Sunday, January 2, 2011
X-men #6 - Lifting the Curse
A new year is upon us! Fuck 2010! Fuck that extra zero! 2011 is a new year full of new hope. At least that's what everybody likes to think after that oversized bowling ball with Snooki curled up inside would like to think. The shift in one digit only changes so much. Your dick doesn't get bigger. Your shit still stinks. And the comics that sucked in 2010 still suck in 2011. That's where the latest incarnation of the adjectiveless X-men series comes in.
2010 spawned many X-books, but it was the one with the least imaginative title that drew some of the harshest scrutiny. This is the book that's supposed to tie the X-men into the greater Marvel universe. It emerged from the ashes of Second Coming. The X-men are no longer the morticians sharpening their tools for the final autopsy of the mutant race. They're part of a race that's actually got a chance to survive thanks to some cute redhead with the Phoenix Force who looks suspiciously like Jean Grey. The new X-men series started in the midst of the vampire craze where every other gay joke was coupled with a Twilight reference. Curse of the Mutants took Marvel's vampires, who must have been trying to wait out the whole Twilight craze, and brought them back into the fold. It was billed as an old school monster movie, mutants vs. vampires. It even got Blade involved, who has had less screen time Jackie Chan's stunt double in recent years. What could go wrong?
It started off so strong. Curse of the Mutants brought Jubilee back into the picture, turning her into a vampire and making her more badass than she's ever been (and more doable now that she's okay with wearing skin-tight leather). It also brought Xarus, the son of Dracula, into the fold. He's very much a derivation of Dracula, but he has a level of charisma that sets him apart. He pitted himself against the X-men and the potential for awesome was vast. However, that awesome was never realized. In X-men #5 the two armies clashed and it was about as epic as watching a caterpillar wrestle a meal-worm. It ended up being horribly contrived. One minute the vampires were winning. Then the next Cyclops cures Wolverine from his vampire-ism. Then the mutants start winning. It's about as interesting as it sounds. There's no depth or detail. It's the equivalent of copying and pasting one glob of shit to another. It doesn't make it stink any less.
All that build-up really fizzled and now there's not much to improve on for X-men #6. Never-the-less, the story needs completing in the same way you can't leave a wad of shit hanging from your ass. Xarus is still left pondering the collapse of his scrotum. Then Dracula enters the scene (who, mind you, pretty much vanished as a plot point after issue 2) and confronts his son. He must have been waiting for his son to get his ass handed to him because when Xarus orders his vampire minions to kill his father they look at him the same way deers look at an oncoming minivan.
On top of this the X-men are on their way so Xarus is cornered worse than Mark Foley in an elementary school shower. Since none of his vampire cronies are going to risk taking sides, they let Xarus do his own dirty work. He certainly takes a stab at it. He has daddy issues, remember? Anyone who ever tried to go up against their old man before they had any hair on their balls knows what dumb move that can be. To make matters worse the X-men arrive in full force and tear through the vampires as if they were manikins in a Jackass movie. It's a fairly bland fight with no intricate details to set it apart. You won't see too much that catches your eye. The scene with Xarus and Dracula is drawn out much better which may be the same as saying it's the less smellier wad of shit.
Eventually, dear old dad gives his little boy a spanking of a kind that Catholic Nuns can only dream of. Despite Xarus lashing out like a toddler in the cereal isle of a supermarket, he gets beaten hard by Dracula. How hard you may ask? Dracula sends the right fatherly message by ripping his son's head off. That bears repeating. Dracula rips his son's head off. That's the kind of extreme parenting that even MTV wouldn't show for it's Teen Mom series (yet).
Extreme or not, it does put an end to the vampire attack. Dracula makes it clear that he's the boss again. Ripping your son's head off is gruesome, but it does make clear that you're not dicking around. So now he's the top dog of the vampires again and just in time too. The X-men arrive, coming in without a scratch from their battle with the vampire hoards. Again, it's lacking on details and such. It's like a Michael Bay movie without the explosions.
Dracula is actually welcoming. He hasn't forgotten that the X-men brought him back to life. So he doesn't fight them. However, Blade being Blade can't resist a shot at taking out the Lord of the Vampires and the one that inspired the creation of Edward Cullen. While Cyclops tries to be diplomatic, Blade goes in for the kill. Then in a dick move that won't win Cyclops any new members to his fanclub, he shoots Blade in the back to knock him out. There are people out there who since Messiah Complex have jumped at the chance to hate Cyclops in the same way Hugh Hefner jumps at the chance to marry another blond with big tits. Even if the rest of the book sucks, they'll love this.
