Xenobrood #0 (1994)

Xenobrood #0 (October, 1994)
“Strange Brew”
Writer/Co-Creator – Doug Moench
Artist/Co-Creator – Tomm Coker
Inker – Keith Aiken
Letterer – Dan Nakrosis
Colorist – Tom Luth
Editor – Kevin Dooley
Cover Price: $1.50

While we were researching for our Zero Hour episode of the Weird Comics History Podcast, there were a handful issues that neither of us had.  For those, we used various online resources for summaries and informational tid-bits… however, there was one book we couldn’t find anything about.

We were nearly convinced that the book never even released… and it’s only now that I’m holding the thing in my grubby hands that I can be sure that it was!  Today we’re going to discuss the riddle wrapped in an enigma that is… Xenobrood.

We open on location in Kuwait, where a busty GBC news anchor interviews our bemulleted star, Professor Zecharia Leight.  He’s in the midst of an archaeological dig in hopes of uncovering information about ancient Sumeria.  As luck would have it, as the cameras roll, Leight’s team are just about to hit the mother lode!

Leight hops in the hole, to help retrieve the dozens of discovered clay tablets.  While down there, something catches his eye… and so, he brushes away the loose Earth only to discover… an odd metallic rod.  He refers to it as an OOPA, or an Out-of-Place-Artifact… which, is a very interesting subject, even on our own Earth-Prime.  

He refers to it as a “Machine-Tooled Chrome-Tube”, which is good enough for me.  Remember, this entire affair has been televised… and one such viewer is a sinister-looking fella with a mohawk-mullet (mullhawk?).

We rejoin Zech (which I will likely refer to as Zach at least once in this piece) as he jots some notes into his journal… after which, he retires to bed.  He dreams about his girlfriend Lorna maniacally burning all of his research notes along with the OOPA rod.

Our man is shaken back to the waking world, just in time for a… ninja to arrive in his bedroom to steal the OOPA rod.  Zech leaps from the bed so fast that when his body faces one way, his mullet faces the other.  In his tighty-whiteys, he grabs the rod and throws himself out the window…

… where he finds even more ninjas!  They chase him through the alleys before reaching a dead-end.  With Zech cornered, suddenly the baddies are bathed in a baby-blue light… and I wonder if any of them might have been secretly holding a blood-smeared smiley-face button!

We jump ahead a bit to join Leight as he visits several science facilities in attempt to learn more about the OOPA rod.  Several universities, NASA, and S.T.A.R. Labs prove to be of little help.  It isn’t until he visits Creighton Engineering that a new wrinkle is added.  By aiming a laser through a couple of prisms, and then into the rod, a projection appears on the ceiling.  Zech, and his belly-shirt, are super excited to write about his findings… and so he heads to the Morning Star cafe… which has the foolish business plan of being closed on Sundays.

As he journals, we get a silly little throwaway scene in which a woman wearing Seinfeld’s puffy shirt (if it was conceived by Rob Liefeld) makes fun of a stereotypical nerd.  Oo-kay.

I guess this scene isn’t completely “throwaway” because, the puffy-shirt is playing music from the jukebox… and Zech is rhythmically tapping on the OOPA rod along with the tunes… which causes a compartment in it to open, revealing four tiny crystals!

Later on, we rejoin Professor Leight at his arsonist dream girl, Lorna’s apartment.  In sharing his findings with her, she posits that the line-y ceiling projection from Creighton may represent liquid and light… and so, they test the crystals with 142 different liquids… none of which cause a reaction.  Lorna heads home to grab a few Z’s before having to go to work, and suggests Leight also try and get some sleep himself.  Alone with his thoughts, Zech finally realizes what he needs to do… and expresses this in an extremely cringy way.

He calls Lorna, which gives us a scene of her in a bit of mid-90’s comics undress… which somehow reveals far less skin than many costumes of the day.  His theory consists of using salt water and sunlight… just like how life first developed.  She’s super-excited and says she’ll be right over.  Zech gets creepy, and says this is his “lucky night”.

