Writer: Peter Milligan
Artist: Paul Pope
Publisher: Marvel Comics
The book opens with Guy trying to reassure the rest of the team that having the psychotic Arnie join the team is actually a good idea, and to make the situation even more difficult, Guy makes is clear that his plan for dealing with Arnie is entirely dependent of the idea that Arnie feels welcome. To this end we see the team has to play nice with Arnie & each other, as it wouldn't do to have Arnie believing that the X-Statix was made up of a group of narcissistic egomaniacs who hate each other with a passion. However shortly after Arnie is introduced as the team's new mystery member, with a mask to conceal his true identity, we see his true identity is ousted by the time-stopping talk-show host Lacuna, and in a bid to show the public that Arnie has changed his ways, we see a mission is set up that will allow Arnie to show how useful he can be. However while Arnie is vital in this mission's success we discover Arnie's heart simply wasn't up to the stressful job of being a super-hero, and he dies after making the villain's head explode. After Arnie funeral, where we see his heroic death has him being adored by the public, we learn that while Arnie's heart would've give up the ghost eventually, it was given a push by Lacuna, who was acting under the orders of Guy.
This issue deals with the Arnie situation, as we see having him join X-Statix was only the first stage of Guy's plan, while the second stage is far more ruthless, as we see Guy drafts someone into killing Arnie. Now the idea that the team had to be on their best behavior, and present itself as a united team was a fun way of show us how screwed up X-Statix really is, and the person that Guy uses to kill Arnie was quite surprising. However, given this was the final chapter of this arc, I have to say that I'm a bit disappointed to see the Arnie situation ended with more of a whimper than a bang, as even when the public learns that it was lied to and Arnie is the newest member of the team, the story doesn't really play up the impact that this revelation should've made, as all we get is a couple panels where Guy is pestered by the media. I also have some reservations about the idea that the person Guy drafted into killing Arnie would've allowed herself to be talked into performing this act, as in a bid to keep this element hidden from the reader, the scene where her role is being discussed is quite vague on what she's being called upon to do, so when we learn what it was, her moment of doubt looks rather pitiful considering the gravity of the request.
This issue continues the play up the idea that this group is driven more by fame & fortune, than any real sense of heroism, as there a great little scene in this issue where we see the group is feeling the heat over their recruitment of Arnie, and as such they pretty much put in a request for a mission that looks quite dangerous, but in actual fact is largely a cake walk, that poses very little danger. This scene basically tells one that the X-Statix pick and choose the moments when they'll be heroic, and that their choices are often dictated by which ones will earn them the largest amount of bang for the risk involved. Now this isn't to say that the team doesn't take on dangerous missions, as their mortality rate is sky high, with the current total being nine deaths in their year & a-half of existence. However, this high death rate could largely be blamed on the idea that the X-Statix isn't so much a team as it is a collection of egos, and while they'll jump when they're told to jump, nobody is going to tell them how high to jump, and if this jump involves putting their life on the line to save a fellow teammate, then one is likely to see their heroic leap will be in the opposite direction. It also doesn't help that they all pretty much hate each others guts, and it takes the presence of a psychotic teenager to have them even making the attempt to look like they get along when the cameras are off.
An issue of this book without Michael Allred providing the art automatically earns the book a check mark in the negative column, as Michael Allred's decidedly unique art is such a key part of this book. Now Paul Pope certainly brings his own unique style to these pages, and if nothing else it's nice to see Alex Alonso thinking outside the box when it comes to guest-art on this book. Paul Pope does a pretty solid job keeping the look of the characters consistent with what we had been getting, as all the characters are instantly recognizable, and I do have to say that I rather like the way Venus' teleporting ability was rendered in this issue. Lacuna' ability to stop time is also nicely done, as is Arnie's ability, as the exploding television does a nice job of visually conveying his anger, and it also previewed the exploding head scene we're treated to later in the issue. The battle against the creature in the swamps had a nice sense of energy to it as well, as the creature ends up looking quite dangerous, when it was ripping into X-Statix. The final page of this issue is also largely dependent on the art to convey Guy's explosive declaration, and Paul Pope proves to be more than up to this task.
A rather uninspired finish to the Arnie situation, as we see Guy tricks the young man into believing the team is welcoming with open arms, while he's busy orchestrating his death. Now this issue does a pretty solid job of keeping Guy's true intentions hidden, and there's some very amusing moments that result from the idea that Guy's plan calls for harmony within the X-Statix group. However, in it's bid to keep us out of the loop the story essentially glosses over what should've been a very powerful exchange between Guy & Lacuna, where she learn what her role in Guy's big plan is slated to be. There's also something to be said for the idea that Arnie was able to restore the legs that he blasted off a member of O-Force, but he was unable to repair his own body, though a more disturbing idea comes up at the funeral as we see Arnie's mother knew about her son's bad heart, and yet she kept this information to herself. This issue also offers up yet another "I quit" moment from Guy, an idea that's is starting to lose its punch, given he's never followed through on the previous departures.
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