Looking back, 2001 was quite the interesting year for Marvel’s comic endeavors. With a new Editor-in-Chief trying to revamp the lineup, many changes were made. Some met with much success…others, not so much.
I remember the drastic change in the direction of Spider-Man; how Deadpool and Cable were “X”-ified; Morrison’s tweaking of the X-Men universe. Yet, one of the biggest changes was to a little book called X-Force.
Starting with issue #116, the X-Force team (which later came to be known as X-Statix due to copyright issues) got a new roster, a new look—a whole new feel. This wasn’t Cable’s team. It wasn’t even really Marvel’s team. It was Peter Milligan and Mike Allred’s team. And they were AMAZING!
With its crowning issue, the team was wiped out and soon replaced. The lineup was ever-changing as team member after team member was wiped from existence. And the best part of it all: the book was a social parody of heroes in general.
What do I mean by that? Well, the team was assembled based on the ability of “Coach” and later Spike Freeman to sell them to the public. Much like a modern reality show, the potential team members were chosen based on the malfunctioning social interaction that would potentially ensue when that member was brought into the fold. Each one was unique but completely replaceable in the eyes of their handlers. And the best part: It was all about the money!
That’s where Milligan really struck a chord with me, the jaded 28 year old that I am. As I look around and see this world and how anybody can be a superstar or a hero by standing on the shoulders of technology and those around them, I come to realize that talent is becoming less and less important. Individuals as well as the media has proven to us time and time again that all you need is the look and a good spin and you can sell yourself as anything to anyone. You can be a teen pop-star and you don’t even have to be able to read or write music. You can be a Disney actor or actress with mere stupid sight gags, then become a real-life actor. You can be worshiped by millions of viewers because you have a self-proclaimed “situation” that in real life, no one would care about.
X-Statix was the perfect example of art imitating life. As Milligan looked around and saw the social issues of homosexuality, racism, and motivation for good, he dissected them all leaving the Marvel fans sometimes wondering what it all meant. Unfortunately, sales began to drop.
Even after bringing in the Avengers to knock around a bit, the book lost steam and was canceled after issue #26 of the renumbered X-Statix book. The team would not be reformed as all the remaining members died in the last issue. And for the time, that was fine. All would be forgotten of that strange team. Hardly anyone would remember Mr. Sensitive, or U-Go-Girl, or Bloke, or the Vivisector, or how the creative team thought it was a great idea to resurrect Princess Dianna as a mutant superhero. But really that is the biggest testament to this book.
The quick fade of the X-Statix team, and their hodgepodge existence in the Marvel U, tells us much about the life and times in which we live. With YouTube and iTunes and a million channels, all with their own battery of reality tv, millions of stars are born everyday. They are idolized and then discarded as an old pair of underwear.
This book taught me a lot about manipulated fame and social engineering to make the most out of any type of press. Cynical, maybe. Satirical, definitely. Worthwhile to read, without a doubt. Go pick up the first two or so trades and relive the wonder of the first time you found out reality was fake and real life was scripted.