Monday, September 6, 2010

X-men Curse of the Mutants: Blade - Blood and Awesome

Previously, I had more free time on my hand than usual and found myself checking out X-men Curse of the Mutants: Storm and Gambit only to find out that it was awesome and thus giving my wallet more reasons to hate me. The book was surprisingly good, filling in some details and doing a damn good job of it for the ongoing mutants vs. vampires story in the new X-men series. Not only does this fit into the events of the main comics at large, it gave a couple characters who had been relegated to wiping the asses of bigger name characters some time to shine. Storm and Gambit fans should be very happy about what they got from it. However, they weren't the only ones to get a comic that shows their role in this event.

For the past few years the vampire killing Blade have been about as prominent as Kathy Griffin's acting career. He's been about as active as George W. Bush in the sense he always seems to be on vacation. He didn't play much a part in House of M, Secret Invasion, Dark Reign, Siege, or Second Coming. Maybe it was because his movies sucked or maybe it was because Wesley Snipes got busted for not giving Uncle Sam the proper number of blow jobs (ie taxes). Either way, Blade has been a pariah.

Then the need for a vampire hunter emerged. People started clamoring for someone who could actively hunt the Edward Cullen's of the world and spare them more bullshit sparkling vampires so we can get back to the blood and the violence that are supposed to make vampires sexy and awesome. He finally got his chance to shine when he appeared in X-men #2 during the unfolding vampire story. He seemed to come out of nowhere. It could have easily been called a contrived plot point. Then X-men Curse of the Mutants: Blade comes out and fills in the blanks the way the Storm and Gambit issue did. Does it measure up though? Don't rush me! I gotta throw in an appropriate amount of bullshit to make these reviews work.

This comic brings Blade into the fold through some more subtle means, taking place before the events of X-men #1 and setting the stage for his arrival. The initial conflict is structured like a murder mystery of sorts, except with more blood and more monsters. Someone or something is killing all the vampire killers and that doesn't sit well with Blade. Now it could be the overly hostile army of Twi-hards looking to exact a little Cullen justice, but since Tweens aren't usually that cruel Blade looks into it.

In a way that would only have approval by the Punisher, Blade does a few creative interrogating of his sources. That is to say he interrogates with his sword. The mystery quickly deepens because it turns out that the whole vampire slayer slaying (which may sound fucked up enough) was practically an afterthought. Every bloodsucker not getting their freak on True Blood style is more abuzz about someone taking down Dracula. Since Blade wasn't part of it, his ego has to be a little tainted. But he does get some information, one of them being a lead to Brazil. That or someone just needs to get a professional grade wax in a country where thongs and speedos are practically uniforms.

When Blade arrives, he meets up with another fellow vampire slayer who happens to be a hot chick (as is required in all vampire slaying stories). Claudia Belles has a history with Blade and by history I don't mean the kind that involved other types of sucking. I mean the kind that gives a few too many reasons to jam stakes into various body parts. The details aren't clear, but it makes for great tension even if it isn't the sexual kind True Blood has conditioned us to expect.

She fills him in on her own investigation. Turns out Blade is a little too late. The local vampire sect isn't going to talk because they're kinda dead now and by kinda I mean they've been reduced to ash on a rooftop. So Blade doesn't get to slay anymore bloodsuckers and he doesn't get any answers either. He's either losing his touch or falling behind. However, Claudia isn't so bitter that she doesn't share a little intel with him. She's got a lead of her own and that leads them to another exotic location that's far less sexy, which is Scotland.

They find the same ashy remains of more vampires who apparently weren't smart enough to get with the program. They also find another one of Blade's Facebook friends, an S&M style figure named Dolly. He/she (the gender is kind of unclear) has one of the vampires still alive and it already trying to interrogate him. He wasn't talking at first, but then Blade shoves a crossbow in his mouth which for once isn't a sexual innuendo and tells him to talk. Finally, he gets the answer he's been looking for. The asshole behind all this violence is none other than Xarus, the second son of Dracula. For those who read X-men #2 this should be about as surprising as Billy Idol's sex life. At least it points Blade and his buddies on the right track.

