Comics Published on 23 April 2003

Three Strikes #1
Oni Press – Nunzio DeFilippis, Christina Weir (w); Brian Hurtt (a)


I’ve gotta say, I was sorely tempted to just leave the review at that. Frankly, I think it might have made a more profound impact and caused more people to run out and buy the book (which they should) if I had. But I talk a lot, so I decided to go ahead and ramble on about Three Strikes anyway.

Rey Quintana is a product of the inner city who, having been mixed up in some gang-related crimes in his misspent youth, has been trying to get his life back on track. Habitually low on cash due to putting himself through college, Rey makes an unsuccessful attempt to palm some earrings at a jewelry store for his girlfriend’s birthday. His embarrassment is compounded with fear when the prosecutor at his initial hearing announces that he intends to seek to use the state’s “three strikes” law against Rey, increasing a fairly minor sentence to well over twenty years. Feeling he has no other recourse, Rey flees the area in the custody of a friend (who is a genuine criminal).

Noah Conway is a bail bondsman who hates his life. Formerly a police officer that loved his job, he quit the force at his wife’s request (who felt that he didn’t have enough time for his family as a cop). When she left him anyway, Noah settled for the next best thing. After finishing a job, Conway arrives at his ex-wife’s house just in time to be late for picking up his daughter. As the issue closes, Noah’s phone rings and he promises his daughter that the next week belongs to her…Just as soon as he takes that call.

From the moment you know both characters’ situations, you can see the collision coming. In fact, it might be something that was outlined in the solicitation text, but I can’t recall…In any event, what makes the book so interesting is the contrasts that DeFilippis and Weir make while telling the two very different characters’ stories, as both Rey and Noah narrate their own respective portions of the issue. Rey’s portion, the one that opens the book, features him immediately taking responsibility for his actions, admitting that it was stupid and he knows it, but providing a convincingly sympathetic rationale for what he did. Noah’s, on the other hand, places the blame for his present situation squarely on the shoulders of his wife, detailing the ways in which he feels she gave him the shaft.

It’s a nice contrast, one that certainly polarizes the two central characters, but it’s made all the more powerful by the simple fact that they share a common bond: desperation. Both of them are going to be forced, by circumstances that are both of their own design and out of their control, to make decisions that are less than optimal simply because they’re the only choices offered to them.

On a sort of tangential note, I’m now about ten times as interested in Marvel’s upcoming New Mutants relaunch, as it features this same writing team. Skinwalker, their previous effort, was pretty damned impressive. However, on its own, I doubt it would have been a strong enough motivation for me to pick up New Mutants. Three Strikes, however, is the book that will have me looking each month in Previews for another book by DeFilippis and Weir.


Uncanny X-Men #422
Marvel Comics – Chuck Austen (w); Ron Garney (p); Mark Morales (i)

When I looked at Diamond’s ship list for this week, I noticed that this issue of Uncanny X-Men had a considerable jump in price (up from $2.25 to $3.50). I thought to myself, “I wonder why that is…” I picked the book up off the shelf on Wednesday and realized that it contains quite a few more pages than the average issue. Promising enough, I suppose. Sadly, after having read it, I’m still not closer to know why it is that Marvel produced this issue the way they did.

Basically, what we have here is two issues crammed into one. And it doesn’t really work that well.

There are around four different plotlines running through this issue. In the Bermuda Triangle, Havok, Nightcrawler and Polaris accompany Havok’s mentor to an archaeological dig that has uncovered the possibility that a mutant society existed and died out long before the advent of the first human civilization. Juggernaut and Sammy (otherwise known as “the fish-faced new kid”) play catch in the backyard of the mansion and manfully discuss which X-woman is the best looking. Archangel finds that former prostitute Stacy X has unexpectedly left the mansion, apparently as the result of being sexually rejected by both Warren and Nightcrawler; naturally, she leaves behind a video of herself jumping rope in the nude. Then, carried over from the last panel of the previous issue, Alpha Flight returns unheralded to the world of Marvel Comics and attempts to take custody of every single child in Xavier’s care.

Basically, the four threads summarized above comprise the first half of the issue. The second half is consumed by Juggernaut punching nearly every member of Alpha Flight until they stop moving and Northstar doing his best Flash impression on the rest. Then there’s an obligatory unhappy ending that follows the fashionable X-trend of an X-man questioning the Professor’s dream of peace between mutants and humans.

Sound much like a soap opera? Me too. Too damned much like a soap opera.

Amusingly, this issue provides more fuel for my theory that the X-Men are simply the pretty mutants of the Marvel universe. It’s always amused me that the world apparently hates and fears a team of attractive, generally normal-looking, superheroes. What, exactly, separates the X-Men, in the minds of your average Marvel Universe human, from the Avengers except for the letter “X” all over their costumes? Nothing, as near as I can tell. And this issue furthers that idea by removing the two less attractive mutants of the book, Stacy X (who has scales all over her body) and Sammy (the aforementioned fish-faced child).

In the end, I was initially happy to see that the issue wasn’t entirely devoted to talking and developing even more subplots. At the same time, this issue essentially asks you to overpay for the usual amount of angst, plus some pointless fisticuffs. But really, I’m probably tilting at windmills here, since X-Men fans will probably enjoy it anyway and the rest of the comics world will more than likely continue to ignore it.


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