Retro Review: Xombi #0-21 By Rozum & Birch With Cowan For Milestone Media & DC Comics

Xombi #0 – 21 (January 1994 – February 1996)

Written by John Rozum

Pencilled by Denys Cowan (#0), J.J. Birch (#1-21)

Inked by Jimmy Palmiotti (#0), J.J. Birch (#1-21)

Painted colour by Noelle C. Giddings (#0-1, 4-14, 16-21), Julia Lacquement (#2-3), Micheline Hess (#15), J. Scott J. (#15), David Montoya (#15)

Colour Assist by Andrew Burrell (#5-7)

Spoilers (from twenty-three to twenty-five years ago)

I never paid much mind to the Milestone line of comics, despite their having a number of creators I liked contributing to their stories. In 1994, there were just too many lines of superhero comics coming out, and I didn’t have the time or money to engage in them. I don’t know that I ever even noticed Xombi.

And then, in 2011, DC brought the character back in a short-lived series featuring art by the wonderful Frazer Irving. I was immediately drawn into John Rozum’s story, and the Grant Morrison-ish weirdness of the comic. In many ways, it reminded me of the early pre-Vertigo Doom Patrol run, and I wanted to know more. I set myself to scouring the dollar bins, but found this book to be very elusive.

Eventually, about six months ago, I found the last issue that I needed. Now it’s time to dive into this book, and see if it was worth the hunting.

Let’s look at who turned up in the title:

Villains Dharma (#0)

Beli Mah (#0, 8-11)

Twilight (#0)

The Snapping Jaws (#0)

The Artery Bandits (#0)

The Refractionary (#0)

The Rustling Husks (#1-2, 4)

Dr. Sugarman (#2, 4, 6)

Lesion Dogs (#3)

The Sheer Shears (#3)

Symptom (The Four Stable Boys of the Apocalypse; #3-4)

The Barrenness (The Four Stable Boys of the Apocalypse; #3-4)

Dispute (The Four Stable Boys of the Apocalypse; #3-4)

Entropy (The Four Stable Boys of the Apocalypse; #3-4)

Carnivore Clouds (#4)

Boraxis Megatheros (Lord of Fumes (#5)

Cole (#7-11)

Manuel Dexterity (Beli Mah Painful Inscription; #7)

Manuella Dexterity (Beli Mah Painful Inscription;#7, 10)

Lite Brite (Beli Mah Painful Inscription; #8)

Bludgeon (Beli Mah Painful Inscription; #8)

Blister Ed (Beli Mah Painful Inscription; #8)

Leland Crowne (Beli Mah leader; #8-11)

Depression Annie (Beli Mah Painful Inscription; #9-10)

Doubting Thomas (Beli Mah Painful Inscription; #9-10)

The Kinderessen (#13, 15-16)

