In 2001, X-Force, a comic that featured a paramilitary group of mutants, went through a major overhaul when it was taken over by writer Peter Milligan and artist Michael Allred. A team of new characters who preferred working in the limelight instead of the shadows was introduced. They were fame-obsessed narcissists that Milligan used to satirize superhero comics, the Bush presidency, and the burgeoning obsession with reality television. The team moved on to a new series called X-Statix, which lasted until 2004, and since then, the characters have been mostly unused. But now they’re back, and surprise, surprise, there might be a few things to say about fame and media here in 2022.
Following a series of pandemic related delays, X-Cellent #1 follows up on 2019’s Giant-Size X-Statix, which brought back some of the original team (Mister Sensitive, Dead Girl, and Vivisector) as well as the offspring of their deceased teammates (Phatty, The A, and U-Go Girl). And of course, there’s Doop, a green something that works as the team’s videographer, who was at one time the receptionist for The Jean Grey School and who allegedly has an undeniable sex appeal. The clash between the old and new generations is present and should continue to provide fun internal conflict for the team in further issues.
The titular “X-Cellent” is a whole other team led by former X-Statix member Zeitgeist, who can and does shoot acid out of his mouth in this issue. Their dastardly plan has yet to be revealed, but it involves crashing big events and gaining millions of followers on social media. That and their previous abduction of the new U-Go Girl (Or Gone Gal? She’s still figuring it out.) has put them at odds with this latest iteration of X-Statix.
For the look of the issue, Allred’s pop-art sensibilities continue to be a perfect fit for both this strange set of characters and their media-saturated environment. The spectrum of colors adds a dynamism all their own to the action and arguments of the issue. As for the tone, Milligan’s humor with this team works just as well today as it did twenty years ago. Streaming services, social media, and doctored videos are just some of what the writer is using to continue his satire. I’ll be interested to see if Milligan decides to show the struggle the older members might have attracting a younger audience since, even with the sliding time scale, they’re not the new kids on the block that they used to be.
It’s also too soon to tell if X-Statix will set its satirical spotlight on the Krakoan renaissance that mutants have been enjoying the last couple of years. Still, their secret discovery of immortality would be an exciting element for a team as public and death-prone as X-Statix to encounter. But for now, it’s a good idea to have this title stand alone. It makes it easier for new readers to give it a chance, and its unique tone doesn’t have to adapt to crossovers or events. It’s honestly refreshing Marvel is allowing something so strange to exist now, especially when so many eyes are on the mutant side of their universe.
Having read the previous X-Force and X-Statix runs, I’m sure the story in X-Cellent will only get wilder from here, and I’ll be following along every step of the way. But know that if they do anything to harm Doop, we will riot.