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Graeme on X-Men: Ce n’est pas un événement comique

Graeme McMillan

As above, so below: I’ve told you about my guilty pleasure of the year already, and now it’s time for its opposite number: The book I kept buying, just out of dread curiosity and something indefinable: X-MEN. Or, to use its subtitle, X-Men: Curse Of The Mutants. Or, to use the title it should’ve had, X-Men: No, Seriously, What The Hell Is This.

You may remember, before this series launched, such solicitation promises as “Why have vampires targeted the mutant population? And who’s the jaw-dropping new member of the X-Men? The answers to these questions will dramatically alter the Marvel Universe” and “The Curse of The Mutants leaves the X-Men forever scarred!” And, having read the six issue core storyline in full now, I have to say: I think I might be the one scarred from this experience.

It’s not so much that the series is bad, because it’s not – It’s just that it’s also not good, or even okay. It’s barely there, a void with a trace of lackadaisical contract fulfillment all the way through it. Even allowing for the traditional hyperbole of hype that surrounds any new project launch, X-Men is a staggering disappointment considering what was promised: Yes, Paco Diaz’s art is nice enough, but the story… the story… Well, let’s start by answering those questions from the solicit, shall we?

Why have vampires targeted the mutant population?
Because Dracula’s son – who’s now in charge of all the vampires, having killed his dad off in an earlier comic that really should’ve been part of this run, but isn’t because, hey, it’s comics – wants them to team-up against the humans or something. I’m not entirely sure what his plan actually is, and it never really gets properly explained beyond “You’re a minority! We’re a minority! We’re the same! As long as you ignore that we’re undead and want to destroy humanity, but details!”

Who’s the jaw-dropping new member of the X-Men?
No-one. I think this bears repeating: No-one joins the X-Men during the course of this story. Sure, Blade comes along and helps out, but joining the team? Not so much. Maybe jaws were supposed to drop because it didn’t happen. Anyway, he’s gone by the end of the sixth issue.

Oh, and here’s an extra one: What about the Marvel Universe has been dramatically altered as a result of this storyline?
Nothing. In fact, let’s be completely honest: Beyond Jubilee being turned into a vampire, the only thing that this storyline did was undo the death of Dracula and rise to power of Dracula’s previously unknown son Xarius, which only happened a month before X-Men #1 came out. So, instead of dramatically altering the Marvel Universe, this storyline actually restored the status quo, more or less. “Dramatic!”

I can’t help but think that this storyline was rewritten somewhere along the line, maybe in response to it not really having the sales and/or fan impact that it was supposed to. Part of that is due to that whole “restoring the status quo” thing, but it’s also because I’d like to give Victor Gischler the credit for not having always planned to have what should’ve been a large scale set-piece (The amassed vampire army attacking the X-Men’s floating island base) happen, essentially, off-panel. Or, for that matter, plot devices like “We remote-control switched off Wolverine’s healing power so that he could become a vampire and now that he is a vampire, we’re remote-control switching his healing power back on and look! He’s normal again and he’ll kill all the vampires! Off panel!”

I may be too kind in giving Gischler that credit, mind you; there’s a lot happening off-panel throughout this storyline, not least of which the death of Dracula and recovering of his body, both of which happen in other comics altogether, despite being fairly central to the plot here. Never mind the fact that, after he’s brought back to life by the X-Men, Dracula pretty much leaves the book until he shows up to take command of the vampires again, which – par for the course here – happens without much drama or reason to be interested. That’s a weird hallmark of the six issues here: Everything that you feel should have some level of dramatic tension, interest or whatever just… happens. Sure, there may be some posturing from one or more of the characters, but there’s never any excitement or resolution or anything that the reader actually gets to experience. In six whole issues.

(The resolution of the storyline is actually a great example of this: Having slaughtered the vampire army off-panel in the previous issue, the X-Men go all out to attack the vampire stronghold to rescue Jubilee. Once they get there, they break in, off-panel, fight off the guards, off-panel, and by the time they get to Dracula and his cronies, there’s a stare-off before Dracula gives Jubilee back to the X-Men. The only action to be seen is Cyclops knocking Blade out – with an eye-beam to the back, weirdly enough – to stop him from attacking Dracula. Because, of course, the X-Men have no issue with Dracula, they had a problem with his son, who’s now dead. The end.)

