In one of the most well-known passages of his work Paradise Lost, John Milton writes “The mind is its own place, and in it self can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven.” Typhoid Fever: X-Men seems to take this notion to heart, twisting and playing with the characters’ darkest memories.
The presentation here isn’t as surreal as in the first issue. While characters are not always lucid, the reader is more grounded in the narrative compared to Typhoid Fever: Spider-Man. The result is an above-average middle chapter of the story.
Typhoid Fever: X-Men centers around the cast’s memories, or more accurately, trying to distinguish true memories from false ones. Typhoid Mary attempts to manipulate Bishop, Storm, Iceman, Nightcrawler, Jean Grey, and Spider-Man into characters in her own twisted soap opera. When some resist, though, Mary warps the team members’ memories to use their darkest personal moments against them.
The story gives us the chance to delve into the complicated and often tragic pasts of several characters. Most notably, Mary herself goes under the psychic microscope when Jean Grey delves into her mind to try and break Typhoid’s control over her.
The dialog is fine throughout, though it can fall a little flat, especially when characters try to exert their (lack of) wit. However, writer Clay McLeod Chapman’s narrative comes through in Typhoid Fever: X-Men. We see Mary rewrite her own memories and history. Through Jean’s eyes, we delve deeper and deeper into the core of who Mary is, and where Mary Walker ends and Typhoid Mary beings. The downside of this is Jean becomes an exposition character, but it’s not bad enough to drag things down.
One of the long-time problems with Mary Walker’s character is the flawed and, in many ways, problematic portrayal of Dissociative Identity Disorder (commonly referred to as split personalities). However, we see a genuine attempt here to wrestle with that legacy. The series is turning into a compelling character study, exploring the roots of Mary’s identity and mental illness.
We’ll need to wait until the next issue before we can say whether Chapman really lands what he’s going for, but it’s looking promising.
The team of Danilo S. Beyruth and Will Robson on art produce an interesting contrast in styles throughout Typhoid Fever: X-Men.
Robson provides his typically-cartoonish look for most of the book, which has its ups-and-downs. For example, Mary has a wide range of expression, helping sell the character as a more interesting an engaging figure. It doesn’t always work though, particularly in Jean Grey’s case; in fact, every time I look at her, I can’t help but get serious “Mega Man” vibes.
The backgrounds are rather dull throughout Robson’s pages as well. I found myself focused solely on the characters, but less because they commanded attention and more for a lack of other things to look at.
I found Beyruth’s pages generally more engaging to the eye. The environments possessed more of a kinetic sensibility, in contrast to the static backgrounds of Robson’s work.
That said, the colorwork provided by Rachelle Rosenberg and Dono Sanchez-Almara accented each style well. The bright colors make Robson’s cartoonish, rounded characters pop, while Beyruth’s more angular, realistic designs benefit from a muted, downplayed palette.
Typhoid Fever: X-Men provides a more direct narrative than the first issue in the series. While it’s lost some of the surreal touches and the art has some wonky elements, it’s still an interesting read. I’d recommend picking it up.