Rebound Wedding.

Maxo said...

Was that the next issue?! I LOVE that cover! And people can say what they will, but that briefish run of issues focusing on Scott really made me like the character more than I had before (you're completely right when you say in your post, "this issue might change your mind about him" — he's totalling Batmanning in #175).

Did I seriously just use Batman as a verb?

And just out of curiosity, how do you feel about Cyclops nowadays?

Sea-of-Green said...

I so loved Paul Smith on X-men. It wasn't long after he left that I quit the title -- and have yet to look back.

Maxo said...

I can't blame you. I was off-and-on for a while after this period, and was off permanently after the whole Super Magical Gate/non-death/Reavers thing.

Siskoid said...

I haven't really followed X-Men in a long time, but Scott has since returned to the "white bread" characters list for which I feel only great ambivalence.

even when Grant Morrison put him between the sheets with the White Queen, I was quite blasé about it.

Siskoid said...

And I LOVE that Batman is now a verb.

Come on, Webster's! Catch up!