Thursday, November 3, 2011

X-Men: Curse of the Mutants (comics)

Writer: Victor Gischler
Artist: Paco Medina
Collects: X-Men (vol. 3) #1-6, material from Curse of the Mutants Saga and Curse of the Mutants Spotlight

Alright, warning up front; there's going to be some spoilers in this here review. To talk about the problems the book has means I'm probably going to have to get into what happens a bit more than usual. So if you don't already know what happens - unlikely, but still - just look at the score and my closing comments.

To say I was looking forward to this one probably goes without saying. If you've read reviews from this place before, you may be aware of that time Batman and Superman totally whupped some vampire ass or the time Batman decided he didn't like zombies and how much I liked them. Though it's waned over the years, I like the X-Men, so taking them, throwing them at some vampires and watching what happens should be a slam dunk, right?

Should be is the key word. This book isn't a disaster or anything; if you turn your brain off you can find some dumb fun in here. The mechanics of the plot, however, fall apart if you ponder them for more than ten seconds.

The plot is, well, basic. Dracula is dead for reasons we're unaware of* aside from the fact that his son did it, said son takes over and has a good idea. Why not turn some mutants, adding their sheer power to the vampire ranks, and use it to carve a place for vampires out of the shadows? Sure, the X-Men may not care for that idea, but free will is over-rated, right?

The plan is to essentially hypnotize one of the mutants, get those that come after their own, then throw a full size assault at Utopia with said new recruits and take over. From there on the sky's the limit. It's not a bad plan, really; and Cyclops made things easier by conveniently locating the mutant buffet in one place.

Funnily enough, it's the mutants who don't have their shit together.

So, Cyclops realizes what is going down. Now, apparently there are enough vampires out there to make you drop a deuce in your drawers. So his plan is to essentially revive Dracula, persuade him to fight with them and slap around some vamps. The recovery of his body parts happens in the tie-ins and Drac is revived as early as issue three. This plan goes south, of course - probably because someone at Marvel suddenly realized "holy crap, we still have three issues to fill" - so, you know, by all rights they are kind of screwed.

Except they're not. See, Cyclops sent in Logan to retrieve Jubilee. Now, he had to assume Logan would be turned, so he had it made so Logans healing factor could be turned on and off. At the pivotal moment of the vampire assault, he turns it back on, Logan snaps back to his senses and the vampires asses are kicked.

Anyone else see the problem here?

First off, they continue to play Cyclops as knowing what he's doing and planning contingencies. But once again, he comes off like a nimrod. They first go to the Dracula option before trying anything else. That goes south. Then he has a nifty plan to have Logan turned when he goes to the vampires, then turned back. Then the X-Men alone wipe out the entire force that is sent to attack them once they bring Logan back and make it to the inner circle of the vampires. That Dracula came back and whupped his sons ass wasn't even necessary by that point, because they would have won anyways.

Which means they could have defeated the vampire army thrown at them at any time. Meaning the hand wringing about how there were too many of them to stop, Dracs revival and essentially everything that happened between mid issue 2 to mid issue 5 was completely unnecessary. There was never anything at stake; turns out the X-Men could fight off that many vampires all along, but figured it would be more prudent to do a bunch of other stupid crap and have Wolverine turned into a vampire and then reverted back because Cyclops is kind of a dick.

There's an entertaining story in here somewhere, but at least three issues worth of scenes would need to be excised, what was left would need slight reworking and the issue count would top out at three issues, with lingering subplots for later arcs or more stuff dealing with vampires. What we get is a bloated storyline that is the worst example of for-the-trade writing. It's six issues mainly because it would make a nice trade they could charge fifteen to twenty dollars SRP for.

Now, the plot problems aren't the only problems. Victor Gischler doesn't seem to have a great handle on some of his characters. Some dialogue exchanges read unnaturally. He seems to know how to write Dr. Nemesis and Dracula the best. Logan suffers; Gischler has him say "come get some". I don't think anyone has said "come get some" without laughter following in about three decades, much less Wolverine.

But hey, it has great art! Paco Medina draws the hell out of this flawed storyline and frankly it's the books saving grace. Clean, colorful work that's damn nice to work at. I just wish it was paired with a story that measured up.

The Score: 6 out of 10

A script with as many holes usually sinks a book. This one was blessed with some very nice artwork, though, which elevates it. It's worth a read as dumb "summer movie" level fun, but it's not something I'd really recommend buying for the old bookshelf. Skip it unless you really want to see some vampire beheadings performed by the X-Men.

Cyclops Douchebaggery Alert: Dude, sending in your best man and turning off his healing factor so he's turned into a vampire? Then turning it back on when you feel like it? With absolutely no tactical reason to do it? That's the kind of thing that would go on Superdickery if it were with Superman. And Cyke wonders why Wolverine wants to stab him.

* For some moronic reason the Death of Dracula one shot that is essentially the real part one of this story is not included. It wasn't included in the companion volume either. Thanks trade department for such a monumental screw up; thankfully, the story still reads... well, not fine, given the numerous problems, but it's not a glaring issue; you just won't know the specifics of what happened to Drac or the setup.

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