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COMIC REVIEW

X-Statix: Indie Comic, X-Men Feel

Revitalizing the X-Men by Resurrecting a Certain Princess

By Fred Choi

staff writer

X-Statix, Volume 3: Back From the Dead

Created by Peter Milligan (writer), Mike Allred (artist), Laura Allred (colorist)

pp. 192., Marvel Enterprises, Inc., $19.99

Although now almost through its third year, it’s still hard to believe that the snappy and electrically-charged X-Statix is a bonafide X-Men comic from Marvel. Satirical, surprisingly relevant, and -- dare I bandy the term about -- “postmodern,” X-Statix has by some lucky chance managed to infiltrate that comic book behemoth’s revered yet yawn-inducing X-Men universe with its unique irreverence. These are mutants for the 21st century whose primary concerns avoid anything as prosaic as saving the world. Rather, these mutants use their powers for more immediately gratifying ends, scrabbling their way to the top of the worlds of fame and fortune, accruing agents, townhouses, yachts, lawyers, and hordes of slavishly devoted fans and groupies along the way. And in the process, fulfilling those pesky obligations that come with the job -- world-saving missions, press junkets, talk show appearances, product sponsorship, and a line of action figures and plush toys.

As can be imagined, recruitment is as much about sex appeal, charisma, and stage presence as it is about special powers. Main characters include U-Go Girl, easily the hottest redhead this side of Jean Grey; Mr. Sensitive, a.k.a. the Orphan, sensitive to the slightest breeze yet a bit dense when it comes to his romantic relationships; Vivisector, an intellectual and sarcastic werewolf; Dead Girl, a hottie who has revived interest in necrophilia worldwide (um, or maybe that’s just me); El Guapo, skateboarding Latino heartthrob; Doop, the team’s lovable, green, yet mysteriously sinister alien cameraman; and the team’s manipulative “owner,” Spike Freeman, described as “a cross between Bill Gates and Satan.”

Selfish, yet lovable, characters are just one part of the genius that is X-Statix. Each life-threatening mission, ostensibly for good (but with camera crew and makeup team on hand) is as refreshingly cynical and barbed as it is funny. Milligan spins decidedly contemporary satirical and oftentimes political yarns, such as the saving of “Boys R Us,” the latest boy band, or the rescue of little Paco Perez from “Bastrona,” a country whose leader bears an uncanny resemblance to Fidel Castro. Along the way Allred and Milligan name-drop a boatload of straightforward or sometimes slyly twisted references, including Cindy Crawford, “Star Wars,” Umberto Eco, “Apocalypse Now,” and M.C. Escher.

The latest trade paperback (a.k.a. graphic novel) is number five of the series, although it’s number three of the series actually called X-Statix. (Confusing, but newbies should note that the reason is that X-Statix originally appeared as X-Force issues #116 through #129 before acquiring its new title) The book, released March 31 and subtitled “Back from the Dead” collects X-Statix issues 11-18. The first two issues feature El Guapo and Dead Girl, respectively, and the six-part storyline features a resurrected princess who bears a more than passing resemblance to the late Princess Di. In fact, the character was Princess Di until the last minute, when she was changed to a “pop princess” named Henrietta from “Europa.” Apparently even Marvel has limits to what they’re willing to let the creators of X-Statix get away with.

But even with the occasional censorship, X-Statix still beats the competition in pushing the genre, riffing on topics that are completely taboo in every other comic book, let alone every other form of popular entertainment. Who else would use last year’s sniper attacks in DC or the selling of chemical weapons to Hussein as admittedly somewhat perverse plot devices? Or have a team of villains called “Euro-trash” (which includes “Oxford Blue,” described as having “ferocious violence with a boyish stammer and a predilection for black hookers.”)? Or have a Princess Di-esque character as leader of a superhero group, redesigning their costumes in “stunning ethnic lycra with bold highlights”?

The six-part series meanders a bit and occasionally slips into superhero cliche, but it’s a keeper as is the rest of the series with Mike and Laura Allred’s instantly recognizable artwork and Peter Milligan’s twisty plot and snappy dialogue. (“We’re in trouble now, boys. Our teleporter’s getting ironic.” -- issue 14; “That’s the problem with living in a melting pot. There are so many people who might hate you.” -- issue 16) Oh, and a cameo by Spider-Man. As with all comics, if you want the full experience you should start at the very beginning with X-Force TPB vol. 1 (i.e. issue #116).