I’ve been very busy recently. Work has been keeping me going; so has my kid. On top of that, it’s hotter than holy blazing hell and our swamp cooler only brings the house down to a balmy (not) 90 degrees during the day (trust me, our present to each other this winter holiday season is going to be an air conditioner). I’ve been trying very hard NOT to be home during the heat of the day, which means that I’ve had very little computer time.
Thankfully, Abhinav is there to save my skin with this fantastic review of the X-Men comics. Welcome him warmly. He’s an excellent reviewer and a hell of a lot of fun to talk to.
About the author
Long-time science-fiction and fantasy geek, lover of all things star wars and warhammer (mostly all things anyway). Abhinav is currently an aspiring writer in his two favourite, afore-mentioned genres and he is also a book reviewer for The Founding Fields and a movie reviewer for 24 FPS Movie Reviews. You can follow him on twitter @abhinavjain87 and be subjected to a string of tweets throughout the day about (mostly) his writing or retweets he like. You can read more of his musings here.
All Things X-Men…
You can purchase this product by clicking on the following link (let me be clear, I have no idea if this is the actual correct link or not…).
The X-men are one of the most iconic of Marvel’s various IPs and as such they’ve received a lot of attention over the years, whether it is in the form of various animated TV shows, or video games, or live-action movies, or even novels. Cyclops, Wolverine, The Beast, Professor X, Magneto and others are an instantly recognisable brand even if you are only minimally into comics.
Before picking up Victor Gischler’s new 2010 run on the superhero team (volume 3), my only previous run-in with them was the old Fox cartoon show back in the day, the rebooted X-Men Evolution which starred the X-Men as teenagers and the four movies of course. I’d never read a single X-men comic as I just never got into them. Mostly because I grew up more interested in DC superheroes than Marvel ones. So it was rather fun to pick up the new series a few days and begin reading through the issues. In retrospect, I should probably have picked up a more “traditional” series but having read through the first 10 issues by Gischler, I think this is still a good starting point.
Curse of the Mutants is a 6-issue story arc and sets the X-men, under Cyclops’ leadership, up against a united Vampire nation led by Xarus, Count Dracula’s son. The series begins on an explosive note, literally, as a Vampire suicide bomber blows himself up in the middle of San Francisco, releasing a specially-engineered virus that turns people into mindless babblers who want to be fed upon. Caught in the explosion is a former X-men member, Jubilee, who has lost her powers and later appears to have been the target all along, in a conspiracy by Xarus to turn all of the X-men into vampires and strengthen both species in the process.
I really liked this story arc. Gischler has written a great script that is really intriguing, thoughtful, and plays upon the nature of several of the X-men themselves, and their relationships with each other. These are definitely not the X-men of movies or the cartoon shows. The most prominent change being that the entire team has relocated to an island facility off the coast of San Francisco, with Cyclops as its leader rather than Professor X, and Wolverine as the heavy muscle enforcer of the team, even more so than usual. The team itself is much tougher as a whole than I remember from my previous experiences with them, with Cyclops being that much more confident and decisive. All good stuff so far.
As a 6-issue arc, Curse of the Mutants works really well. Gischler eases the reader into the new setting and then takes them for a rip-roaring ride as the X-men and an unexpected ally hunt down Vampires through the streets and clubs of San Francisco. The first issue starts off well, with a little bit of foreshadowing that something big is about to happen, and ends with a tragedy that sets the X-men reeling. Then issue two kicks off in high gear as Blade, yes Blade, arrives to lend the superheroes a hand and carries out his own purge alongside Wolverine. From thereon, the action is non-stop, all the way to the end of issue six. Tons of fight scenes, tons of “slower” moments where Gischler builds up his characters and makes us believe in them, whether it is the X-men or Xarus and his vampires. Or even the Count of Night himself.
Going hand-in-hand with the new story arc are flashes of past events, for this isn’t the first time the X-men have gone up against the Vampire clans. Wolverine and Blade especially appear to have a history, as do Storm and the Count, and there’s also a brotherly-sisterly relationship of sorts going on between Jubilee and Wolverine. Where the latter is concerned it appears to be akin to how Rogue and Wolverine meet in the first X-men movie, except in this case the circumstances were much more poignant and bloodier. I think that was a great touch here. Curse of the Mutants is as much about Jubilee and Wolverine as it is about the X-men and the Vampires. This relationship sets up the script for some rather dramatic reversals on both sides and shows just how pragmatically callous even the X-men can be.
The special appearances of Blade and Count Dracula were particularly welcome, although I found myself not caring all that much for the former. He was too “relaxed” and blasé about Vampires for most of the arc, until towards the end of issue when he suddenly gets a strong dose of fanaticism. Compared with his portrayal before that, that was jarring. This isn’t the Wesley Snipes Blade either, although he is just as badass when it comes down to it.
The artwork in all the six issues is just fantastic. Adi Granov’s covers in particular are really vivid and dynamic, with their dark palette and their snapshot feel. There’s also a very “modern” feel to them, and in general they are quite different to the cover art for several of the comics I’ve read recently. The pencils by Paco Medina, the inks by Juan Vlasco and the colours by Marte Gracia really evoke all the right notes from Gischler’s script. The characters live and breathe through the artwork, which is sharp, colourful and just plain “deep”.
The one thing I didn’t really like however was the character designs for Rogue and Storm. Seriously speaking, why does Storm need an outfit which barely covers the modesty of her torso and looks like it may be exposed any second? And then, why does Rogue need a costume with a plunging neckline? Anything I say here has already been covered in quite detail over at Comic Book Resources back in February: “She Has No Head! – No, It’s Not Equal”. The article actually touches upon both Rogue and Storm as well. The whole issue is just really crazy and makes no sense at all. It really does take away the fun of things.
Anyways, overall, Curse of the Mutants is a really satisfying read. Some really neat plot-twists in it, as well as some great cinematic moments. Some of these scenes are a bit straight-up and abrupt but there is only so much that can be squeezed into a single comics issue. On the whole, I really enjoyed this first story arc and will be continuing on with the rest of the Volume 3 series.