Pipeline #1101: Art Adams and the X-Babies

Art Adams is on the list of elite comic artists who don't need to draw comics anymore. Commissions [...]

Art Adams is on the list of elite comic artists who don't need to draw comics anymore. Commissions and covers fill his plate.

You've seen that stuff in recent years. It's insanely detailed, dense, and beautiful stuff. He's challenging George Perez for putting numbers of characters on a page in one moment, and then challenging Frank Cho the next for the sheer amount of linework and detail on a page.

If you've grown used to that in recent years, looking at Art Adams' earlier work might be quite a surprise. His early work from the 1980s -- most all of it in the Marvel X-Office -- looks positively cartoonish by today's standards. Yet, it's still all there. The proportions, the body positioning, the faces, the hair, the costumes, and the attention to details.

I'm also old enough and well versed enough in comics to recognize some of the anime/manga influence to his work that I wouldn't have known about at the time.

Excalibur: Mojo Mayhem by Chris Claremont and Art Adams
(Photo: Art Adams, Terry Austin, Marvel Entertainment)

So let's lean into his cartoonish style and take a look at 1989's Prestige Format one-shot, "Excalibur: Mojo Mayhem"!


There was a time when a reader could easily explain X-Men continuity to you. Remember those days? Series didn't relaunch with #1 issues every year, characters didn't spin off into their own series every month, and Chris Claremont wrote most of it, himself.

Kitty Pryde and the Excalibur cast by Art Adam
(Photo: Art Adams, Terry Austin, Marvel Entertainment)

"Mojo Mayhem" takes place shortly after the X-Men "died" in the Siege Perilous. It's also set between issues #10 and #11 of "Excalibur," when Kitty Pryde and Nightcrawler lived in England with a new team of friends. It's the greatest X-book of all time, particularly with Alan Davis' art. But that's a topic for another column or ten....

Particularly Chris Claremont-ian

This is a classic Claremont-styled comic of the period. It's got plenty of inside references in it, including a band of science fiction writers and a car filled with X-Men friendly comic creators. Yes, Claremont is in that car, too.

There's a lot of dialogue, but unlike what people tend to complain about, I don't find it overwritten at all. I love the way he packs the dialogue in to show character, all while keeping the story completely clear. I love how Claremont can pepper a panel with small word balloons to show a crowd's reaction to something, and how well that contrasts against the main characters racing through them.

And I love how Tom Orzechowski -- who letters the front half of this book -- gets to add his own stylistic tweaks to the comic to really sell what people are saying.

But the whole thing is almost surprisingly an anti-work-for-hire parable. Mojo plays the part of Marvel, and the X-Babies are his victims, guilty in their own naivete of not knowing the kinds of contracts they shouldn't sign. Now, they want their independence and their just rewards for their work. Mojo will have none of this. He created them, he owns them, he'll work them as he sees fit.

So he sends The Agent after them, a dark black clad villain straight off a heavy metal album cover or something. The Agent's job is to trick the kids -- minors, but still -- into signing contracts that will bind them back to Mojo.

The kids thought they were safe when they landed back on earth and came across Kitty Pryde. That was not to be.

This book is their adventure through England, looking for help and freedom. Along the way, they have cute misadventures and keep running across a disguised Agent, doing a sit-com level job of fooling them into signing new contracts.

It's a very cute story with very cute characters and a nice light touch. Claremont does humor well, and this book is a good example of that.

Conclusion: Worth Reading (Again)

Art Adams draws the X-Babies
(Photo: Art Adams, Terry Austin, Marvel Entertainment)

Unfortunately, it peters out a bit in the second half. Between the lettering change and what looks like Art Adams' pencil tiring out a bit or the change in inkers being too drastic, things start to get less exciting. It's only a 48 page book -- barely more than two issues of a monthly comic -- but these things do happen....

Still, it's Art Adams drawing the X-Babies. That's never ever a bad thing. I love the way he draws their costumes crumpled on their bodies, like little kids wearing adult-sized uniforms, almost. I love the way they run, and the way they move. Claremont gives them appropriately immature behaviors and dialogue, and Adams sells them with strong facial expressions and gestures.

"Mojo Mayhem" is not without its faults, but it's still a very fun story with a message underneath the immediate surface. It even has a surprising ending that makes sense, and characters you instantly love, both good and bad.

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