So David’s poor fiancée never gets a single line. She never even gets to mention he looks twenty-five years younger than the last time she saw him.
Rozum’s not just shortening the series this issue; double-sized or not, he’s hurrying up the storyline. At one point he inexplicably shifts perspective in a way to trick the reader. In addition to creating some tension, he’s also able to hurry things along a great deal.
The beginning of the issue, with David and the Rabbi journeying through the paranormal world (paranormal is what Rozum decides on to call all the magic and supernatural stuff), is lovely. There’s a lot of great details; one wishes Rozum could take the time. A series called Xombi seems the wrong place.
For the last few pages, Rozum returns to his superior first-person narration from David and fakes a satisfying finish to the series.
Hidden Cities, Part Five: Elsewhere; writer, John Rozum; artist, J.J. Birch; colorist, Noelle C. Giddings; letterer, Agnes Pinaha; editor, Jaqueline Ching; publisher, Milestone.
Maybe Rozum should have just written a novel. This issue has David meeting his essentially immortal future love—they won’t get together for eighty years, which is then the lifespan of the series’s potential present action—and the Rabbi going around her castle seeing a bunch of funny supernatural people.
Rozum has names for everything and everyone, but he never comes up with a good term for the goofy, sometimes creepy inhabitants of Xombi. It’s unfortunate.
It’s also unfortunate he spent most of this arc on David’s future love interest. She’s out of the book now (for eighty years) so why waste three of the five last issues on her?
The book’s imminent cancellation is briefly discussed on the letters page, so clearly, Rozum could have made a move to not waste issues until the series was on safer ground.
Anyway, the issue’s is as competent and troubled as always.
Hidden Cities, Part Four: Transient Smoke; writer, John Rozum; artist, J.J. Birch; colorist, Noelle C. Giddings; letterer, Agnes Pinaha; editor, Jaqueline Ching; publisher, Milestone.
Talk about padding. Before I forget, the fiancée does come up again for a brief mention. No appearance, but a mention.
The issue itself is David and the Rabbi going through some more strange stuff and then waiting for this ancient, immortal woman. It turns out she’s David’s soulmate or something, but he doesn’t know it yet and she isn’t sure she’s going to tell him. Rozum’s dragging this meeting out—the issue ends on the softest of cliffhangers, David being brought to see her.
There’s action, at least the implication of it, elsewhere though. These super bad guys—bogeymen dread, which sounds too Judge Dredd to me—have escaped. One would think they would be the villains in the story arc, but it doesn’t seem likely. Instead, the villain is Rozum.
He can’t get around to doing anything. His details are neat but inessential.
But nothing in Xombi’s essential.
Hidden Cities, Part Three: City in the Clouds; writer, John Rozum; artist, J.J. Birch; colorist, Noelle C. Giddings; letterer, Agnes Pinaha; editor, Jaqueline Ching; publisher, Milestone.
This issue, concentrating on the second xombi, is pretty good. Rozum always does well with these done-in-ones and this issue, though it’s part of a bigger story (there’s some subplot brewing going on too), is basically one of those issues.
David and his problems are barely mentioned (everyone has seemingly forgotten the fiancée… it’s amazing what an editor can do).
Rozum makes the other xombi’s story something of an African fable. It doesn’t quite fit the rules he set up last issue in regards to the differences between a zombie and a xombi, but it’s not the undead flesh-eating type so I guess it earns the “x.”
It’s hard to feel much about the issue because of David’s non-role. Not even the Rabbi gets a big part. In fact, some new threat gets a bigger role than either of the regulars.
Those emphases are Rozum’s problem.
Hidden Cities, Part Two: The Serpent’s Tale; writer, John Rozum; artist, J.J. Birch; colorist, Noelle C. Giddings; letterer, Agnes Pinaha; editor, Jaqueline Ching; publisher, Milestone.
After what seems like his editorially mandated guest star issues… Rozum gets Xombi back on track. This issue continues directly from what Rozum promised three issues ago—David gets to find out about the strange world he lives in.
It doesn’t open with him, however. Instead, it opens with the reader finding out David is going to destroy the world. Someday.
When he does show up, his friend the Rabbi takes him on a tour of the supernatural in the city. There’s a lot of creepy, disturbing stuff, but Rozum gets to the point at the very end of the issue. He breaks down the difference between a zombie and a xombi. It’s sixteen issues late, but it’s a welcome acknowledgment before the soft cliffhanger.
