Let’s go Fame-Crazy!
X-Force/X-Statix by Peter Milligan (writer), Michael Allred (artist, issues #116-123, 125-128;, issues #1-4, 6-9, 11-19, 21-26; letterer, issues #116-129; issue #1), Darwyn Cooke (artist, issues #124), Duncan Fegredo (artist, issue #129), Paul Pope (artist, issue #5), Philip Bond (artist, issue #10; inker, issue #12), Nick Dragotta (artist, issue #20), J. Bone (inker, issues #14-18), Nick Craine (inker, issues #19, 21-25), Laura Allred (colorist, issues #116-129, issues #1-26), Blambot (letterer, issues #116-128; issue #1), Nate Piekos (letterer, issue #129; issues #2-12, 21-26), and Cory Petit (letterer, issues #13-20).
Published by Marvel, 40 issues (X-Force #116-129 and X-Statix #1-26), cover dated May 2001 – October 2004.
SPOILERS? Yes, indeed!
Hi, and welcome to “Lacuna and the Stars!” I’m your host, Lacuna, and joining me today are a few members of mutantdom’s most marketable team, X-Force! Or should I say … X-Statix?
Guy Smith: We’re legally not allowed to say … that first name.
X-Statix it is! With me today are Guy Smith, the sometime leader of the team, who goes by the name of the Orphan; Tike Alicar, the other sometime leader of the team, who’s called the Anarchist; Edie Sawyer, the teleporter who calls herself U-Go Girl; Dead Girl, whose power is that she’s dead; Venus Dee Milo, who is also a teleporter; and Myles Alfred, the scholar who can rip you apart and is known as the Vivisector. Welcome, everyone, to “Lacuna and the Stars!”
Guy: Aren’t we … um, aren’t we all dead?
Do you want to talk about the liminal space that all comic book characters occupy, Guy, or do you want to talk about fame, fortune, sex, and drugs?
Guy: The latter … I guess.
Okay, then! Tike and Edie, you were on the team when its first iteration – after the Coach co-opted the name “X-Force” – was massacred, leaving you as the only survivors. How did that make you feel?
Tike Alicar: What a stupid —
Edie Sawyer: Well, Lacuna, that was a bad time for all of us. I think we were really coming into our own as a team, and then, suddenly, it was over. Axel – Zeitgeist – was such an inspirational leader, and to watch him and the others get gunned down like that was so upsetting.
Tike: You just say that because you were boning Axel. You didn’t like any of the others, and I’m not sure if you even liked Zeitgeist.
Edie: Well, it’s harder to like Axel when you find out he was behind the whole massacre and was planning on having you killed. That isn’t great.
Edie: Didn’t you know? He and Coach planned the Boyz R Us to get rid of us so that they could bring in new blood. Only you and Axel were supposed to survive.
Wow, Edie dropping some knowledge on Tike! Don’t say that Lacuna doesn’t bring you the hottest of gossip! So, Guy, after the Boyz R Us massacre, you came on board and became team leader. Did you feel it was only because you were white and Tike is black?
Tike: Wait, what about Ax —
Sorry, Tike, we’ve moved on!
Guy: I don’t like thinking about that, because I think it’s true. Tike or Edie had been with the team longer, so they deserved it, and I always felt that Coach named me team leader because I was a safe white guy – even though my skin is purple – and Tike was an angry black man and Edie was a so-called fragile woman. It didn’t sit well with me.
Tike: Didn’t sit well with me, either!
Guy: And I get that, Tike. I always felt like it didn’t help the team. But, I mean, we weren’t there to be a team, anyway.
What do you mean by that?
Guy: We were there to sell product. To sell … “mutantism,” I guess? It was the turn of the millennium, and so-called “reality” television shows were just taking off, and Coach and Spike Freeman wanted to make some money. I’ll give them credit – mutants were kind of cool about that time, and so they tapped into a vein that hadn’t really been tapped yet – the “diversity” vein, I guess you could call it. These days, it’s much more common to see women and people of color running things and starring in things, but back when we started, it wasn’t as common, and forget mutants being “mainstream.” We were brought in to be the face of mutantdom, sell some chintzy, cheap merchandise, and die spectacularly. And we did a good job.
Can you expound on that a little?
Guy: Well, we’re all stereotypes, right? I’m the “nice white guy” – non-threatening, sensitive, acceptable to middle America. Even my name – “Guy Smith” – is as generic as they come. I “keep Tike in line,” so to speak, because he’s the angry black guy. I mean, his power comes from the sweat of his brow – a physical power that implies working as a slave, while I don’t have an offensive power, really, I’m just the guy who cares. Edie’s the girl – I mean, she was paired with Axel, and then with me. Myles and Billy Bob were the comic relief, to an extent, and the comfortable gay couple – even though Billy Bob was faking it for the attention. They were sidekicks to the main drama.
Myles Alfred: Wait a minute —
Guy: My point is, we were almost assembled as an algorithm, weren’t we? It’s almost as if someone created us specifically for the roles we played on the team.
Does everyone feel this way?
