Script/Plot: John Leguizamo, Aram Rappaport, Joe Miciak & Damian Slattery
Art: Chris Batista
Inker: Sabrina Cintron
Colours: Christopher Sotomayor
Lettering: Andworld Design
Let’s get things out of the way first. Phenomx is another celebrity written comic book. These can be a bit hit or miss. In this case the driving force behind it is, to quote his Wikipedia article, ‘American actor, comedian, producer, playwright and screenwriter’ John Leguizamo (I am afraid I am most familiar with him paying Luigi in that Super Mario Bros. film and his voicing of Sid the Sloth in Ice Age). So his career tells us he has writing credentials but as we all know writing comic books is a very specific sort of writing. There are other writers listed though so he’s clearly had support and advice, although seeing four writers listed always makes me a little nervous regarding cooks and the number of them.
Happily there’s no sign of a whole bunch of disparate voices in the writing and plotting. It feels coherent and more or less one voice. There a few moments that make me think there’s more than one writer but mostly it reads as one whole. Latinx issues are the core of this book from the very start and that’s one of it’s strengths. It’s good to see them front and centre, especially in the current climate.
If you are looking for originality here it depends on how many cookbooks you have read in the past. Those familiar with superhero comics will probably recognise a lot of the plot lines in here from secret government types and projects to a father who wants to be there for his son there are a lot of common tropes. However, the underlying core of the Latinx experience really does help with that. I can’t say there was much about this book surprised me but I did appreciate the passion behind many of the plot choices. It’s clear that his is a book that has a need to tell a story about a community and for the most part does that quite well.
As a lily white British girl I’m not one to speak with any authority on what this book is portraying and the people its giving voice to. I will say that I am certainly familiar with the messages it is trying to talk about – the unfairness of the justice system in America is really an overarching theme and one that is pretty timely. I would be interested to know how someone form the Latinx community sees this book and if the well worn tropes maybe aren’t so well worn worn when the central character is Latinx.
I wonder about the choice of Chris Batista as an artists is deliberate given his history with drawing superheroes, especially with DC comics. This is a guy who has drawn Superman in the past so you do wonder if that comes into play. The art style feels quite classical superhero. It’s good and there are some nice character designs and some good action scenes but at the same time paired with familiar tropes in the writing it doesn’t quite stand out in the way I would like it to.
The lettering is good but there is a lot of speech. It does read a bit like a dialogue script. It does remind me of older comic books where we had a lot of speech The letterer is Andworld Design and it is, as usual, very decent. However there is a lot of it at some points. I appreciate the exposition but sometimes it would be nice to have the art breathe a bit more. The lettering does as good job of being as unobtrusive as possible but the sheer amount must be hard to contend with
It sounds like I am heavily criticising it but honestly I enjoyed reading it. It was a a nice meaty read and covered a lot of ground. The central character, Max Gomez, is one I had a lot empathy for. He’s a guy trapped by circumstance trying to do his best. He has a temper but also a sense of humour. He’s a nice rounded character and I liked following his journey.
Overall I think there’s a lot of potential with PhenomX and it’s great to see diversity with superhero style comics. I do want to see more of Max Gomez and hear about more of his journey.