The Ghost of ENIAC (#14) The Boogeymen Dread (#18-19, 21) Guest Stars Rainsaw (#0) Boogieman (Blood Syndicate; #15-16) Iron Maiden (Shadow Cabinet; #16) Thomas Pynchon Jr. (#21) Supporting Characters Julian Parker (#0, 2-5, 8-11) Nun Of The Above (Sister Norma Praetorius; #1-5, 15-16) Catholic Girl (Stacy; #1-5, 15-16) Kelly Sanborne (#1) Rabbi Ben Sinnowitz (#2, 4-5, 8-13, 17-21) Jachin (Golem; #2, 4-5, 8-9, 11) Boaz (Golem; #2, 4-5, 9, 11) Liam (#2-5) Pip (Mechanical bird; #2-4) Leonard (Mechanical bear; #2, 4) Hans (Mechanical boy; #2, 4) Mechanical rooster (#4) Detective Homily (#3) Chet Flynn (David’s friend; #7, 12, 15-16) Laurie McCarthy (David’s friend; #7, 12, 15-16) Israfel (an angel; #9-11) The Seraphim (#10-11) Cheryl Saltz (scientist; #12, 14) Dalila (David’s fiancé; #12, 21) Kameko (#17, 19-20) Dumaka (#17-18) Let’s take a look at what happened in these books, with some commentary as we go: Xombi #0 came out months before the first issue of the monthly series. It was launched as part of the Shadow War, a Milestone crossover event, and has to be the least new-reader friendly debut issue I’ve ever read. In the letters page, writer John Rozum explains that this issue takes place after #10 in the series – which wouldn’t come out for at least a year. The issue opens with a guy named Dharma arriving in a room strewn with bodies. Dharma can apparently see through time, so we get glimpses of our hero, David Kim, the Xombi, fighting and I guess killing some guy in Rac Shade’s trench coat. We know that Dharma is after him to join some group. Next, we see David and the guy he was with in the time vision sitting in a bar. We don’t know who the guy is, but we can tell they are friends. David talks about how, since his transformation, he no longer gets drunk, goes to the bathroom, or needs to brush his teeth. We also learn that David is getting married soon. His friend tells him he’s in for a life of weirdness, and that he doesn’t believe that David’s new life is the result of nanotech alone, but David rejects this. There is talk about peanuts as metaphors for expectations, and then the friend leaves. When David walks out of the bar, he sees a man who looks like a walking Magritte painting, complete with a top hat. This guy, named Twilight, explains that he’s part of an organization that is trying to save humanity. They want David to help them stop some terrorists who are stealing a biochemical weapon. Twilight wants David to step inside of him (he’s a gateway), and just as David reaches into him, something weird happens with the wind, and suddenly David’s arm is severed. A pile of sentient blades has shown up, and explains that when he startled Twilight, it caused him to close his portal, with David’s arm on the other side. This creature, called Rainsaw, explains that Twilight works for Dharma, who made the bioweapon himself with someone named Dr. Nemo, and that they are going to use it on more people. Twilight disagrees with this, and offers David his arm back. Twilight tries to get David back inside him (sounds kind of wrong, doesn’t it?), and Rainsaw tries to get Twilight to leave the Shadow Cabinet and join them. Instead, Twilight opens up his portal and brings out everyone and everything that lives inside him, including The Snapping Jaws, a mostly invisible rottweiler, The Artery Bandits, creatures that steal peoples’ circulatory systems, The Refractionary, a guy who is described as an “image ventriloquist”, and some creepy doll creatures. They attack the crowd that has gathered, Twilight realizes he’s done wrong, and David starts using his severed arm as a club to stop them all. David manages to regrow his arm, between stopping the Artery Bandits and taking on the creepy dolls. The Refractionary confuses him, and Rainsaw, who thinking he’s flying through The Refractionary, actually slices David to ribbons. Twilight takes this as a victory, as Rainsaw kills The Snapping Jaws. David is somehow returned to one piece, telling the others that he can’t be killed. He tells both men that he wants nothing to do with them, but is going to go with Rainsaw. He picks up his bag of peanuts before leaving. Issue one opens two months before the rest of the issue (which is also ten issues before the zero issue). Nun Of The Above and Catholic Girl are called to a hospital that has been infested by Nomatoads – toads that appear wherever teleportation has happened. Listening to the toads speak, they figure out that someone called Sugarman has escaped, and that they need to find him. David Kim is a doctoral student working at a place called Organitek. He welcomes his new assistant, a former student of his named Kelly Sanborne. He shows her around the lab, stopping first at The Cabinet Beast, a nanotech machine that can break down and rearrange organic particles. He next introduces her to Gerald Davies, who has used nanotech, pheromones, and electrical signals to create an elaborate miniature circus populated by ants. David is called to give a blood sample which is needed for an experiment that night. He tells another scientist, Nishi, to go home since he has Kelly to help him. They order dinner. Later, the night security guard is approached by something called a Rustling Husk – a homunculi with a head like a wasps’ nest. It blasts him with a gun that looks like an HR Giger Alien. David and Kelly talk about David’s fiancé Dalila, who we learn is away in France. Kelly shares that her she broke up with her boyfriend, and the two flirt with one another. They are interrupted by Cecilia, a cleaning lady, who is unimpressed with the frankly creepy way they are talking with one another. Another security guard is attacked by two Rustling Husks. David explains his experiment – he’s programming nanomachines with his DNA so they can fix another vial of blood that has been contaminated with polio. Kelly heads to the washroom, passing Cecilia who gives her more grief. The elevator opens and three Rustling Husks emerge. They don’t want to make any noise (their Aliens guns scream when fired), and Cecilia bashes in one of their heads with her broom stick. Another uses its tail to impale her, and we learn from the narration that Rustling Husks are made from the ghosts of insects who die on windowsills. The surviving ones release a handful of little men into the lab to find the discs. David is surprised to see them, and takes an Alien gunshot to the chest. The Husks leave with the device and discs they came for. Kelly finds Cecilia and […]

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