Myles: Well, I —
Edie: I mean, he’s not exactly wrong. The first real interaction I had with Guy was when he was named team leader, and I hated him. Then, suddenly, I’m asking him to run away with me. It felt very manipulative.
Venus Dee Milo: I know what you mean. When I joined the team, Guy was almost desperate that I replace you in all areas … including as his paramour. It was bizarre. Are the women on this team interchangeable? Was it like that with you, Dead Girl?
Dead Girl: No, but then again, I’m a bit weird. I don’t fit the paradigm.
Guy: Or maybe it was because I wasn’t interested in you! I mean, I’m my own person – I don’t just fall for any cute girl who walks through my field of vision!
Venus: Don’t you?
Guy: That’s not fair, Venus.
Venus: I’m just messing with you, Guy. I don’t think you were desperate to replace Edie … but you did, didn’t you?
Guy: You were … different.
Before we go too far down that path, I’m interested in your idea about selling mutants, Guy. Do you think that was the primary motive for forming the group?
Guy: Well, sure. Let’s face it, being a mutant kind of sucks. If you can “pass” for human, you can get a job, but I would say most mutants can’t, and even if they can, mutantism can have strange side effects that a lot of mutants can’t control. But people have always been fascinated by freaks, even if they don’t want to live next door to them. If we could find a way to make money by capitalizing on that freakiness, we would. Coach and Spike Freeman knew that. They figured out a way to monetize our strangeness. Sure, we could save lives and do good, but we still had to make money somehow. And it worked, too – we were a hit. You yourself wanted to join the team. Why is that?
This isn’t about me!
Guy: You said you wanted to disappoint your parents. That’s fine. You might not have been doing it for the money, but you were doing it for the fame. I mean, there was that dude who stole Myles’s powers just so he could be famous. We all had cynical reasons for joining the team.
Myles: I don’t think I —
Tike: Those that weren’t cynical ended up dead quickly. Saint Anna, Bloke – they were good people, and they didn’t last. The Spike turned out to be a good dude, and he didn’t last. Even Princess D —
Whoa, whoa, I think you mean Henrietta!
Tike: Yeah, whatever. Anyway, we all died eventually, but characters that went into this with their eyes open – they lasted the longest. Those who thought they could do good got dead the quickest, it seemed. I don’t know if that’s a comment on what kind of people joined X-Force – or X-Statix – but we weren’t the nicest people. But Guy’s right – we needed the money, and people love seeing others get hurt. Especially if they’re mutants and they “don’t matter anyway.”
That’s awfully cynical.
Tike: It’s a cynical world, baby.
Edie: I think it’s a bit more than that, though. Yes, the money and fame were nice. But people who want to be famous are often running away from something, and they hide in plain sight. I know that’s true for me, and I suspect it was true for most of us. Famous people seem to be wildly insecure.
Tike: Speak for yourself, U-Go Girl!
Edie: Oh, please, Tike. The first thing you did when you joined the team was get in a hot tub with two women whom you didn’t know. When the Spike showed up at our press conference and accused you of not being “black enough,” you freaked out. You weren’t secure enough in your manhood or your “blackness,” and you chose to overcompensate. There’s nothing wrong with that.
Tike: You don’t know what you’re talking about.
Guy: She’s right, though. We were all running from something. Edie couldn’t handle being a teen mom, so she ran away. Tike didn’t want the responsibility of being a black man in America. Venus killed her entire family when her mutation kicked in. Myles couldn’t handle the quiet life, so he craved fame.
Myles: Hey, I —
Guy: Billy Bob was ashamed of his family, so he ran away. And I played Russian roulette every night. Every night! It’s ridiculous. But we were all broken, it seems.
Venus: But it wasn’t all bad. I mean, we did some good, helped some people, and I think there’s something to be said for damaged people finding a place for themselves. As Guy said, it was a new century, and people were realizing the old modules didn’t always work. For all their faults, Billy Bob and Myles explored their gender identities with no judgment – if we were hard on them, it was because they weren’t cutting it in the field, not because they were together, even if it was fake. And —
Myles: Come on —
Venus: Guy couldn’t survive in the “real world,” so we gave him a place. Professor Xavier helped me control my mutation, and I thrived in X-Statix. We took our mutations and made them work for us, more than the X-Men ever did. They were wearing that ridiculous leather, and we leaned into the superhero aspect of it all and looked fabulous. I don’t think I could have survived without the team, and I doubt if many others of us could have, either.
Tike: It’s the old adage – we can mess with each other, but outsiders beware. We might have hated each other at times, but Venus is right – we were a family in a way.
So when the former members of X-Force accosted you about the name …?
Tike: Shit, I didn’t know anything about Guy or the other newbies at that time, and me and Edie had just survived the Boyz R Us massacre, but I knew we were a team, and nobody was going to come in and tell us what to do. You know, you’re just standing up for something. Same thing happened with the Avengers. They thought they could just muscle in and call the shots.
That didn’t go well.
Tike: You’re damn right it didn’t. Thor goes in all Thor-like, and Doop blows up and we have to put him back together. Stupid Thor. But that’s just like the Avengers. They “avenge.”
