||[Sep. 29th, 2008|05:53 pm]
100 COMICS TO READ BEFORE YOU DIE (or grow out of them)
#68 X-FORCE #116-129 – Peter Milligan, Michael Allred
“It’s about media manipulation. It’s about merchandise. It’s about money.”
The X-Men comics and their spin-offs found a powerful metaphor in comparing being a mutant to being a minority. There’s only so far you can go with that comparison, however. While in some places telling your parents that you’re gay or telling them that you’re technically a different subspecies would amount to the same thing, being gay obviously doesn’t involve flying around the world in your own jet saving the world from The Brotherhood Of Evil Gays.
Peter Milligan and Michael Allred, given the task of overhauling one of the more forgettable X-Men spin-offs – a very ’90s affair with big muscles, bigger guns, gritted teeth and costumes that had too many pouches on them – rewrote that metaphor. In X-Force being a mutant may make you a freak, but the kids love it. Mutation became a metaphor for modern celebrity, where fame comes from a sex tape or a reality TV show and the job of a celebrity is finding increasingly desperate ways to cling to that fame. The members of X-Force make the news because they can teleport or breathe fire or conduct electricity through their sweat, but to drag that 15 minutes into a career they have to make themselves newsworthy again and again, even if that means having to do questionable things. Those questionable things include extravagant mutant slugfests because that’s what the form demands, but they also include staged trips to rehab, endless press conferences and pre-planned internecine squabbling that gives the guys designing the computer game based on the team an excuse for their CG equivalents to beat each other up.
All of this is captured on film by Doop, a marketably adorable floating green mutant blob, and the edited highlights are sold to pay-per-view where they’re lapped up by a legion of adoring fans. The fans don’t care that the members of X-Force are blue, green or covered in spikes and they certainly aren’t bothered about whether they’re black or gay. They care about who is sleeping with who, what they’ll be wearing to the next awards ceremony and what drugs they’re on.
Having characters who are bizarre freaks being treated as celebrities goes beyond being an apt metaphor, because in the 21st century that’s exactly how fame works.