With Marvel’s popular and successful foray into films with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I’ve finally decided to get back into comics. I grew up a big fan of X-Men and other superheroes but haven’t really kept up since the 90s. Thus begins my grand catching-up of the last ten years of Marvel comics, events and stories.
Thanks in large part to trade paperbacks and the digital convenience of Marvel Unlimited I can make relatively quick progress, and I’ll write down my Final Thoughts for each collection here on my blog. Like my gaming Final Thoughts, this will be full of spoilers. You’ve been warned!
Artist: Paco Medina
Issues: X-Men (2010) #1-6*
*Also included the following tie-ins: Death of Dracula One-Shot, X-Men Curse of the Mutants: Storm & Gambit One-Shot, X-Men Curse of the Mutants: Smoke & Blood One-Shot, X-Men Vs. Vampires #1-2, Namor: The First Mutant #1-4, Wolverine & Jubilee #1-4
The Heroic Age of 2010 gave us lots of clearly defined good vs evil storylines. What could be more evil than a conquering army of vampires? In “Curse of the Mutants,” yet another new X-Men series brought us a vampire story straight out of Underworld or Blade. By embracing its campy tone the story remains fun and action-packed, though the finale feels a bit too rushed and easy.
The problem with X-Men is that there’s always way too many X-Men comics. And most of them star the same damn popular team members. At the time this new 2010 X-Men volume began, we already had Uncanny X-Men, Astonishing X-Men, X-Men Legacy, New Mutants, X-Factor, and shortly – Uncanny X-Force and Generation Hope.
Now granted some of those are great off-shoots with unique teams (I can’t say enough good things about X-Factor). But we definitely didn’t need yet another book starring Cyclops and gang dealing with problems at Utopia. And yet, having the son of Dracula rise up, unite the vampire clans and set his sights on mutants as kindred spirits in need of a good ol’ fashioned subjugating makes for a damn fun little event.
The story kicks off in Death of Dracula, which really sets the Underworld or Jim Dreseden-esque tone of multiple vampire clans coming together to shake things up. I enjoyed that vamps came in all shapes and sizes, from monstrous gargoyle things to misty ninjas to classic sexy predators.
Xarus, one of Dracula’s sons, organizes a violent coup, cutting off dear old dad’s head. His argument is that vampires have been far too complacent, and through violence and coercion brings others around to his side.
His secret weapon is straight out of Blade: magical medallions that block the sun’s rays, allowing vampires to operate in the sunlight. As his first act in his newly acquired political office, Xarus decides to mount a full-scale vampire invasion of San Francisco.
It’s never quite clear why he decides to target mutants, other than a vague sense of “Hey you’re outcasts hated by humans too!” The X-Men have none of it of course and fight back when one of their own is taken out by an odd vampire suicide bomber.
My favorite part of the event is that it actually gives long-absent ex-X-Men Jubileee something to do. As one of the depowered mutants from the aftermath of House of M she hasn’t really been seen for years. Here she’s chilling in San Fran with friend Pixie when a vampire suicide bomber explodes next to her, infecting her with a bioengineered version of vampirism (okay technically just the desire to be fed on by a vampire). Xarus’ plan is to turn the X-Men one by one, and she’s the guinea pig.
Her arc has she goes through the fightening drug-addict-like withdrawl of her transformation is intriguing, and soon she’s joining the vampires as Wolverine goes after her. She actually ends up biting and turning Wolverine, though Xarus isn’t sure if Logan can even contract vampirism with his healing factor. Turns out, Cyclops has a plan all along.
The main plot isn’t all that complicated. The X-Men’s first goal is to resurrect Dracula in a classic Enemy of my Enemy ploy. This is where the Namor series ties in, as his head was sunk into the bottom of the sea. They’re not bad (though I’m not a fan of Ariel Olivetti’s water-color art) but pitting the already alien world and characters of Atlantis around a mer-folk vampire invasion is a bit much.
The X-Men recover Dracula’s body and reattach everything. His resurrection is quite anticlimactic, and he simply turns down Cyclops’ offer to help and walks away. Oh did I mention Blade shows up to help the X-Men? You can’t do a Marvel vampire story without him, though I could do without his incredibly goofy sideburn, wraparound mustache combo.
After Jubilee and Wolverine are turned, Xarus soon throws everything he’s got at Utopia, while the X-Men make a giant stand as they’ve done several times already.
The various “Curse of the Mutants” One-Shots and X-Men Vs. Vampires anthologies offer fun little stories occurring around this time. Storm & Gambit highlights a sneaky infiltration of Xarus headquarters by our two mutant thieves. It’s well-written but I hated the childish, anime-like art. The same can be said of Smoke & Blood, which is a straight up horror story starring the X-Club of scientists as they evade a monstrous predator in the bowels of Utopia. I do love the X-Club, and I will never tire of Dr. Nemesis’ pompous nark.
X-Men Vs. Vampires were two issues that included several stories, each focusing on a different X-Men during the event. These were fun little tie-ins starring minor characters we barely ever saw, like Husk and Dazzler.
Magneto discovers an old acquaintance-turned-vampire from WW2. Karma stumbles upon a darkly humorous Weight Watchers club infested with a regularly feeding vampire. Rockslide and Armor battle a giant fanged whale on a boat – which turns out to be Rockslide dreaming after reading Moby Dick and talking about vampires, heh. All of them effectively nailed that neo-vampire tone of stylized action and sexy dialogue (and some going full on B-movie camp), and really helped flesh out the event. Too bad the art ranges from decent to awful.
Xarus’ plan is sunk when Cyclops reveals his plan – they’d artificially stopped Logan’s healing factor and could restart it with the push of a button, freeing him from the curse. With a now very pissed off Wolverine the X-Men easily fought back. Plus there’s a number of X-Men with “tough skin” that could be used on the frontlines, like Colossus, Emma Frost, Husk, Armor, and Mercury.
With Wolverine’s help they can easily get to Xarus’ base of operations and take him down, but Dracula shows up and does it for them. There’s a supremely tense exchange between legendary leaders here, including Blade going after Drac and Cyke having to shoot him down. An unspoken agreement is made, Cyke makes some threats, Drac brushes them off but respects Cyke all the same. In the end Dracula is mollified and sends his people away.
The day is won, but not without cost. Jubilee is permanently a vampire, which actually makes her way more interesting than she has been in years. The X-Men can keep her urges and what not in check thanks to daily blood infusions from Wolverine, but she’s still miserable about it.
Their drama continues in the excellent four-part epilogue series Wolverine & Jubilee. My favorite portrayal of Wolverine is the surly mentor, and he dishes it out in spades to the suffering Jubilee. The two become embroiled in a crazy vampire plot in Siberia involving an inter-dimensional pocket bank and a dragon horde – seriously, it’s surprisingly awesome. If you’re only going to read one tie-in to the “Curse of Mutants” event, read this one.
Pitting X-Men against a vampire army is a fun, if simplistic idea. Seeing more minor characters in action is always satisfying and works really well in the anthologies. I loved what they did to Jubilee in making her a much more complex, interesting character and hope to read more of Vamp-Jubilee’s struggles and adventures. I started out complaining about the volume of X-Men comics but I’ll be damned if this wasn’t a really fun ride. Alright 2010 X-Men, you can stay.