Review: X-Club #1

If you like high-minded science snark, then this team of brainiacs with attitude is the book for you.

Andy Hunsakerby Andy Hunsaker

X-Club #1

Hello, Dr. Nemesis.  Welcome to being a cult favorite.

Where did this guy come from?  Apparently, he's a holdover from the Golden Age and a co-creator of the original Human Torch and former member of a Nazi-esque superhuman team called Battle-Axis and later a Nazi-hunter, but for some reason, he's now part of the X-Men's super-science quartet and constantly wearing a surgical mask.  More importantly, he derides everyone he meets in a comically and intellectually acidic manner,and that's what makes for a magnetic character.

In writer Simon Spurrier's X-Club #1, focusing on the foursome of Dr. Nemesis, former mutant-curer Dr. Kavita Rao, former Canadian Box Madison Jeffries and former murderously rogue A.I. Danger, we see the X-Men of Utopia trying to score a public relations victory by working with Stratocorp to create a massive elevator to space – or as Nemesis calls it, an "ostentatious crapheap."  This is the kind of stuff he's saying throughout this issue, and leading with your most charismatic "science bastard" is likely the best way to hook people into reading your 5-issue miniseries.  That's something you really have to do at Marvel, the way they're cancelling books mid-stream these days.

The fact that we open with an Invaders flashback featuring a weirdly malfunctioning O.G. Human Torch likely means that Nemesis is going to be the focus of the whole series, which makes sense, because he's obviously the breakout star.  Hell, ever since I first took note of him back in Uncanny X-Men #535, he made his mark with only one page.  Now, he's got an entire horsepuckey press conference to run roughshod over with lines like "Camera Troll!  Ask me to smile and I'll sublimate your kidneys!" and threatening to strangle "whichever costumed cretin came up with a 'world's smartest heroes' ranking" when asked about his place on the list.  It's fun, it's satirical, it's the kind of dialog that makes you grin. 

And it has an undeniable "trying to be Warren Ellis" feel.  Not that that's a bad thing, really.  It works.  It's entertaining and engaging.  But it does have that spectre hanging over it.  "Excuse me, gentlemen.  There is science to conduct… in the Laboratory of Violence."  .You know it.

The rest of the team so far is indistinct.  Jeffries is introduced as "a little spacey" and is basically there to underscore how "unknowable, implacable and pert" Danger is, who has a similar arrogant attitude as Nemesis but for different reasons… and, of course, who winds up going rogue again thanks to whatever nefarious nastiness is behind Stratocorp.  Dr. Rao has an amicably contentious relationship with Nemesis, and is put on 'go placate the Atlanteans' duty when they protest the platform, only to see one of them bubble up into a rampaging fish monster who eventually explodes.  Thanks to Nemesis and his apparent 'science vision,' there's a mutagen involved.  It's always muta-somethin' with these muties.

Paul Davidson's art is pretty good at making Nemesis expressive while his face is mostly covered up with the dumb surgical mask (I'm sure it seemed like a good idea at the time, but really, the white suit and hat would be plenty good enough as a costume).  It's clean and fun and serves the story well.  One minor quibble, however, is either with Spurrier or his letterer, VC's Cory Petit.  Not only is the word 'pompous' misspelled in the introductory text of Cyclops thus undercutting the humor, but the last line uses the word 'proved' where it should be 'proven,' which is about the third time I've seen that latter mistake in comics in the last week or so.  Sure, typos are forgivable (and I make my fair share), but you've got to be doubly on guard for all things grammatical when you're writing a book that trucks in snide intellectual condescension like this one. 

Overall, X-Club #1 is a fun book that should appeal strongly to those of us who love B-listers, and who will like to watch the pomposity of Marvel's Merry Mutants being satirized to their faces.  Aspiring to be Warren Ellis is a noble goal.