Or – “To All Things, An Ending…”

As with any year, 2011 has it’s detractors and it’s proponents, but for me, it was kind of a wash.  Not as venomous as 2006, nor as wonderful as 2004, the year before the Mayan end-times but after we make contact is like a 70’s George Carlin guest-host episode of the ‘Tonight Show.’  Sure, it’s two things you like, but neither is quite at its best.  Still, the end of ’11 has gotten me thinking how most comics don’t actually GET one, and how a really well-crafted ending is an ever rarer beast indeed.  Thus, I give you X-Statix swan song.

Writer: Peter Milligan
Penciler: Michael Allred
Inker: Nick Craine
Colorist: Laura Allred
Letterer: Blambot’s Nate Piekos
Editor: Axel Alonso
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: $2.99
Current Near-Mint Pricing: $3.00

Previously, in X-Statix: From their very first days at Marvel, Joe Quesada & Bill Jemas aimed to get our attention.  By combining X-Force (best known for Rob Liefeld, Cable and belt-pouches) and Pete Milligan & Mike Allred (best known for experimental, wild flights of fancy), they hoped to find two great tastes that tasted great together.  The result polarized fandom, and the title was eventually relaunched as X-Statix, while Shatterstar and his pals reclaimed their group moniker.  Under Milligan’s pen, X-Statix became a study on fame, the nascent reality television boom, celebutards in general, and also a scathing attack on the tropes of comics themselves.  This issue’s cover identifies it as a “Downbeat Yet Strangely Moving Final Issue,” serving as both truth in advertising and another bit of genre-savvy sarcasm.  We open in the middle of X-Statix latest battle against eeeevil…

The Anarchist pulls open the drapes of the opulent mansion the team seems to be trapped in to reveal a couple hundred tons of military-grade hardware all aimed in their direction.  Their teleporter can’t teleport, their dead girl is dead, and Mr. Sensitive/The Orphan isn’t sure how to react to their impending Bolivian Army ending.  “A little late to start being heroes, isn’t it?” asks Vivisector snarkily, seconds before Mr. Sensitive takes a blast to the chest.  This being X-Statix, the blast triggers a flashback.  “It’ll be a walk in the park, Mr. Sensitive,” says the memory of a voice in his head…

The party in that first panel is a dual celebration, for the end of the X-Statix/Avengers war and to mark the team’s last mission before their disbanding.  Milligan plays with the story’s dual time-frame in interesting ways, as our hero deals with being gutshot in the present, paralleled with stomach cramps in the recent past, while Venus Dee Milo (Greatest. Superhero. Name. EVER.) has an even more chilling dichotomy:  Soothing his stomach yesterday, lying seemingly dead in the rubble today.  The conversation of the flashback is particularly awesome, as well…

The “pop star who looked like Princess Diana” is a reference to the controversy surrounding the proposed story wherein Diana would rise from the dead in the Marvel U. to join X-Statix, a storyline that went so far as to be solicited before cooler heads prevailed at Marvel.  The members of X-Statix all get little vignettes that examine how they are dealing with the team’s impending retirement, intertwined with their disastrous mission.  The Anarchist even goes so far as reminding the team that the last time he heard a team was a milk-run, he was one of two heroes left standing in the end.  There’s a thin shred of hope as Venus is revealed to be alive, but her reprieve ends up being a short one, as the helicopters circle ’round for the kill.

Venus scoffs as The Orphan tries to stop her, sniping that, “At least this way, you won’t have to see me go topless,” a reference to her announcement earlier in the issue that Hugh Hefner had made an offer for her to appear in Playboy.  (The irony here is that she’s a Wildfire-style nebulous energy field in a containment suit, which makes it unclear if she even has breasts…)  Venus takes out the heavy artillery with a suicidal blast that dissipates her, leaving Mr. Sensitive and the Anarchist to survey the wreckage…  and the corpses of their teammates.

Yes, Mike Allred, we see what you did there.  There’s some valuable lessons in that panel, ones which many comic book publishers could learn from, seein’ as how the last two or three dozen crossovers have started with high-concept psychological intrigue, but all boil down to “AND THEN THEY FIGHT!”  The Anarchist growls that growing old gracefully was never X-Statix’ style (and given the body count of these issues, he’s talking sense) and he and The Orphan decide to face their attackers, Butch & Sundance style…

“For a moment there, I thought we were in trouble…”  The last survivor of the original X-Force and the first member of the new squad go out together in a blaze of squishy red glory, providing closure on this chapter of mutant history. Given that the issue started in the middle and had a middle which was the end, it’s fascinating to see it end at the beginning.  That is to say that the last panels of the issue show X-Statix finally coming to terms with their impending breakup, and setting off in jolly fashion for their “last payday.”  The final page is a silent shot of their dark ready room/theater, with the sign reading “EXIT” prominently placed.  It’s an effective and haunting ending for a series that prided itself on it’s satirical and ironic-laced-with-arsenic nature.  Given how rare ANY sort of ending is in monthly serialized American comics, it’s kind of fascinating to see one done this well (if this bleakly.)  X-Statix #26 is a fascinating last issue, and one of the most successful single issues of any X-title in the last dozen years, earning a completely non-ironic 4 out of 5 stars overall.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Faithful Spoilerite Question Of The Day:  Would you rather a favorite series go out with a bang or wimp out and leave hope of revival?


