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X-Cellent Vol. 1: Hereditary-X
Marvel Comics

Comic Books

‘X-Cellent Vol. 1: Hereditary-X’ is a fun, nostalgic ride with a twist

X-Cellent is a book that knows exactly what it is and doesn’t need to fit in with the rest of the X-line to tell its story.

When X-Cellent was first teased, immediately my interest was piqued. A few years ago, I had begun to read X-Force because I grew attached to Siryn, who was a major player for most of the run. As the issues went on, the team changed, and I kept on with the book until one day, the entire team roster was unrecognizable. Enter: X-Statix, or simply “X-Force” as they were known at the time, stealing the name from the X-Force we knew as X-Men readers.

Between Milligan’s humor-first writing and Allred’s striking style, X-Force was extremely easy to get into — and following the team’s adventures to X-Statix was pretty much a no-brainer. Anyone who has ever read Allred and Milligan’s series could tell you that this book isn’t afraid to kill members — most of the original team dies in their debut issue, after all. So when the Krakoa era was announced and X-Cellent was one of the books teased, my interest skyrocketed. Zeitgeist, who died in the first issue was in the trailers and for a moment, we all wondered if other departed X-Force members like U-Go Girl would turn up in the book thanks to Krakoa’s resurrection protocols.

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Quickly into your first foray of X-Cellent, however, you would realize that’s not the case.

The book is a bit nebulous in terms of what time period it’s supposed to take place in, but it’s certainly not a book set on Krakoa — Krakoa isn’t even mentioned. Instead, Allred and Milligan write a story that vaguely takes place sometime after X-Statix and despite how many years its been since their original runs with these characters (and some of the humor is certainly dated, shall we say), they are able to launch these characters into the modern era with ease.

X-Force, and by extension, X-Statix, was a book that was very in tune with the culture of the time. Milligan and Allred’s heroes aren’t even that heroic — they’re fame-obsessed, e-listers who want nothing more than to cash in on their abilities. In the early 2000s, we had seen a boom in reality TV, which Milligan is clearly riffing on with his characters in that book. It’s a tongue-in-cheek commentary on how silly the reality TV era ultimately was, but Milligan and Allred were always having fun with the concept rather than making any deep statements.

If X-Force and X-Statix were poking fun at the reality TV craze, X-Cellent propels itself into the current era by making fun of the 2022 equivalent: social media fame-seeking. Milligan does something clever here, using the next generation of heroes (such as Edie Sawyer’s daughter and the children of other former X-Force members) to comment on the “next generation” of fame-seeking trends.

If Guy Smith and company are our heroes in this TikTok-driven world, Zeitgeist is our Ben Shapiro. Milligan comes up with his own story for Zeitgeist’s return from the dead and once he’s back, he sets his sights on social media fame and building a new team to counteract the X-Statix. Zeitgeist is literally peddling fake news that’s completely ridiculous — and Milligan’s writing is aware of that — but it’s believed anyway. It’s like reading a book that says “yeah, we just live in hell where these Breitbart loonies say whatever and people believe them” and acknowledging the absurdity in this reality that’s somewhat humorous in a dark comedy way.

X-Cellent Vol. 1: Hereditary-X

Marvel Comics

There’s something very satirical about X-Cellent (and all of Milligan/Allred’s work with these characters) and for that reason, I’m sure it’s not gonna resonate with everyone. But if you’re in on the joke Milligan is telling, it’s an amusing ride from start to finish that really feels like the spirit of the book has been replicated for 2022.

X-Cellent Vol. 1: Hereditary-X

Marvel Comics

Zeitgeist is awful in this cartoony way and Milligan’s writing is self-aware enough that there’s no doubt what the jokes are here. It’s like watching an episode of Desperate Housewives where Edie Britt is being so comically awful but you’re entertained nonetheless. Zeitgeist’s thought bubbles are petty and juvenile at times, calling his team losers while the images on the panel directly contradict that. For example, when he’s talking up how great his new team is, he says he turned down the other candidates because they just weren’t right when in reality, Nightcrawler and Blink turned him down because they want nothing to do with him. You’re supposed to be laughing at the absurdity of it all, but also laughing at Zeitgeist, and Milligan does a good job of balancing how that joke comes across.

Like Desperate Housewives, the main cast aren’t the best people in the world and the writing knows that, but it also knows you are kinda rooting for them nonetheless. There’s something lovable about them in a way that could only exist in the confines of a fictional universe –and the fact that the villain they’re facing up against is Zeitgeist also makes it easy to root for them.

Even within its mostly lighthearted and comedic atmosphere, X-Cellent has something to say about our world beyond an amusement with our hunger for fame. A character Guy enlists to help his team get more social media clout than Zeitgeist’s team is Girl Joe, a nonbinary writer/vlogger. Girl Joe lays the condition out for their help: they’ll call out anything dirty they see X-Cellent doing, but they would do the same for X-Statix because of their journalistic integrity. When Zeitgeist is corrected by his own team on what Joe’s pronouns are, he goes into that “I don’t care about pronouns” attitude — like I said, he’s just the Ben Shapiro here and the text is laughing at him.

X-Cellent Vol. 1: Hereditary-X

Marvel Comics

The book has its sentimental moments too, just like the original. And the best one comes in the form of Edie Sawyer, the series’ emotional heart, once again. Guy and Edie’s moment in the cemetery is really sweet in a way that isn’t too overdramatic. It’s just right. It also makes me wish we could see Milligan and Allred do a book with these characters in the Krakoa era where these deaths no longer haunt them. We don’t have any books about Krakoa’s celebrities or TV stars – just saying!

Allred’s style always makes books really pop but when it comes to X-Cellent, I simply can’t imagine anyone else drawing these characters. Every page in this book just oozes the exact energy the script needs, making the writing and art pair together like peanut butter and jelly. Sometimes Milligan’s jokes don’t hit or you find yourself wondering “should we even be saying this joke?”, but for the most part, the humor is really fitting and makes the book come to life.

X-Cellent is a book that knows exactly what it is and doesn’t need to fit in with the rest of the X-line to tell its story. I can see this series being quite jarring for anyone who didn’t read either the original X-Force or X-Statix run because it’s so unique and wrapped in its own lore. But for anyone who did like the original books, this series is just a fun reminder of a really unique series in the X-Men line. It doesn’t have to be earth-shattering, it doesn’t have to have some big reveal that will make your jaw drop — what it sets out to be is just fun, and it is.

X-Cellent Vol. 1: Hereditary-X
‘X-Cellent Vol. 1: Hereditary-X’ is a fun, nostalgic ride with a twist
X-Cellent Vol. 1: Hereditary-X
It doesn't have to be earth-shattering, it doesn't have to have some big reveal that will make your jaw drop -- what it sets out to be is just fun, and it is.
Reader Rating1 Votes
8.8
Evolving the reality TV joke into a more relevant social media joke really fits
The social themes are certainly present, and its fun to laugh at a villain
Milligan's black comedy style works a lot of the time, making it an enjoyable read
Allred never misses a beat and the story looks incredible
The heavier scenes like Guy/Edie are done really well and the book feels like a love letter to the original as well as a sequel
Not all the jokes hit
9
Great
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