(Metagame Archives) Team Theme Overview: X-Statix

Mike Flores

Have you ever asked yourself, “Why the heck do I only want one X-Statix character in play?” Why do you have all of these cards in front of you for stunning or KO’ing your own squad? I mean, it goes against everything you’ve learned over the last year or so of getting better at Vs. System play. You’ve been training harder and harder to stun multiple characters per turn, create formations that minimize breakthrough, and bait the other guy into attacks that let you use your activated powers. Why are there so many cards like this one?

 

Why? Why? Why?

No, no. Not Y. X. And ex-. As in X-Statix, formerly X-Force, the home of ex-heroes.

The thing is, other teams in the X-Universe pull stunts like the heroic sacrifice of Colossus to end the Legacy Virus, only to pull a mysterious reappearance years later with Shadowcat shadowed by a mysterious figure (made of metal, obviously)—Colossus, resurrected from the shadow of death under mysterious circumstances.

X-Statix ain’t like that. When Peter Milligan and Mike Allred launched this poignant commentary on celebrity during the innovative early term of Joe Quesada’s new Marvel, they actually re-launched X-Force. During the boom days of the early 1990’s, X-Force was one of the most popular books in Marvel’s arsenal. It was all ugly angles and scratchy hatching and incomprehensible storytelling, and children loved it. Milligan erased the previous continuity and flipped it on its head. He replaced the weird anatomy and unnecessary detail of Rob Liefeld with the fluid cartoons of Mike Allred. They gave us this:

Our first shot of Zeitgeist is there, leaping boldly in homage. Now check out the last page of this first issue of the X-Force re-launch:

So, Milligan re-launched a property with all new characters . . . and killed most of them in the first issue. Zeitgeist, the centerpiece of the dramatic Allred cover, is situated in the top left of that cover, indicating that “X-Force is a book about this guy.” And yet, there he is on the last page, splattered alongside almost everybody else. This isn’t the regular old X-Men, let me remind you. Professor X may have given Guy Smith a shiny red suit, but this team doesn’t play by the same rules. At the end of X-Force’s first adventure, the only ones left standing were the Anarchist and U-Go-Girl (and Doop, if you count floating as standing), and there is no chance of any of them regenerating from a single cell like Wolverine would, or of reappearing like Colossus did.

Over the course of the series, Milligan made us fall in love with U-Go-Girl and made Mr. Sensitive fall in love with her, too . . . and then ended that popular character. Maybe as a commentary on the modular nature of celebrity, of how one starlet or teenage singer can pop right into the last one’s spot, Edie (cute blue teleporter) was immediately replaced by Dee Milo (cute black teleporter), both on the team’s roster and in Guy Smith’s heart.

The reason that you get so many bonuses for stunning or KO’ing your X-Statix team members, and for having them fight alone, is that in the comic book, they die. And they die young. And often. These mutants live a posh lifestyle (check out the flavor text on X-Statix HQ) because they know that they might not make it through the next mission. In that sense, X-Statix is a very realistic superhero comic. Sure, you have young people with amazing abilities going on improbable adventures, but they don’t act the same way that the Fantastic Four act. These people thrust their lives into danger time and again, and they don’t all make it back. They don’t have the healthiest personal lives at all. Many members of X-Statix have substance abuse problems, delve into the seamier side of physical intimacy, or force themselves into even more dangerous compulsions. The teary-eyed Orphan, arguably the most well adjusted and heroic member of the X-Statix team, plays Russian Roulette every night. Living lives that are constantly recorded by the old Doop Cam, they just want to be able to feel something, real or not, healthy or not.

There are little joys amidst all the cynicism and doom, like in the second issue of the X-Statix X-Force run, when the former team storms a press conference to try to reclaim their superhero team name. Check out Edie’s response: “If the name was so important to you, you should’ve like, TRADEMARKED IT!”

My favorite interaction has to be the Doop/Wolverine team-up. In X-Force and X-Statix, Milligan gives us a cast of really flawed characters, but we learn to love them. Tragic Edie Sawyer, striving for redemption until her end, is the best example, but Doop, that floating booger, is probably the most lovable. Up until the Avengers crossover that I touched on in my Doop preview, we only got glimpses of this ultimate weapon’s past. But we do know that Wolvie pulls X-Force’s fat out of the fire at the end of their first adventure, and that these two veterans have history. Just as the UDE R&D team embraces the flavor of X-Statix’s dangerous, often fatal, team philosophy, it also captures the friendship between Wolverine and Doop with the updated Marvel Team-Up.

 

The thing is, X-Statix only works if you don’t pull any punches. The Anarchist is on X-Force from the first issue, and Guy Smith joins as team leader one issue later. That these two rivals survive Santa Anna, The Spike, and poor Edie does not mean that they get through it. The final lesson of X-Statix is that no one is spared. You tempt the devil, you play Russian Roulette with your life, and it can only end one way. The story ends with Guy and Tike—the last members standing—gunned down, after even Doop has been killed by nothing more impressive than men with guns. Not a world-ending attack by Galactus, not a brawl with super villains . . . just some guys with automatic weapons.

So that is the story of why X-Statix is built to give you bonuses for having only one character in play, for destroying your own board position, and ultimately, for burning resource points. Unlike family-oriented teams that play cards such as Heroic Sacrifice, X-Statix knows that death is around the corner. They are in it for the money and the glory. They probably won’t last the year. But if they’re going to die young, they’re going to get the most out of the short term that they can.

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