What the Cyclops-hating crowd won't like is the way he negotiates a cease-fire with Dracula. Remember, they're kind of at war with vampires and the X-men are war with enough people at the moment. Dracula can't seem to resist taking advantage of the situation. Even though he beheaded his son, he pretty much steals his idea like a Nigerian hacker and offers the same partnership between mutants and vampires. It does make sense and Darcula would be an idiot not to see it, but Cyclops isn't buying it.
This is where the Cyclops does show that if he ever made it onto celebrity poker, he would kick everyone's asses. He implies to Dracula that when they brought him back, they made sure there was a contingency plan as he put it in case he screwed them over. He was purposefully vague. It could be anything from his head exploding to him having to wipe Stephine Meyers' ass for all eternity. Now Dracula could have called his bluff, but he doesn't. Either he's smarter than his son or he lacks the balls. Either way, it's an unceremonious yet fitting way to end the conflict between mutants and vampires.
So that's it. The vampires leave San Francisco in the care of mutants and radical left-wing hippie liberals while the mutants go back to Utopia (so who actually won?). Dracula is even nice enough to let them take Jubilee, who got pimp slapped when she tried to defend Xarus. Since she's still a vampire, she's confined to a cell. She's not weak and puny anymore, but she's not her perky self again either. She's potentially dangerous, much more so than she was as a mutant. That opens the door to all sorts of other conflicts.
Blade certainly sees the danger. He goes back with the X-men, but he's not looking to pick up a uniform along the way. He still is of the mind that the only good vampire is a dead vampire. He's basically one of the radical anti-Twilight fans. He believes she's gotta be staked to end it. Wolverine won't have it though. He makes it clear that Blade has worn out his welcome and needs to go back to raising money to paying Wesley Snipes's back taxes.
It ends the whole Blade/X-men team-up on a sour note. It shows that not all the Marvel heroes are not the Superfriends. They don't always get along or like each other. But Blade's departure pretty much ends the series where it began. However, the Mutants vs. Vampires story does end with a major change to the world of X. Jubilation Lee is no longer just another teenage girl who hangs out with strange people (who doesn't become a groupie for a traveling punk band). She has powers again and she's dangerous. She tricked Wolverine earlier. That's enough to earn respect in any corner of the Marvel universe. So her story takes a radical turn and opens the door for new possibilities. It's a shitty path to get to where she is now, but for Jubilee fans it certainly is satisfying to see her being relevant again.
The final issue of Curse of the Mutants comes as a relief. This series started strong, but it stumbled hard. It was like one of those ideas where a writer comes in drunk to a meeting and blurts out the first thing on his mind. Mutants vs. Vampires...it practically writes itself! Well if it were that easy everybody would be qualified to write for Marvel. The problem is depth. To Victor Gischler's credit, he tried to add interesting details to the story. They just didn't pan out in the end. The way the fight between mutants and vampires was put together was glossed over. It was like someone just said to throw some pretty pictures on the page and that would be enough. It wasn't. For a comic to be awesome, it needs more than something a trained monkey can pull off. It needs the little things to make a big difference. Curse of the Mutants lacked those little things in too many ways.
Now maybe I am being overly harsh out of bitterness over the last issue. I'll grant that this issue was an improvement, but after the last issue that improvement only goes so far. It didn't overwrite the flaws in the previous issue. It even borrowed a few. Never-the-less, it effectively tied up the loose ends. The vampires are gone. The X-men are victories. All is well, but not completely. Jubilee's current state definitely changes things. It opens the door to new stories and actually does something that could affect the other X-books. For that, the book deserves a pat on the back in addition to a kick in the balls.
When scoring this issue it's hard to ignore the inherent flaws in the overall arc. It can't make up for how lousy some other parts of the story were, but since it does make for a fairly clean ending I can't give it the same low score I gave the previous issue. So in the end I give X-men #6 a 2.5 out of 5. It's not much of an improvement, but it doesn't completely destroy the premise of the book. It's still a good idea, having a book dedicated to working the X-men into the greater Marvel Universe. The name is still horribly unoriginal, but it still has potential. It's the little things that Marvel needs to take care of if this book is to live up to it's title. 2011 has just begun. There's plenty of time to make it awesome. Nuff said!