What we have here is an over the top story ripped from the golden age of pulp serials. There are brutally sadistic villains, such as a dominatrix, telekinetic, and a strong man, who are trying to steal the world’s most powerful laser gun. They kidnap Fantomex’s love interest to blackmail him into doing the heist. Mixed in is a love story, which focuses on his virtual side-kick EVA. Instead of some cheeky fun, what we get is a bland and predictable story.
Although this is Fantomex’s solo adventure, he seems to play a passive role in a bulk of the story. In fact, the plot twists and reveals focus primarily on the cartoony villains. Even so, because there’s little character interaction, the reasoning behind everyone’s motivations is unclear. Without the needed tension, scenes like the rape sequences come off as forced or contrived. In fact, rape itself is an odd inclusion because the Character’s creator, Grant Morrison, condemns the use of rape as a plot device.
It’s puzzling why Andrew Hope came back to write this Fantomex solo adventure when he rarely uses Fantomex for more than a way to progress the plot. Fantomex’s creator, Grant Morrison, had created Fantomex as a spiritual successor to Morrison’s King Mob. Both were hyper-violent, sleazy, and would knock against the fourth wall to make sure the readers are listening. This is the main reason why Fantomex’s lack of engagement is puzzling. Furthermore, although the story’s plot could have easily been ripped from the story of the French Pulp serials about the master thief Fantomas, this Fantomex lacks any similarity to the evil French thief. Because this is a Max title and this story wouldn’t affect Marvel’s current continuity, it would have been interesting to see the darker side of Fantomex explored a little more.
Hope’s incarnation also lacks consistency, and it’s only been five issues. Fantomex shows a clear devotion and adoration for his Virtual sidekick EVA. This relationship is odd because EVA is his out of body nervous system; however, in the next scene Fantomex is pining after the love of Agent Flemying. We don’t even see jealousy. Another inconsistency is he donates millions to charities before he takes on the mission to steal the most powerful weapon for some terrorists. The generosity seems counterproductive and less altruistic when he takes on a heist that could potentially destroy the world in order to selfishly save his other love interest.
On the other hand, Francesco Francavilla and Shawn Crystal have done a great job on the cover’s and interiors. Francavilla’s covers call back the sexy psychedelic and exploitation movies of the sixties. Crystal’s character design is a fresh take on some of the archetypes found in noir and pulp stories, and none of the panels or characters became repetitive or boring. For instance, Crystal pulls this off by mixing longshots, close ups, landscapes, vertical tiles and so on in one scene, or he will have EVA’s pose and outfits change from panel to panel.
Andrew Hope’s return to comics was perhaps premature, or Axle Alonso may have gutted the missing parts. Instead, fans of Fantomex should maybe go seek him out in Grant Morrison’s other metafiction reincarnations. If you’re looking for another Max title which is hyper violent and scantily clad, or another hardboiled story, this isn’t it. In fact, it’s confusing why this is a Max title. Regardless, this comic is not completely without merit. Shawn Crystal is definitely a new artist worth paying attention to, and Francesco Francavilla art is always a treat for the eyes.