Fans of the mid-’90s comic “Xombi” are almost to the last one, worthy of the adjective “fanatical.” Even though it only ran for 22 issues (including a #0 introduction), John Rozum and J.J. Birch mixed horror, fantasy, and just plain oddness, all the while setting it firmly in a line of superhero comics. And now, shockingly, “Xombi” is back.
For those unfamiliar with “Xombi,” Rozum quickly introduces us to the character and his absolute basics. David Kim was injected with experimental nanomachines that continually rebuild his body, making him virtually impossible to kill. He’s also learning how to harness the power of the nanomachines in order to have them reshape other objects around him. And for whatever reason, these days he’s a big of a weirdness magnet.
With all that established, Rozum hits the ground running. Several supporting cast members (Nun of the Above, Catholic Girl, Julian Parker) are quickly reintroduced, along with new character Nun the Less, and with that the characters are in the thick of it. Rozum uses the same sort of weird, strange, off-the-wall ideas that readers of his work on projects like “X-Files” and “The Hangman” have grown to love: dollhouses as prisons, killer snow angels, animals leaping from one painting to the next, and a book infected with a case of contagious semicolon cancer.
It’s not strangeness for strangeness sake, though. Some of it is there to set mood, put you in the right frame of mind for the story that’s to come. The rest, though, is composed of those moments that are designed to make you stop and think, “That makes perfect sense in a deranged sort of way.” Rozum’s inventions make the world of “Xombi” dangerous, because something as simple as reading a book or going trick-or-treating can turn deadly. And for all the cuteness of some of the character names, new readers are going to quickly discover that they aren’t jokes, but intriguing (and not necessarily 100% trustworthy) characters in their own right.
Frazer Irving comes on board as artist, and people who have read his work on comics like “Klarion the Witch Boy,” “Batman & Robin,” and “Gutsville” will know that he’s a perfect choice for the comic. Irving can draw the dark and gloomy, but more importantly the crazy and fantastic. So when a Rustling Husk shows up out of nowhere, it’s creepy and surprising, and his depiction of Mr. Hyde is gruesome. But at the same time, Irving’s people are rooted firmly in reality, looking remarkably life-like. I think that’s a perfect touch for “Xombi,” since it makes the nastiness rising up around them feel that much more dangerous.
I like to think that “Xombi” was a book ahead of its time in the ’90s, although to be fair it was also in the same era as the birth of the Vertigo imprint, and when readers had already experienced books like Grant Morrison’s “Doom Patrol” and Peter Milligan’s “Shade the Changing Man.” None the less, I hope that it was somehow ahead of its time, if only because that gives me even a faint hope that “Xombi” will prosper now. This book is too good to be ignored a second time. Pick up a copy. Please?