In the modern age of comic books, there's a bit of an obsession with things mattering. Fictional character X needs to exist with fictional world C so their fictional actions affect fictional characters Y and Omega. Whatever. I'm here to talk about a book that does not give a single damn about that nonsense, and revels in the ridiculousness and insanity that only a medium like comics can give us. (Well, acid can, but I'm probably not supposed to plug that).
I present the case for X-Treme X-Men. A book with a band of heroes bouncing around realities, trying to murder evil Charles Xaviers. Which now I think about it, isn't that dissimilar to what recently has been going on.
Anyway, let's get down to brass tacks. Issue #1 is a strong start — we get told about Evil Xaviers threatening reality, there are drag queens, Dazzler turns a guitar into a gun (possibly my favorite moment in Marvel comics this year), Lovecraftian Octopus Xavier, and a bunch of X-Men imbued with divine powers.
The cast is a great addition to the marvel line, and a great reason to check this out. We have our P.O.V. character, the perpetually optimistic Dazzler, who bounces wonderfully off her team-mates, the Acerbic Emmeline Frost, the simpering Governor Wolverine and the adorable Kid Nightcrawer. Pak has created a team that has a real synergy, and unlike other books which can be classed as a series of talking heads, it's nice to have a real team dynamic.
The fact this book is alternate reality might just be its strongest point. It is allowed to do things that other books simply can't. If Storm was going to become all-goddess of humanity, then that couldn't simply be a throwaway event for two months, it would require years of building, and then happening, and then after-effects, all for something that's just a bit of fun. In X-Treme X-Men, it happened, deal with it.
The team hop around realities, murdering Charles Xavier. That sounds pretty dark, but the way Pak handles it is with such a lightness of touch, such a respect for the source material and such clarity of voice, the murky moral issues of that aren't even thought about. We know these X-Men are in the right. Why? Because they're the goddamn X-Men.
And they are. If you're looking for balls-to-the-wall fun, look no further. It works wonderfully. Danger turns into a horse, Wolverine is in love with Hercules, Sabertooth ate X-23, and it's good. But the reason that X-Treme X-Men works is that it is at its heart, an X-Men book. It's got a team of mutants working together to save the world. Because it's what they do best.
Now, it's not perfect, the art is initially a touch shaky, with proportions not being as on point as they should be, but Paco Diaz comes to the book at issue 3. When he does, he brings his A-game. He creates a living breathing world, with impeccably designed characters. We're only there for two issues, but I could read another arc about his Steampunk X-Men, they're that strong. Pak has a wonderful flow with Diaz's European line art, which is something that doesn't come along that often. Diaz brings out not just the humour in Pak's writing, but the delicate nuances of pathos, that could be missed by someone not as astute an artist.
These are worlds in which anything can happen. Everyone could be half dinosaur, Magneto could be president, The Fantastic Four could be ninjas, and Daredevil really could be the devil. If you leave your preconceptions at the door and dive in, you're going to have a beautiful time. X-Treme X-Men is completely different from anything else on the market. It's got the sense of joy that Wolverine & the X-Men has, while still having the sense of Urgency and importance that books like Uncanny Avengers has. The humor doesn't override the book, to turn it into a farce, the dark mission doesn't take over and create a snuff book and the pathos doesn't turn everything into a snore-fest. It's walking a fine line between genres, but so far, it's walking it perfectly.
The story so far is giving me fun, it's giving me mystery, it's giving me a mixture of darkness and light. It's channelling classic exiles, it's channelling '80s X-Men — in summary, get it, you won't regret it.
Josef Fleming is a playwright/researcher/columnist based in Birmingham (England, not Alabama). He will mainly be shouting to you about comic books, why they're wonderful and why you should be reading more of them. He exists on Twitter @JosefFleming, but as it is a social media invented by Satan himself, don't expect anything either coherent or pleasant. Actually, that's a good motto for most of Josef's work. Take heed.
He can be bribed with hand-drawn pictures of obscure X-Men from the '90s. If you're into that sort of thing. He is into that sort of thing.