Birch is getting sloppy here. David doesn’t look the same from panel to panel, but Birch’s composition is still strong.
It’s decent, but too slight.
Hidden Cities, Part One: Prophecies; writer, John Rozum; artist, J.J. Birch; colorist, Noelle C. Giddings; letterer, Agnes Pinaha; editor, Jaqueline Ching; publisher, Milestone.
Okay, by not reading the cover, I missed knowing the giant rat—Boogieman—was guest-starring from one of the Milestone superhero books. It looks like this issue is where Rozum had to bring in guest stars to try and up the sales on Xombi. There’s some other character in it too, some flying chick with a bad attitude who Xombi had a crossover with at some point (I think at the zero issue—Rozum makes a comment about the timing).
It’s a solid enough action issue. Not much magic. There’s some really funny dialogue from the Nun, who fights better than David, and again his particular powers are not in display. He’s just an adventurer. Maybe Milestone was trying to cut back on him losing limbs every issue. You know, for the kids.
Rozum has some really touching moments with the supporting cast; clipped or not, he’s writing well.
Descent; writer, John Rozum; artist, J.J. Birch; colorist, Noelle C. Giddings; letterer, Agnes Pinaha; editors, Jaqueline Ching and Dwayne McDuffie; publisher, Milestone.
Yeah, Xombi’s definitely taken a change in direction. This issue, Rozum brings back some barely relevant monsters and makes them attack the population. Can David and his friends stop them? Who knows, there’s a cliffhanger first—this issue makes the third where David’s powers don’t make a significant appearance.
Neither does his fiancée. No mention either, which means she’s not even on par with Maris from “Fraiser.”
It’s a good issue, no doubt. Very brisk, intelligently written—lots of pop culture bickering between David and his friends, who still don’t seem to notice he appears much younger.
Rozum comes up with some amusing new characters, like a human-sized rat who leads all the other rats. But there’s a certain enthusiasm gone.
Rozum was trying something with all that complicated supernatural mythology stuff. Giant rats and nasty monsters… he’s just trying to be palatable.
So, while good, it’s apparently compromised.
False Future; writer, John Rozum; artist, J.J. Birch; colorists, Micheline Hess, Jason Scott Jones and David Montoya; letterer, Agnes Pinaha; editors, Jaqueline Ching and Dwayne McDuffie; publisher, Milestone.
I think I just hit the point in Xombi’s publication history when it got an editorial mandate. This issue does not contain the story promised at the end of the last issue. It does not feature David’s fiancée returning. It does not even mention her.
Instead, David’s hanging out with his nanotechnology expert friend. He’s helping her get ready for a science pavilion (it sounds like a World’s Fair type event) and some ancient computer wakes up and wants to get plugged in to the Internet and is going to suffocate them if they don’t help it.
Rozum doesn’t even explore if David can suffocate or not. The story’s just a nice done-in-one with them figuring out how to solve the problem. Rozum gets in a great 2001 reference as a laugh.
While it might be a bad sign for the series, it’s also a well-written comic.
The Soul If an Old Machine; writer, John Rozum; artist, J.J. Birch; colorist, Noelle C. Giddings; letterer, Agnes Pinaha; editor, Dwayne McDuffie; publisher, Milestone.
I think this issue is Rozum’s best on Xombi, but it’s hard to say. It’s so unrelentingly, hostilely downbeat, it’s difficult to fully appreciate it.
The issue’s not about David. He appears at the bookends, consulting the Rabbi as to how to inform his fiancée about his… lifestyle change. The Rabbi tells David about his own experience, when his wife discovered the supernatural and the Rabbi’s place in that world.
The bulk of the issue is set in the 1930s, which is a far more interesting setting than the modern Milestone universe. There’s one plus. The second is Rozum’s attention to how he’s pacing this story and the perspective. It’s the Rabbi telling the story, but it’s really his wife’s story. Rozum does a great job with it along those lines.
It’s the first scary issue of Xombi. For all the supernatural stuff, there hasn’t been real peril.
The Nature Of The Beast – A Prologue; writer, John Rozum; artist, J.J. Birch; colorist, Noelle C. Giddings; letterer, Agnes Pinaha; editor, Dwayne McDuffie; publisher, Milestone.
Rozum brings in David’s fiancée here—though only on the phone—but he doesn’t really need her. The issue, written from David’s perspective (which is good as it was the last time), is more about introducing David’s friends.
His regular friends… who don’t notice he looks twenty years younger.
