Dean Motter’s Retro-Futurist Masterpiece ‘Mister X’ Returns to the City of Nightmares in ‘Eviction’
Something is wrong in the city of Somnopolis: everybody is insane. Designed, financed and constructed by an enigmatic cadre of geniuses, visionaries and villains using the sleep-defeating drug insomnalin and employing the theory of pschetecture, the city itself — the buildings, the materials, the angles and even the light — has driven the citizenry to acts of madness, crime and suicide. It wasn’t meant to be this way, and the terrible nature of what was once envisioned as Radiant City — “The City of Dreams” — weighs heavily on the conscious of Mister X. To describe the character as “mysterious” is like describing the universe as “big,” but what is known for certain is that Mister X was in some way instrumental in Somnopolis’ creation and decay, and he toils sleeplessly to save Radiant citizens from his corrupted creation.
Beginning in May, Mister X: Eviction finds Radiant City in the midst of a political coup and its new masters using the psychetecture to further alter the minds of the entire populace. It is the latest piece of creator Dean Motter’s revival of his hugely influential 1980s creation, and we’ve got an early preview courtesy of Dark Horse Comics.
Created by Motter in the early 1980s and developed over the years with such auspicious collaborators as Paul Rivoche, Jaime, Gilbert, and Mario Hernandez, Seth and and D’Israeli, Mister X was an early success in the area of retro-futurism. Motter’s unbelievably cool synthesis of the New Wave aesthetic of the 1980s with that of Fritz Lang and German Expressionism, film noir, Art Deco and cutting edge graphic design influenced a generation of artists, perhaps most notably (for our purposes) the creators of Batman: The Animated Series. The endless mystery of Mister X’s identity, his colorful (but sometimes monochromatic) cast of allies and enemies, Motter’s gift for whimsical wordplay, and X’s fascinating mission to right the wrongs of his hidden past made the original Mister X comics a compelling, beautiful, immersive, weird, frequently chilling and surprisingly funny.
Motter would revisit this kind of work several times since he left Mister X in the late 1980s, with stops in 1997’s Terminal City (with artist Michael Lark and cover illustrator Mark Chiarello) — in my view, one of the best comic books of all time — and Electropolis in 2001, but he returned to Radiant City with a soft reboot of Mister X in 2009’s Condemned, which he drew himself in a lighter, more contemporary but still reverently retro style. Delving into the history of the Ninth Academy (an asylum for mad scientists where Mister X met his onetime girlfriend Mercedes) and giant robots created to smash some of the city’s most psychically harmful buildings, that miniseries reintroduced the core characters and concept of Mister X. It was followed with the short serial Hard Candy in Dark Horse Presents focusing on the history and conspiracies surrounding the intense drugs that X and his cohorts used to help them create Somnopolis.
“Mister X: Eviction continues to follow the tortured lives of Radiant City’s denizens– picking up plot-lines from Condemned and The Vanishing Breed,” Motter told ComicsAlliance via email. “Mercedes has a run-in with the city’s new authoritarians and our favorite man of mystery must enlist the aid of Times reporter Rosetta Stone (who is struggling with her own demons) to find what has become of his ex-girlfriend.”
Condemned was a welcome return to the addictive world of Somnopolis, but Motter’s DHP serial Hard Candy was even better. The cartoonist said the new work, Eviction, is better still. “I think its some of my best work to date, and feels like the perfect way to kick-off Mister X’s 30th year in comics,” Motter said.
(page from Mister X: Eviction #1)
Mister X: Eviction #1 doesn’t go on sale until May 1, but Dean Motter’s entire retro-futurist canon is available from Dark Horse in the form of the two Mister X archives, reprinting the gorgeous original material and worthy sequel by Jeffrey Morgan and D’Israeli; Mister X: Condemned, collecting Motter’s return to the character (also available digitally); The Compleat Terminal City, collecting Motter, Lark and Chiarello’s underrated classic (also available digitally); and Electropolis, Motter’s robotic gumshoe yarn. Mister X: Hard Candy, a single-issue sized collection of the Dark Horse Presents serial, goes on sale in March.