The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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  1. Mike
    January 1, 2012 at 5:12 am — Reply

    Given that my favorite series was the first run of New Warriors, and the rage that I feel whenever I hear the name Donyell, I would have much rather seen them go out with a bang. No, wait….nevermind, Civil War. Crap. Much props to X-Statix tho. Awesome finale!

    Oh! And happy friggin’ New Year to you guys at Majorspoilers! Here’s to at LEAST another 356 days of awesome comic coverage! ;D


    …friggin’ DONYELL…..DAMMIT!!!

    • January 1, 2012 at 9:25 pm — Reply

      …friggin’ DONYELL…..DAMMIT!

      Seconded. I still haven’t forgiven Evan Skolnick for what happened at the end of that series.

  2. Bob
    January 1, 2012 at 6:07 am — Reply

    I think DC missed a golden opportunity to bring a climactic ‘The End’ to their titles before the flashpoint reboot. A little thought and coordination, and the books could of gone out with a bang – paving the way for the new #1s. The few I read sort of went out with less than a whimper, more of a shrug of the shoulders acknowledging the impending reboot with filler material.

    Without reboots, I think some comics can/should be able to go out with a bang – especially if they’re up for cancellation. Team books in particular could allow some characters to go out in a blaze of glory rather than preserving B-list characters. As a fan of Agents of Atlas, I’d of preferred a climactic conclusion with some (or all) the cast going out in a blaze of glory rather than just letting it peter out.

  3. Arbor Day
    January 1, 2012 at 12:54 pm — Reply

    I notice you neglected to mention Doop even once in that review. Or the fact that he’s apparently working for Wolverine now. Whatever that is. However, I guess that character undercuts the meaning of the article.

    • January 1, 2012 at 9:24 pm — Reply

      I notice you neglected to mention Doop even once in that review. Or the fact that he’s apparently working for Wolverine now. Whatever that is. However, I guess that character undercuts the meaning of the article.

      Doop’s panel time is pretty much limited to the moment shown where Tike & Orphan can’t believe he’s dead… And Doop is the only X-Statix member that I believe to have survived this mess.

  4. Oldcomicfan
    January 2, 2012 at 10:11 am — Reply

    It’s too bad Matthew didn’t get into comics during the independent comics original Algae Bloom in the early 80s. There were some great comics, characters and concepts to come out of that era, including the Badger, I Am Coyote, anything by Mike Grell, American Flagg, Capt. Quick and a Foozel, just to name a few. Of course, an awful lot of dreck was dredged up, also. But the independents allowed the artists to own their creations, and they printed their comics on better quality paper, with more up-to-date coloring methods, while the Big Two were still printing comics on cheap paper that yellowed before you could get it home from the store, and hand-separated blocks of color, like in the old days. Marvel and DC “saw the light”, as their sales numbers fell. They fought back with better paper and colors, and this sparked the whole Chocolate Scented, Foil Embossed, Multiple-Special Edition Cover craze that brought the whole thing crashing down and nearly destroyed the comic book industry by the end of the 80s. The only characters I can think of that survived the collapse, other than those of the Big Two, are The Savage Dragon, Spawn, Moon Knight and Groo. Most of the others vanished between one issue and the next as independent publishers closed their doors, sometimes without warning. Others, which survived the slaughter, eventually petered out. A case in point was American Flagg. The artist simply got tired of doing the comic and hired pick-up artists to do the issues. Sadly, Howard Chaykin has a distinct style that the other artists couldn’t imitate, and some didn’t even try. Disgusted at the resulting abortion, I quit buying the book. I don’t even know if it reached an end. Then there were others, such as Ceberus, where the issues came out so infrequently (sometimes years apart) that I gave up on them.

    Try as hard as I might, I can’t think of many comic books that were allowed to publish a final issue. There were a couple indepenents where one company would publish the final issue of a series printed by a defunct independent, but I can’t think of what those were just now. You could say that “Whatever happened to the Dark Knight” and “Whatever Happened to the Man of Steel” were final issues of that particular comics continuity, and the heck of the thing is that those were excellent books.

    So, in a round-about way, I have now come to the answer of your question. Yes, I would prefer to see a final issue to finish up a series that is going away, rather than to just have the comic vanish. It doesn’t even have to be a gore-fest heroic ending. Imagine if, when Peter Parker threw his uniform in the trash and walked away, back in the seventies, that had actually BEEN the end of Spiderman! At least then we wouldn’t have had the Clone saga.

  5. Noobian74
    January 5, 2012 at 3:36 pm — Reply

    Transmetropolitan Number 60. One of the best endings ever. Why? Simple.

    It ended.

    For those who are not familar with the book, it followed Spider Jerusalem and his return to the insanity-infected world that he tried his best to escape. It was a socio-political masterpiece with enough science fiction to make it even more interesting. I was sad to see it go, but I was also glad that it ceased to be.

    How many times have we seen comic books that haven’t been good in 5+ years, but are still on the market? Superman after Byrne left had a serious drought of eye-popping stories until the 90’s. Spider-man had so many droughts in quality, it was disgusting. A lot of comic book companies are looking for franchises and it shows in their product.

    Also have to show appreciation to James Robinson for ending Starman by showing how a comic book character can evolve on paper.

    Mr. Peterson, if it’s a choice of going out with a bang or a wimper, I’d rather it go out with a purpose.

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