Birch now draws David like a punk teenager (punk as in punk rock). It’s either an interesting choice or Birch is just rushing. I’m think it’s a little more the latter.
The regular friends are not particularly interesting characters; neither of the two who know David’s condition are impressed. There’s some shock and awe in the dialogue, but it’s muted. It’s like this kind of thing happens all the time.
Finally, David decides he’s going to have to be a freak and hang out with the freaks.
It reads like it should’ve been the second issue.
At least Rozum’s tone’s good.
Consultations; writer, John Rozum; artist, J.J. Birch; colorist, Noelle C. Giddings; letterer, Agnes Pinaha; editor, Dwayne McDuffie; publisher, Milestone.
So the big revelation this issue? David Kim is kind of an angel. The guest-starring angels, off panel, tell him so. And, just as Rozum has pushed the series as far away from tangible reality as possible, the back matter promises to bring it back. Next issue will feature David’s fiancée, who apparently hasn’t missed him in the last two months since he’s been fighting supernatural beasts.
I’ve been reading Xombi ever hopeful; Rozum had an excellent issue and the writing’s always technically good… he just doesn’t have a story. This issue, in terms of continuity, comes right before the zero issue. Maybe the book will have a creative upswing soon.
Notice I haven’t really talked about the content? It’s because there’s very little there. It’s a lot of action with supernatural monsters. Who cares? I miss the bigger—and funnier—supporting cast.
The book’s seriously downbeat now.
School of Anguish, Part Five: Reconfigured Angel!; writer, John Rozum; artist, J.J. Birch; colorist, Noelle C. Giddings; letterer, Agnes Pinaha; editor, Dwayne McDuffie; publisher, Milestone.
Rozum paces the issue somewhat well. He was some twists in the first few pages by the end, I thought they happened last issue as the hard cliffhanger. It lets him utilize a couple different tones to it.
Of course, Birch helps with the tone too. The end becomes this frantic chase sequence, usually comedic; when the issue ends on its own cliffhanger, it’s a surprise. It seemed like Rozum was going to wrap things up.
In fact, resolved events are turned back, left unresolved. Rozum finds a great deus ex machine and he brings it in and… well, maintains the series’s meandering nature.
One interesting thing at the beginning of this issue—Rozum decides it takes place two months after the first issue. One would think David Kim would have a very interesting life in those two months, but apparently not.
Xombi’s a good read… but nothing ever happens.
School of Anguish, Part Four: The Story of ϕ!; writer, John Rozum; artist, J.J. Birch; colorist, Noelle C. Giddings; letterer, Agnes Pinaha; editor, Dwayne McDuffie; publisher, Milestone.
More mentions of Xombi‘s meaning—it’s pronounced zombie, notch—but nothing explaining how David became one (it’s not just a science thing, presumably, but also a magic thing) when he had his science-driven origin. His friends don’t talk much about it either.
Rozum does something very strange here, bringing another of the supporting cast into the issue for what seems to be no reason. Next issue might reveal his reasoning and I hope it does… otherwise, it’s pretty clear he’s padding these issues out.
Birch ends the issue on a rather hideous image. It’s easily the most hideous image in the issue, so it’s good he saved it for the last page.
Otherwise, not much happens. One of the supporting cast is doing magic to save the day. Magic takes a while.
Oh, and there’s an angel guest-starring, so I guess Heaven is in continuity.
It’s competently blah.
School of Anguish, Part Three: The Migration of Forms; writer, John Rozum; artist, J.J. Birch; colorist, Noelle C. Giddings; letterer, Agnes Pinaha; editor, Dwayne McDuffie; publisher, Milestone.
So apparently the title, Xombi, isn’t just a riff on zombie, but some way of describing David Kim. We learn about it from the latest bunch of new characters Rozum adds this issue. I don’t think he goes a single issue without introducing two new characters. Here it might be four.
Again, not much of the comic has really to do with David. He’s again moving through a situation he doesn’t belong in and, with all the new supernatural elements, one wonders if he’s even one of the more interesting characters anymore. The guy with the giant pet lion and the eyes all over his body seems a lot more engaging.
Birch handles all Rozum’s script throws at him—this time it’s a lot more physical than conceptual, but some of the compositions are particularly good. It’s got a real graphic sense to the narrative.
It’s just a tad meandering.
School of Anguish, Part Two: Burning Sensation; writer, John Rozum; artist, J.J. Birch; colorist, Noelle C. Giddings; letterer, Agnes Pinaha; editor, Dwayne McDuffie; publisher, Milestone.