X-Terminators #1, the first issue of Leah Williams and Carlos Gómez’s grindhouse-influenced new series from Marvel comics gears up for a gleefully gory girl’s night out as Dazzler, Jubilee, Boom-Boom, and Wolverine are forced to fight for their lives against an army of vampires led by Dazzler’s ex-boyfriend, Alex. With Williams’ witty writing and Gómez’s cute (and sexy) take on the quartet combined with Bryan Valenza’s vibrant colours, X-Terminators is as colourful as its leads and just as funny.
The book opens with a sequence of Dazzler roller skating while blowing bubblegum; clad in whiter booty shorts emblazoned with the word “praxis” in pink cursive, Dazzler also sports her signature blue eye makeup. The reveal of the blood-soaked floor she skates is something out of one of the movies this comic draws so heavily from, as is the first panel of the comic, a shot of the back of Dazzler’s shorts. It’s impressive that this book can have moments like that and still manages not to feel drenched in the male gaze. In other books, a panel like that would leave me uncomfortable. But here, it leaves me enticed and laughing more than anything.
Perhaps it’s the aggressiveness that is shown in this and the next page, the fact that Dazzler is mid-fight and trouncing the Vampires she’s fighting, maybe it’s the fact that the women in this book don’t fall victim to the anatomical extremes all too common to women in comics; instead, all of them look real, like they could exist and not have their organs mashed into a fine paste by the size of their waists. Even the panel of Jubilee in her underwear feels natural and unsexualized. In X-Terminators, the characters are only sexualized when they want to be, as is the case with Boom-Boom in her dress.
Carlos Gómez’s art is integral to this fact, and it becomes clear just how key his treatment of the girls is to how the, for lack of a better word, objectification of them is received. X-Terminators isn’t Gómez’s first time working with Leah Williams, he previously worked with her on Amazing Mary-Jane and was a fill-in artist for David Baldeón on X-Factor #4. No doubt, that prior working relationship helped to ensure that Williams’ vision for this series came across, something which it’s more likely than not was an integral part of ensuring this book walked the very fine line between fun objectification and gross objectification when it came to portraying the girls.
Leah Williams is, of course, the perfect writer for this; her witty voice and obvious depth of knowledge of imagery and ideas common to grindhouse films (revenge narratives for one) are what makes the book work at its core, it cements it as a labour of love by someone who cares about the stories that they’re drawing from and, when it comes down to it, writing a love letter to. There’s also an understanding of the fact that grindhouse films (and the horror genre at large) are no stranger to empowered women, with many of the heroines being women and girls. There’s never a sense that this is something dirty or wrong or anti-feminist, instead, X-Terminators lifts the genres it borrows from up into the light that its heroines wield and that its villains shy away from.
The book ends on the kind of cliffhanger that leaves me itching for the next issue as it introduces its fourth protagonist, Wolverine, who it seems has been captured and forced into deathmatches by the same people who have captured the rest of the girls. While in the vein of the kinds of stories that have been told about the Wolverines since Logan’s first decade or so of existence, I have faith (and hope) that Williams can spin gold out of a standard Wolverine plot and allow it to shine the way the rest of the book does.
With a fun plot, funny writing, and gorgeous art, X-Terminators #1 is, above all, fun. It’s the start of what will no doubt be the kind of girl’s night out I wish I could have. After all, who wouldn’t want to kill vampires with Dazzler, Jubilee, Boom-Boom, and Wolverine?