Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Mister X: Razed by Dean Motter

I've never been quite clear on the point of Mister X. The title character isn't all that central -- he was one of the main architects of Radiant City, however many years ago [1], but he tends to drift around the edges of stories. I half-suspect it's just an excuse for Dean Motter to have an endless stream of somewhat noirish stories in a mid-century Modern style with lots of cool architecture in the background.

Not that those things aren't fun, obviously. But the focus has seemed to be more on the city than the man -- though I admit I only dip in and out of Mister X at long intervals.

And I dipped back in recently for Mister X: Razed, written and drawn entirely by Motter (the old Mister X stories from the '80s were drawn by other people, and he's had other collaborators along the way, I think). It collects a miniseries and some short stories from the last couple of years, but it doesn't tell a single story.

There are a couple of through-lines: two girlfriends of Mister X (more or less, past and current), a shopgirl and a reporter, in their various daily lives and investigations; a robot private detective on his own cases; a skyscraper that disappeared mysteriously. There are two longer plotlines, and a number of short stories loosely related, all assembled here. Mister X drifts through many of them, but, again, he's not usually central -- he's an observer and a catalyst, maybe the ultimate creator, but not the central actor.

And it's all vaguely noirish without having the essential noir downbeat endings and vengeful, moralistic universe -- noir as attitude and style rather than substance. (At least for our main characters: they all make it through everything unscathed.) Now, noir taken pure gets pretty depressing, so that's maybe not a bad thing, but choosing style over substance too often leaves you with no substance and only a pretty glittering facade.

Mister X isn't that far along: there's still plenty of bite here. I hope Motter continues to keep those impulses towards pure style in check, and lets some noir consequences free in his dark world. And I do wonder if there are any answers to the core questions of the Mister X stories -- who he really is, how the city works, how it can all be fixed -- somewhere in the Mister X stuff I haven't read, or if that has to stay unfinished so Motter can keep telling more stories like these.

[1] And the timeline never entirely made sense to me. This city doesn't feel like a new place, but the people who built it are still alive?

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