X-Statix: The Complete Collection Vol. 2 puts Peter Milligan and Mike Allred at it again with their team of celebrity mutants. X-Statix remains a wonderful anomaly in the X-canon with its reality TV-like take on mutants. Wild and wacky tales abound here in this superhero satire, and while parts of it haven’t aged well, it’s entertaining nonetheless.
Collecting X-Statix #6-20, Wolverine/Doop #1-2, and a short from X-Men Unlimited #41, this is a packed trade. With the latest iteration of the newly renamed X-Statix formed, the team continues their petty squabbles and reckless adventures. What makes these stories so unique is their shift of focus from traditional superhero fare to the mundane idiosyncrasies of the team. Every team member feels distinct and their interactions with one another and read organically in a way that you can’t help but be drawn in, yet they’re not without their faults.
More often than not, these heroes give in to shameless appeals to their rabid audience’s desire. This can range form sparking new/fake romances on the fly for the tabloids or even characters shifting their sexuality for attention. It’s a scathing satire of pop culture icons that still cuts today. Yet despite the fact that these heroes can be unlikable at times, you still can’t help but root for them. I think this speaks to the consistent quality of Milligan’s writing across this series.
Keep in mind though, this book is not for everyone. While deep cuts and sarcasm abound, and it’s not gonna be everyone’s flavor. The book also pushes the boundaries of the bizarre: a man in an abusive relationship with a skateboard is just the tip of the iceberg for how weird the series can get. At the same time, this is volume 2, so you should know what you’re getting into at this point and whether or not its approach works for you.
Performing the bulk of art duties in this collection is the spectacular duo of Mike and Laura Allred. This cartoonist couple delivers some of their best work here, with Mike pencilling and Laura coloring. One of the best aspects is the level of detail Mike gives each and every character. From their incredibly emotive faces to their heroic postures, the artwork works in tandem with the writing to make each character unique.
The line work here would not be the same without Laura’s popping colors, which saturate each page and give them a life of their own. One could not ask for a better pair to set the visual style for the series.
This collection also features guest artists such as Nick Derrington, Darwyn Cooke, and more. Each artist works their strengths into their issues and matches the series’ visual language. In particular, Cooke’s two-issue series Wolverine/Doop makes for one of the best inclusions here. Their brief adventure has the unlikely pair searching for the Pink Mink, an artifact that seemingly warps mutants’ sense of reality. What follows is a mind-bending journey full of laughs and twists. At one point it’s revealed that both Wolverine and Doop are on opposing missions to see which of them has been compromised, only adding further tension to their alliance. The story kept me questioning what was real the whole time and Cooke’s art only enhanced the experience further.
The ever-looming specter of death is another aspect that gives the whole series tension issue to issue. Anyone could be killed at any moment, and our heroes are prepared for it. They live their lives to the fullest and with all the extravagance a celebrity can because tomorrow is not guaranteed. They could be killed in a routine mission or obliterated at a casual dinner. This in turn keeps each issue exciting as you can’t guess what’ll happen next, a feeling that’s been rather absent in the current X-era.
However, not everything about the book has aged well. A good majority of the humor still works, but there are jokes throughout that are very much of their time and don’t hit a modern audience like they originally would have. You have to be vaguely aware of it’s context when reading, and thankfully the not-so-gracefully-aged jokes don’t detract too much from the overall experience.
I personally think there’s no better time to check this book out. Its satirical edge and high stakes keeps it consistently engaging. It’s even more interesting to see how this book works as a precursor to the celebrity “heroes” of The Boys. Especially with Milligan and Allred’s newest iteration of their team coming later this year in X-Cellent, now’s a great time to check out this one-of-a-kind series.
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