There’s a certain futility in being disappointed in a superhero event comic for failing to live up to its hype; it’s like being annoyed when the sun sets every evening, after all. But Curse of The Mutants does more than just fail to live up to its hype: It’s almost entirely disconnected to the hype, not only failing to answer the questions from the hype (or, really, even acknowledging them. Was the solicit written based on plans that changed in the writing? I guess so) but failing to offer anything to replace those questions. I couldn’t tell you why I bought all six issues of this storyline – Part of it was a car-crash quality, I admit, part of it was wondering if it would ever actually go anywhere close to the pre-release hype, but beyond that…? I have no idea. Inertia? Masochism? – but now that they’re over, I have no idea whether I feel like it’s been a waste of time and money, or a strangely hypnotic example of accidental zen anti-event comics. Let’s be safe and just say that they’re Awful, shall we?

10 Responses to “ Graeme on X-Men: Ce n’est pas un événement comique ”

  1. This was Marvel overcompensating for having pushed the X-Men to the margins with a plot that became increasingly impenetrable for new (or lapsed) readers. That all began with “No more mutants” and continued on through Decimation, Messiah Complex, etc. Those stories mostly dealt with the near extinction of mutants, but instead of being an epic that could have reestablished the X-Men as Marvel’s biggest stars, it felt more like an excuse to push them into their own little corner. Having done that for a few years, it appeared to me that the new X-Men #1 and the war with vampires (an enemy entirely unrelated to the group’s recent conflicts) was meant as a course correction. Unfortunately, vampires don’t seem to have the same appeal that zombies had a few years ago as opponents for superheroes, and without the presence of a highly popular or acclaimed creative team, or even a distinctly new direction for the characters, the new #1 issue just seemed like a desperate ploy. I don’t know where Marvel will go next with the X-Men titles; hopefully, they’ll come up with something fresher than a revived Dracula.

  2. Graeme, I enjoyed this review, but I do have to ask, why did you keep buying it? You must have known before the conclusion of the story that it was going nowhere.

  3. Graeme buys it so we don’t have to!

    I guess

  4. Michael, like I say in the review, I really don’t know – I realized somewhere around the fourth issue that it wasn’t going to get any better, but some kind of completist masochist thing kicked in and I bought the last two despite myself.

  5. Yay! TWO written posts by Graeme McMillan in the same week!
    As someone who doesn’t listen to podcasts, it’s like he’s pretty much disappeared from the online world in the last several months, and I’ve missed his stuff.

  6. I had to quit after issue four. It was a pretty book, but I really think Gischler dropped the ball in more ways than Graeme points out – the dialog swings from boring to terrible, and no character has a distinct voice. I haven’t read any of Gischler’s novels, so I can’t comment on his overall quality as a writer; but it seems he has no real grasp of what makes a superhero comic work.

    There COULD have been a good story there. The X-Men have a history with Dracula, after all. But the wedding of creator and property seems more a marriage of convenience than anything that was built to last. And the X-Men are a tricky property for even seasoned comics veterans to tackle. Considering the lackluster sales and overall underwhelming response, hopefully Marvel will put this book out of its misery soon.

  7. I bet this review is a lot more fun to read than the comics were.

  8. i’ve developed a specific enough immunity to the X-Men that only the more obscure elements seem to bring me back. Brubaker doing X-Men in Space is one. the X-Men’s connection with vampire (specifically Dracula) is another.
    i did like the idea of the inclusion of Namor into the X-verse as well so that peaked my interest as well.

    however, there has always seemed to be some kind of disconnect between the idea of Namor and actually reading a Namor comic.

    it’s also unfortunate Dracula’s recent limelight in the Marvel Universe couldn’t have built off’ve the wonderful work Cornell did in MI-13. that’s pretty fucking grating.

    long story short, i’ve read all of the Curse of the Mutant stuff and i don’t have anything to say about it other than i can’t really remember what happens other than Jubilee the one-time mutant, one-time New Warrior is a now-time vampire.

    huh

  9. This almost 40 year old comics fan never thought he would see the day when “how do we return the X-Men to prominence?” was an actual conversation he’d see happening.

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