COMICS ON THE CAN
Writer – Simon Spurrier
Artist – Paul Davidson
RULES: I have a box of comics in my bathroom.
Every month I read one while on the pooper and write this column about my thoughts concerning the book.
I make the occasional off color joke.
RULES THAT ARE FREQUENTLY BROKEN: I don’t always read what’s in the box, sometimes, like this time, I cover a book that I get elsewhere.
I keep promising to cover a particular book and then fail to do so.
I occasionally re-read the book outside of the bathroom.
My thoughts don’t always focus on the book, subject or anything relating to the subject.
I make a butt load of off color jokes.
We all know that the X-Men are made up of mutants. Sworn to protect a world that hates and fears them. The uncanny heroes have always been an apt metaphor for any disenfranchised group from civil rights analogies in the 60s, to homosexuality in the first few movies to victims of religious bigotry in the aughts to crazed astral plane dance battles in FX’s “Legion”.
Ok, maybe that last one doesn’t quite scan. Legion is just too brilliant to not mention.
Anyway, mutant metaphor = misfits. I mean that in the best possible way btw. It stands to reason, though, that even among the misfits there are misfits. Students at the School for gifted youngsters that have problems talking to their crushes, feeling awkward because they can… melt trees with their eyes or something, Orange skin and flying hair…
Actually there is good reason to hate and fear this guy.
Um…never mind ‘bout that; you get my meaning. I’m sure there are a few kids in Xavier’s school that settle down to a rousing night of Jolt Cola, “who would win: Kirk or Picard” debates and Dungeons and Dragons.
Certainly not Wolverine, but probably Beast… jus sayin.
How ‘bout the science nerds? A group that the male Carey in Legion would probably fit into nicely. It stands to reason that among the mutants that can fly, punch and/or barf killer rainbows (“Unicorn” appearing in Uncanny X-Men issue #248 double sized special. He pooped ice cream too.) There are super smart ones that handle the crazy science weirdness that ambles towards superhero teams on a near daily basis. All while not quite developing a sassy repartee with Kitty Pryde. Little did I know, till I came across this trade paperback collection, that they do – X-Club!
Cyclops calls them Utopia’s Science team and they are such misfits that only half of the team are actually mutants. Formed by Beast when he was trying to find a cure for the decimation (“No more Mutants!”) X-Club, despite the less than imposing name, are a formidable group of egg-heads perfectly geared towards tackling science based shenanigans in the X-men world.
The team, in this incarnation, is made up of:
Doctor Nemesis – Rocking a white suit and surgical mask this mutant claims a “Self evolving intellect”, a fierce caffeine addiction and is prone to arrogant, verbose posturing.
Madison Jeffries – Mutant matter manipulator, Alpha Flight alum, spacy machine empath. He’s figuring out that he may be in love with…
Danger – “Post organic being” that used to be the Danger room in the old X-mansion. Her design is more Giger than Sorayama but still kinda hot.
Kavita Rao – Brilliant geneticist, human, unwilling straight woman to a lot of this mutant adventure nonsense going on.
For all intent these guys are C-listers; barley worth a cameo in “The Gifted”. But that is the exact reason why this team crackles: nary a continuity obligation to be beholden to. They all have history in the Marvel Universe, Nemesis and Jeffries in particular, but Spurrier is having loads of fun working with a relatively clean slate. Being such background characters allows them to have new depth, free of expectations.
In other words they come across as fresh and interesting of their accord.
The story opens during WW Two with The Invaders attacking a german ship. Despite the Human Torch android having a momentary blackout they succeed in sinking the boat. It’s just two pages but adding in this scene not only works plot wise but gives the story some historical context. Next up is current times where the Utopian X-Men, X-Club included, have teamed with Stratocorp to raise the first space elevator. The base for the elevator is in the open ocean and there is a contingent of Atlantean protesters saying that the elevator is causing an imbalance in the area. Their concerns seem justified when one of the Atlanteans spontaneously mutates, hulks out, then explodes. Facing a possible ecological catastrophe and more alarmingly; a huge PR disaster X-Club is set upon the task of figuring out how things got borked.
They discover that the local sea life has been exposed to a form of terrigen (the element that activates Inhumans). This is causing swordfish to shoot lasers, lobsters to have crystalline armor and, in the case of one starfish that attaches itself to Dr. Nemesis’ head, develop telepathy. To add to the troubles Danger freaks out, goes rogue and attacks Utopia trying to get to the power core of the asteroid island.
Everything goes absolutely bonkners. The story spirals and expands to include zones of quantum fluctuation, Data gods, every artificial life form in the Marvel universe and Danger being impregnated. Spurrier just tosses these wild ideas out one after the other and with such speed and insanity it’s as if he’s giving a TED talk to mad scientists while on DMT. It is an immense credit to Spurrier as a writer that the outrageous concepts make sense. It is clear that he assumes everyone has read as much 90’s Grant Morrison as he has. Even with that conceit Spurrier competently explains quantum theory (All possible outcomes are true until a single one is measured by an observer) using Dr. Nemesis. He acknowledges the Schrodinger’s cat in the room. He restores normal reality rules in an underwater dimensional flux zone simply by ignoring all weirdness. Nemesis “…establishes normal physics by stubbornness alone !”
