‘Mister X: Eviction & Other Stories’ - Advance TPB Review

I had never before read any of Dean Motter’s Mister X.  I knew of his Terminal City series, and I had flipped through a few single issues of a Mister X miniseries at a used bookstore some time back. I remember being intrigued by the art style but didn’t get the rest of it enough to pick the issues up.  But, that experience planted a tiny seed of curiosity, so when the chance came to review Dean Motter’s Mister X: Eviction & Other Stories from Dark Horse, I snatched up the opportunity and did a little research online to prepare myself for whatever it was that was Mister X. And, let me tell you, nothing can truly prepare you for Mister X and the world of Radiant City.

Through Mister X, Dean Motter introduces you to a past that has yet to exist in our future, with a dizzying, dangerous, and omnipresent hierarchical bureaucracy that is reminiscent of Terry Gilliam’s Brazil and George Orwell’s 1984.  I knew very little of the character and history of the enigmatic Mister X or the elegant, shadowy Radiant City, both brought to life by Motter in the mid-eighties, but I realized I didn’t need to.  The stories, including the titular "Eviction," were all new mysteries, and Mister X was as mysterious and unknown now as he was back when he was first introduced.  I did meet a cadre of supporting characters, Mister X’s friends, or accomplices, depending on how you look at, from the intellectual lawyer Katsuda, to the beautiful and emotional Mercedes, to the no-nonsense crack reporter Rosetta Stone.  While Mister X often sets a chain of events into motion, he operates almost completely in the shadows, his motives vague at best, and his true identity either unknown or an assumption, even to those who know and trust him.  You never see his eyes, as they are always masked by dark, round sunglasses, and he is a man of very few very precise words. Mister X’s appearance reminded me of King Mob, from Grant Morrison’s groundbreaking series The Invisibles, and I have to wonder if there isn’t some kind of homage in that character, as King Mob and his team are psychic warriors, and Mister X is an architect who helped construct the psychetecture of Radiant City.

And, that brings us to Radiant City. As Brain Michael Bendis says in his introduction, "The city is like another character in the story, much more than just walls and buildings and neighborhoods," and the more I read the more I saw that he was right.  Somehow, through Motter’s storytelling, he brings the city to life, and it can operate as enemy, friend, savior, or oppressor, and this is done so seamlessly that you don’t even think about it.  It is simply the way it is, and it is next to impossible to understand, but Motter creates a feeling, a connectivity, to Radiant City and you can almost feel the psychetecture working on your own psyche, drawing you deeper and deeper into the machinations of Mister X and the city itself.  The art echoes the great Will Eisner, especially in the covers and title pages, and the angular shadows of filmmaker Fritz Lang, and being the age that I am, it recalled the sparse, 1940s cityscapes from Batman: The Animated Series.  The whole world has a 1940s/1950s look to it, and even the way the characters talk plays to that matter-of-fact time period.  Rosetta Stone is a play on Lois Lane, except Rosetta isn’t the one that needs saving, and Motter turns the character trope on its head.  Noir sensibilities run throughout the world of Mister X, and add to that Motter’s "retro-futuristic" (a term used by Bendis in his introduction) style and ideas, and you have an entirely original creation, built off of one man’s influences and imagination.  If you feel the need for any kind of Mister X primer, just read Bendis’ introduction and you’ll be good to go.  His enthusiasm will push through any uncertainty about what you don’t know and replace it with an excitement for the experience.    

There is so much clever, scientific, and psychedelic language in these stories that you can sense the world being built around them, and with the plethora of rich city history that comes through in the language, you can’t help but fall in love with it.  Some of the page layouts can get a little confusing, as can who is telling a story, until you realize it is almost always Rosetta Stone.  This makes sense, since she is a reporter and probably the most reliable person in Radiant City to tell an honest story.  These minor issues really only exist because Motter is cramming so much intriguing storytelling and so many interesting ideas into each page, and it is a wonder to take it all in, especially once you get a handle on his layout style.  It is no surprise that Motter studied architecture, because in these new stories he works with building, societal, and story structure, creating a fun, ominous, and intricate narrative that entertains and surprises, without ever revealing all of the secrets of Mister X or Radiant City.   The stories in this collection are unique and could not exist anywhere else, because they are intrinsically tied to the city, to the mystery of Mister X, and to the mind of Dean Motter.

Last modified on Monday, 25 November 2013 16:31

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