Page 45 Review by Stephen
"The atom, General Meltdown, is the heart of the matter.
"Once, it was thought to be indestructible, immutable, eternal.
"We know better now.
"Or worse, depending on your point of view."
The above is one Dr. Neutron patiently explaining nuclear physics and, later, fission to a decidedly impatient General Meltdown. It might not just be his temper that's lost here.
The latter is such inspired nomenclature that I could spend paragraphs riffing off it, but make up your own jokes, why don't you? But yes, there will be a General Meltdown as well as a very specific one to challenge the regenerative extent of our hirsute mutant's healing factor.
Thirty years old, this mini-series! Unless I have my maths wrong, that means that as a fully-painted superhero comic it precedes ARKHAM ASYLUM so I'm not sure what precedes this in that category. Jim Starlin's DREADSTAR was more science fiction, wasn't it? Not a lot, anyway. There was a while to be waited until Alex Ross turned up to emphasise the awe in "awesome" with MARVELS, KINGDOM COME, JUSTICE (over Doug Braithwaite's breath-taking pencils) and JUSTICE LEAGUE: THE WORLD'S GREATEST SUPERHEROES.
Naturally I lapped this up, especially since the painting in question was performed by two of my favourite artists, Jon J. Muth (MOONSHADOW, now back in print) and Kent Williams (BLOOD, SANDMAN: DESTINY etc). I even forked out for Graphitti Design's hardcover collection, limited to 2000 copies and signed by all four creators, so although I've not read it recently that's an endorsement from past-me at least.
In the back of that edition from 1990, the Simonsons recall that it was the artists themselves who catalysed the project, pitching to the husband-and-wife team their fervour to illustrate, specifically and individually, Havok and Wolverine, so the series was written both to satisfying their interest and play to their respective strengths. What they don't mention is surely the most unusual aspect of this cooperative creation: that Jon J. Muth paints every single appearance of his preferred protagonist Havok (romantically rendering him a lambent James Dean), and that Kent Williams goes expressionistically wild with every growl of a decidedly more feral Wolverine than we'd previously been used to.
Not just on the same page, but often within the same panel!
The effect is, of course, far more cosmetic than Sean Phillips and John Bolton's collaboration during Devin Grayson's USER which utilises the artists' seeming pass-the-parcel juxtapositions to startlingly successful, structurally wicked effect*, but it's still really something to behold. I'm looking back through those co-created panels right now and the joins are seamless even though Muth and Williams favoured different colours and densities, textures. Williams went for ruddy cheeks and more wrought musculature, while Muth was all about clean, gleaming white highlights with a crisper delineation but much wetter brush.
God, but I do go on.
Instead, here's Marvel's hype-monkey to melodrama you to death:
"Two friends. Two mutants. Two X-Men!"
"Havok, gifted with the ability to project devastating plasma bursts. Wolverine, a feral warrior with an uncanny healing factor, an unbreakable Adamantium skeleton and razor-sharp claws. Ambushed by Russian terrorists while on leave in Mexico, the two find themselves caught in a deadly web of international intrigue and betrayal! Can Alex Summers and Logan thwart a plot to bring the Western world to its knees? "Beautifully painted artwork combines with fast-paced prose to create a milestone among graphic albums as Havok and Wolverine star in a landmark X-Men story like no other!"
Imagine if those same hype-monkeys actually cared to clue you in to its craft.
* It wasn't pass-the-parcel: Sean Phillips doesn't recall having seen any of Bolton's contribution until publication - the pages were instead painted concurrently as the script was delivered - which makes the resultant illusions even more improbably outstanding. Go on! Read my review of USER! Thanks!