How is that different from what you were doing? You were pointed at things like weapons by Coach and Spike Freeman. You were blunt instruments, just like Thor.
Tike: “Mr. Sensitive” there would never let that happen. I mean, on our first mission, he defied the Coach and helped Paco Perez get a new life. I mean, we were never really friends, but I did get to respect Guy. He didn’t take shit from anyone.
You lost several team members along the way. Edie was probably the toughest for you, right?
Edie: They better say so!
Besides her, though, which was the hardest one to take?
Edie: For me, it was Axel. Even though I know he was trying to get us killed, I think we did have a connection, and he died pathetically, so it made it worse. Of course, my feelings for him were nothing what I felt for Guy, but I knew in the back of my mind that Guy was in Axel’s position, so Axel’s death haunted me more because I thought Guy might suffer the same fate.
Tike: I hated that the Spike got killed on the same mission that Edie did, and nobody cared. The brother was just trying to do his best, and everyone was crying – I was crying! – over some white girl. No offense, Edie.
Edie: I didn’t ask for it!
Tike: I know, I know. I’m not blaming you – you were dead. I just think you were a symbol of the “poor, innocent white girl” who dies tragically young. The Spike was a black man, so of course he’s supposed to die. It sucks.
Dead Girl: I was sad when Arnie died. He was just a messed-up kid who wanted to be famous. But he saved us all.
Ah, Arnie. I made him a star.
Guy: And you helped kill him.
Let’s skip that part!
Venus: I was most upset about Billy Bob dying. While I was with the team, he always seemed like he didn’t fit. I think he would have been happier exploring his sexuality in a less public forum, but he didn’t want to go back to his redneck family. He also died saving us. Seems to happen a lot on this team.
Myles: What about El G —
I agree, Billy Bob’s death was tough to take. But you’re also right, in that several team members died so the rest could live. That’s impressive, given how selfish you all could be.
Guy: I’d like to disagree, but you’re right. Look, we were selfish. But we were also complicated. Edie and Venus are right – we couldn’t face the real world, but we also did a lot of good. In the end, that’s all we can do.
Speaking of which, on your last mission, you were all killed. Do you think you tempted fate just a little too much?
Guy: That last mission … it sucked. None of us thought it was a good idea, but we went ahead with it anyway. And we all hid why we didn’t want to go. We stopped being honest, just for a little while, and it got us all killed. It feels like there’s a lesson there somewhere.
Tike: Come on, man, like someone was forcing us to go on the mission just to make a narrative point? That’s crazy.
Did you ever feel like you got a raw deal? I mean, you got fame and money, but were you ever as popular as the X-Men? They’re the gold standard for mutants, and while you weaponized fame and fortune to a degree, they still stayed ahead of you. Are you bitter?
Guy: I’m not.
Tike: Naw, man. They had to be heroes all the time. We could be heroes when it suited us and enjoy ourselves the rest of the time.
We reached out to Peter Milligan and Mike Allred, the two main chroniclers of the comic book based on your lives, to ask them what they thought of your adventures. In a joint statement, they said, “X-Statix was a long time ago, and we’ve moved on. Why should we revisit those characters when we said all we had to say about them? Please leave us alone.” Well.
Tike: Man, fuck those guys.
Guy: I mean, I get it. It’s not like Axel is ever coming back to menace us.
Well, I’d like to thank the members of X-Statix for being here tonight. It was a weird trip with you guys, and I was glad I was able to witness most of it. Any last words?
Guy: We did what we could to make the world better.
Tike: I’m good.
Edie: I wish I had been a better mother.
Dead Girl: Being dead is no fun.
Venus: Best time of my life.
Myles: I —
Thanks, everyone! See you next time on “Lacuna and the Stars!”
An unusual but funny way of reviewing this gem Greg.
When I learned that there would be an omnibus I had to buy it. Alfred in a larger format is always a treat. 🙂
Thanks, sir. I agree – I bought the big Silver Surfer collection for that reason!
Do you consider Dead Girl 1-5 and All New Doop 1-5 or the short stories part of the ‘great’ run? You don’t have to, they came years after and sometimes the moment passes, we’re under no obligation to like something by the same creators forever.
Case in point X-Cellent, which no one seems to care about and seems like it’s for an audience of no one besides diehard Nu Marvel/Jemas era fans. I can’t get into it, it’s too ridiculous having a series operating in real world time that’s also seemingly set in the Marvel universe, with no explanation of how people are alive etc. As they say, sometimes dead is better.
I don’t own All New Doop, actually. The Doop/Wolverine two-parter and Dead Girl are fine, but nothing special, and they don’t really have an impact on the main story, which is why I skipped them. I agree with you about not having an obligation to like the stuff the creators do, and I’m reserving judgment on X-Cellent. I like it more than you do, I suspect, but it appears like Milligan and Allred do want to do more, so I’m holding off on judging it completely until I see what they’re going to do with it. I agree it’s a bit odd, but that’s not always a bad thing! 🙂