Ah, noir. That beloved genre of tough dames, dark alleys, neon light shining through aluminum blinds and ... mutants? Yes, mutants.
With this new miniseries X-Men Noir, from scripter Fred Van Lente and artist Dennis Calero, Marvel subjects its merry band of misfit superheroes to a complete genre switch, transferring them lock, stock and ruby quartz visors to a crime thriller set in the 1930s.
In the first installment, a corpse found on the waterfront leads to a mystery involving small-time grifter Jean Grey, and a reputedly criminal gang forged from delinquents trained at a school run by Professor Charles Xavier.
No superpowers are in evidence in the first issue, though that may change in upcoming chapters. The question is whether we'll be around to care.
Between the artwork, which labors overtime shrouding everything in darknessto the point where it's easy to wish that somebody would just put on a lampand the story, which largely hinges on moments like the one in which one character is referred to as a "track star" and readers in the know get to say, "Ah-ha! That's Quicksilver!", this isn't X-Men enough to be X-Men nor Noir enough to emerge as anything but imitative of work done better by others.
We do confess interest in the companion project, Spider-Man Noir, mostly because that character seems more suited to the paradigm shift. But these are mean streets we'd rather avoid.