Once again they're forced to do more traveling. Having gone from Brazil to Scotland, they now have to go all the way across the ocean to Phoenix, Arizona. It's quite possibly the last place any vampire would go. It's 120 degrees in the shade and the sun just loves being an asshole in that city. But this is where their next clues reside and since they're now dealing with the seed of Dracula, he calls in for backup. However, his backup are a couple of guys named Tripp and Texter, which sound more like failed Microsoft projects than vampire killers.

So for the next day or so Blade and his crew stake out an old army base where the vampire activity is said to have been the strongest. They pass the time by playing cards, talking about Twilight fanfiction, and planting bombs. For Blade, it sounds like a pretty average Tuesday. When the time finally comes to confront their bloodsucking enemies, they're in for a bit of a surprise. Instead of forcing them to the surface in broad daylight where they would burn to a crisp faster than a deep fried turkey, the vampire hoards are now standing comfortably in the sunlight. It takes away a key advantage Blade has always enjoyed and makes the vampires that much more badass. Oh yeah, and they don't fucking sparkle!

The fight begins and it doesn't begin very well to say the least. Blade and his crew are outnumbered and overwhelmed. Now that the vampires can fight in the sunlight, they've got the advantage and make good use of it. Blade still makes it a point that these guys still bleed so he pulls his best Mel Gibson style speech and leads his team into battle. It looks pretty heroic, but when you look at what they're up against even William Wallace would have backed down and stuck to beating down on the English.

It gets bloody fast and Blade's crew don't fare very well. Tripp and Texter go down faster than Paris Hilton at a drug deal. Dolly, the S&M guy/girl, gets ripped up like a wishbone. Apparently being ambiguous about gender doesn't mean shit when you still end up screaming like a girl. Even Blade's old lady friend, Claudia Belles doesn't last. She gets taken down by a stake to the head and some fangs to the neck. Blade, for all his badassery, basically gets humbled in a way that would make anyone's nuts shrivel a bit. The vampires now have the same advantage he had and they make it clear he's up shits creek.

He still manages to forge his own paddle though. Blade, despite no longer having the luxury of a crew, keeps fighting. But he's smart enough and not quite ballsy enough to think he can take Xarus and his crew out by himself. Since killing vampire slayers is now just an afterthought, Blade is forced to regroup so he ends up doing something he almost never does. He runs. But at least he still finds a way to make it look badass. He hops one of the private jets (that wasn't blown up earlier) and flies it right off the base. Needless to say, he doesn't get very far. The damn thing crashes because the vampires aren't too keen on letting this guy get away because he is to vampires what David Hasselhoff is to music.

They do take the plane down, but Blade is badass enough to survive. A plane crash for him is like a hang nail for the rest of us. It's about as challenging as the first fight in Mike Tyson's Punch Out. So he gets away, humbled and pissed off. At least now he has some answers. He knows what he's up against and he knows where they're heading. Apparently, Xarus wasn't too subtle in comparing vampires to mutants. Since San Francisco is within spitting distance of Arizona (relatively speaking) he puts the pieces together and heads in that direction. This is where the events of X-men #2 pick up and where the story stands now, making for a nice and neat little package to bring it all together in the end.

So everything is falling into place. X-men #2 set the stage while issues like Storm and Gambit along with Blade have shown how they got to this point. It seems a little disjointed that they would tell the story first and then show how it got to that point. Then again, there are other stories that use that tactic and most of them suck at it. This one works pretty well. It's not quite as well-done as the Storm and Gambit issue. Anyone who knows Blade or has seen the crappy movies won't be surprised. In a sense that's the biggest weakness to this issue. There's nothing that surprises the reader because a lot of the mystery was already revealed in X-men #2.

It is still a well-done comic though. There isn't a lot of memorable dialogue, but the art and the action is decent. There is a logical flow of story from start to finish and even those who don't know shit about Blade won't be entirely lost. If you weren't a Blade fan before, this comic isn't going to make you one. At the very least it does justify his involvement in the current X-men books. So for filling in the blanks and doing it in a way that makes sense, this tidy little one-shot gets a 3.5 out of 5. It's not going to blow your mind, but it will entertain you. It's a nice addition to the unfolding mutant vs. vampires story and continues to contribute in this surprisingly non-sucky story that so many who are burned out on vampires pan. For those who don't like it just because it involves vampires, I would say give it a rest and go back to reading your werewolf books.

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