Writer: Peter Milligan
Artist: Michael Allred
Publisher: Marvel Comics
The book opens with the members of O-Force basking in the glow of their first victory, and we see the group responsible for setting up their battles are made aware of Arnie, the powerful young mutant we met last issue, who is using his mutant gift to control his entire hometown. After seeing that Arnie looks to have the ability to alter reality to suit his whim, we look in on the X-Statix, who are currently in the middle of a heated war zone. As we see them locate a powerful chemical bomb set to go off & take out an entire city, we see Guy orders Venus Dee Milo to teleport the bomb to a place where it can do no harm. As she obeys his orders we see Tike takes issue with this order, as he believes Guy is trying to get Venus Dee Milo killed. After the two exchange a few blows, we see Venus Dee Milo returns, but she's in sad shape and her energy form literally explodes. We then join the team later that night as Venus Dee Milo has pulled herself back together, and she accepts Guy's surprise dinner invitation. However their pleasant evening out is marred when fans of the late Edie take issue with Guy going out with Venus Dee Milo so soon after Edie's death. As the issue ends we see Venus Dee Milo also has herself another problem in the form of a court order.
This issue shows us that Spike Freeman, the new guiding force behind the X-Statix is just as bad if not worse than the Coach ever was, but he simply does a better job of keeping his true objective hidden. I mean when the X-Statix's ratings are impacted by the arrival of a new group named O-Force, we see him set up a situation where O-Force are sent in to be slaughtered. In fact this whole issue is all about revealing the darker side of these characters, as we see even the ever reliable Guy earns himself a rather disturbing side, when it's suggested that he's actively looking to get Edie's replacement killed. We also see that he's wigging out a bit, as in the middle of the battle he starts to see Dead Girl turn into Edie, though thanks to a line later in the issue we see Guy's hallucinations may be created by Arnie, the super-powerful teen who is all set to slaughter O-Force on live television. There's also Tike's crushing guilt thanks to Edie's death that results in his actively looking to get killed, and the rather unsettling discovery that he makes about how his fame makes him untouchable, as people are afraid of the negative impact that would result if they took a stand against his questionable actions.
This issue also continues to develop the cast, as there's some fairly interesting ideas brought up in this issue. We have Phat losing the ability to control his fat, and we see that this problem likely stems from his denying his true nature. Now the idea of losing one's mutant gift due to a mental block has been covered in other X-titles, but it's still an interesting idea nevertheless. We also get a better look at the newest member of the team, as we see that Venus Dee Milo is quite literally a mass of sentient energy, and the final page makes it look like she's viewed as property, and not a person, which should raise some interesting questions. There's also the novel use of Dead Girl's ability to converse with the dead, Tike's decision to see how far he can test the shield that is his celebrity, and the surprise discovery that Venus Dee Milo is the target of a group of rabid fans that dislike her taking the place of their beloved Edie. Peter Milligan has created a nice little arena where he can insert any number of unique twists on the ideas that we've come to accept as run-of-the-mill in the other X-Books, and in the end I can't ever see this book losing its ability to surprise me every month.
Michael Allred's work has certainly evolved since his arrival on this book, as it's become far more detailed, and more imaginative with its panel designs. The art is certainly one of this book's best elements, as Peter Milligan's flair for the unusual wouldn't be nearly as much fun if it wasn't for Michael Allred's ability to present it. Michael Allred's main ability is to convey the contrasting ideas that the writing creates. Take the Norman Rockwell look of Arnie's little town, and then add the more disturbing elements like the twisted hands of the town's music teacher, or the dog with the girl's head. Take the bright colorful costumed members of the members of the X-Statix and then add their twisted outlooks on the world. The art also does a nice job with the little moments, like the scene where Venus Dee Milo literally explodes, or the one later in the book where she transfers herself into her costume. It also doesn't hurt that the members of the X-Statix have themselves some visually interesting powers. A large part of the credit should also go to Laura Allred, as her vibrant coloring work is a perfect match for the art, as it's bright and cheery, even when it's offering up something that decidedly disturbing.
Another issue that makes one question whether the cast of this book are all that heroic, as there's some rather questionable behavior playing out in this issue, from the idea that Guy might be trying to get Venus Dee Milo killed, to Tike's little demonstration of how his celebrity allows him the freedom to do whatever he wants. There's also the use of O-Force as cannon fodder, and Guy setting up a situation where Venus Dee Milo will be humiliated so he can keep her at arm's length. Now with all this unheroic behavior going on one would think that this book & its cast would quickly wear out their welcome, but this isn't the case, as issues like this one are balanced out by the issues where the cast do reveal that they're not all bad, and that a great deal of their behavior is driven by the situation and not the person. Plus there's also the idea that no one in safe in this book, and with the threat of Arnie looming on the horizon, I fully expect this cast will be changing once again.
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