All this is a hell of a lot of fun if you DID read a lot of 90’s Grant Morrison. If you didn’t never fear non-fringe science geeks; there is plenty of explodo and character beats too. Dr. Nemesis, the real breakout character of this book, escapes an underwater death in a way that can only be shown:
Spurrier: … and then Dr Nemesis bursts out of the water riding an terrigenesis altered Hammerhead shark shouting “Science Hoooooo!”
Davidson: And mom said I’d never achieve greatness by going to art school!
Nemesis then goes on to beat the crap out of almost a whole nazi base single handedly, with science. Jeffries is forced to jump out of the top of the space elevator into high earth orbit. The X-Men port in and punch a lot of things. Thrills, romance, nazi scientists with universe shaking plans, fish… pretty much everything you’d want out of a comic book apart from Batman making an appearance.
Paul Davidson’s art work is up to the… unusual demands of Spurrier’s script. It can’t be easy to illustrate “eleven dimensional nazis”, “Data God” and “Post biological entity giving birth” but the sheer weirdness never escapes his deft control. His clean layouts and flawless pacing makes the action and humor hit perfectly. He also kills with some truly grand moments, like the above pic, Jefferies when he jumps into outer space and certain death, the final page of man/robot love. This is a guy who can tackle the weird that the best comic books can produce.
Spurrier has done excellent work with the oddball-ist Marvel characters; his run on “X-men Legacy” featuring Legion was brilliant. I also loved his work on “X-Force”; finding the weird broken heart of that group of damaged characters while blowing shit up every issue. With X-Club he takes the sideline characters, heroes who heaviest lifting is usually the exposition and moves them front and center with richly entertaining results.
This collection does feel like an anomaly; like it was created in an alternate universe where the X-Men are weirder and more of a fringe book. Somehow it found its way, falling through a dimensional rift or something, to the used book store where I bought it. installing greater weirdness into the operating system of our reality. To support this half baked whimsy there is precious little info on the web about X-Club and even less about this particular adventure. Strange indeed.
In that respect I guess the book itself feels like a misfit; an X-Title with little attention or praise, though much deserved.
As usual, the misfits usually turn out to be the most interesting.
RANDOM THOUGHTS THAT ARE TANGENTIAL TO THE MAIN COLUMN BUT I COULDN’T FIT IN ORGANICALLY…
I’ve been away longer than expected, back problems laid me up for several weeks. Couldn’t write flat on my back. I did binge watch “Santa Clarita Diet” though. Man that’s a great show, like if Rob Reiner and George Romero had a family sit-com baby.
I’ve also been playing a lot of Yu-Gi-Oh duel links. I’m Logos728a if you want to challenge me to a duel or friend me there.
Yes, I consider myself a misfit after the above sentence.
Damn isn’t “Legion” freggin AWESOME! The season 2 astral plane dance battle was TV at a new, weirder, awesomer level.
There are several scenes across Marvel history with the data god trying to commute with artificial lifeforms: Original Human Torch, Machine Man, The Vision, Jocasta, something called Awesome Andy? I’m sure someone with encyclopedic knowledge of Marvel events can place where some of these “Intercessions” are in their corresponding books.
Dr. Nemesis is so droll it’s practically a mutant power on its own. He tosses off lines like the stubbornness one, “Nanobots are passe pal, punching is forever” and “Excuse me gentlemen there is science to conduct… In the laboratory of VIOLENCE!”. He’s such a fun, vibrant character. I’d read the shit out of a solo book of him if Spurrier’s penned it.
The psychic inhuman starfish attached to Nemesis’ head is a great gag! The creature broadcasts his subconscious thoughts and (GASP) feelings. Which Nemesis is loath to admit he has. The creature exposes the Doctor’s obnoxious bravado as a smokescreen; he admits, via starfish, that he craves Jeffries’ friendship, is terrified of dying as they enter the quantum fluctuation and admits that it isn’t easy being so dramatic all the time. A character driven inner monologue being shouted over the meticulously constructed persona. Never stops being funny.
Plus Nemesis looks damn silly with the starfish sitting on his head for most of the story.
Jefferies seems lost in his own world most of the story. He is coming to terms with the idea that he’s romantically attracted to machine life and, to a more personal extent, in love with Danger.
Fortunately Danger feels the same, calling Jefferies “… an emotional asset of extremely high status”. Awww robots say the most romantic things.
Those that read my columns with any type of regularity are aware of my life’s desire to bone a robot. Probably best stated HERE. Danger isn’t quite what I have in mind but, jus sayin, I wouldn’t say “No” either.
Rao provides an emotional core to the group. With her mostly trying to figure out how to save a poisoned atlantean woman in the story. She eventually, through her patient, seems to find some spiritual element that she didn’t realize was missing in her life.
She’s still fed up with all this weirdness, though.
As always Spurrier worked in his favorite slang word “Bork”.
Thanks to him “Bork” has been a regular staple of my lexicon for years now.
There are several “Explodo” scattered about also (another favorite of mine) but that’s credited to Warren Ellis.
I, personally, love 90’s era Morrison! “Invisibles” is the book that brought me back into reading comics. Spurrier, Carrey and Cornell feel like direct descendants; melding stratosphere high concept with great characters, telling details, smart action all with a generous dose of weird ideas, fringe imagination and psychedelic science.
Boy, remember when dealing with nazis was simply the domain of comic book fantasies?
NEXT: I missed the Black Panther tie in for the theatrical release so I’m aiming to dovetail with the release on home video.
LATER: Who the heck knows!