The pair conduct the experiment… and before long, the crystals grow into these disgusting looking balls of super-dense protoplasm.  Some time passes, and Zech has himself a vivid dream in which he is surrounded by four featureless glowing golden figures.  When he wakes up, the protoplasmic balls have combined into one… by that night, they re-split into four… but larger.

Soon, it’s clear that the experiment is outgrowing Zech’s dingy digs, and so Lorna invites him to move the operation over to her place in Brooklyn.  Some time passes, and the balls of protoplasm have matured into body-shaped bags of nerves and organs.

That night, Lorna and Zech decide to sleep at the lab on cots.  It’s a good thing they did, too… because this would be the night that the… ninjas decide to strike once more!  They enter through the skylight… and give Zech a kick to the mush.  One ninja heads over to the basins… and gets a massive uppercut by the body within.  It’s here that we meet… the Xenobrood?

They make short work of the ninjas before teleporting them into deep space.  When the protoplasmic dust settles, they turn to Zech and inform him they are here to obey his every command.  Looks like our mullethead is the modern-day Aladdin!

Not gonna lie… when I first cracked this one open, I did so fully expecting to hate it.  Just looking at the cover… this looks like a stereotypical 90’s superhero comic put out by some second-tier publisher… though, depending on your “DC in the 90’s” mileage, that very well might be what it is.  Anyhoo, the cover is ugly as sin… poorly laid out, and features some very underwhelming character designs.

Then we open the book and find… well, not an amazing story… but also, not a horrendously terrible one either.  Not sure why DC decided to launch this in the wake of Zero Hour, as it appears not to have anything to do with it… though, I suppose that might be revealed in subsequent issues.

The genesis of the four “Brooders” was well done.  They’re a completely blank slate, so there’s no worry of contradicting or reworking any old continuity… which is a good thing for any book launching during this era.  It’s not often we could pick up a “ground floor” issue of anything from the Big Two.  In fact, if not for the S.T.A.R. Labs or Daily Planet mention, we wouldn’t even know this was occurring in the DC Universe.

Our main character is pretty annoying to look at… but we’ll discuss his fashion sense in a bit.  When I saw him on the cover, I was actually scared for a moment that I’d somehow missed a chapter between Danny Chase’s dismissal from the Titans and his reemergence as Phantasm.  Dude really resembles him on the cover.

The art here vacillates between pretty good and painfully heinous.  There are panels here where the characters look downright fetal… like with heads coming directly out of chests.  It feels like it would be more at home in a late-80’s independent slice of life comic than a mid-90’s superhero one.

Speaking of the 90’s… I was there for them, and I really don’t remember things being so ugly.  During 1994 I was a sophomore in high school… and dudes weren’t wearing mullets and belly-shirts.  Girls weren’t wearing “puffy shirts” and pants that buttons just below their chests.  Just seems so strange… who knows, maybe I’m wrong.  Perhaps I’m being short-sighted… I guess I can say at least where I was in New York, folks didn’t look or dress like this.  Maybe the mid-west was still in the midst of mullet-fever.

Anyhoo… I suppose my main takeaway after reading this is that… Yes, Xenobrood exists in the world.  It’s not going to rock your socks, and at times it’s difficult to look directly at… but it’s not bad.  Although this may be due to my outright dismissal of the concept before reading, I kinda dug it… and believe folks can get an enjoyable read out of this.  I will say… if I come across further issues of this short-lived series in the cheap-o bins, I will very likely pick them up.

Shockingly… this entire run has been made available digitally… which, if I thought there was even the slightest possibility of, would have come in quite handy during my earlier Zero Hour research.

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One thought on “Xenobrood #0 (1994)

  • Mr. Morbid's House Of Fun

    I don't really remember this one at all. How weird. Better art, especially on that cover by Tom Cokker who I recognize from his older work(still ugly) might've helped. At least it doesn't suffer from the horrible decompression virus that exists today. I'll have to look it up,, but I wonder now what might've been had it been popular enough to have a good run, and what was the endgame for the characters.


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