Saturday, August 25, 2018

Retro Review: X-Patrol #1 (1996) Review and **SPOILERS**

The X is for X-TREEM!

Writers: Karl & Barbara Kesel 
Penciller: Roger Cruz 
Inker: Jon Holdredge 
Lettering: Richard Starkings and Comicraft 
Colorist: Tom Vincent 
Editor: Jaye Gardner 
Chief: Bob Harras 
Cover Price: $1.95 
Cover Date: April 1996 
Publisher: Amalgam Comics


Legend has it that someone at Marvel stole the idea for the X-Men from Arnold Drake and Bruno Premiani’s Doom Patrol, which debuted three months earlier in 1963. While the similarities are glaring: a team of super-powered weirdos hated by the world, led by a creep in a wheelchair, the differences are even more stark. But why split hairs when we can smoosh the two teams together and see how they’d operate as a freakish combo! Find out in my review for X-Patrol #1 from 1996, right here!

Explain It!

So this should be the best blend of comic book characters, right? “The World’s Strangest Heroes” meet “The World’s Strangest Superhero Team!” Well, it does work pretty well, but that’s largely aided by the fact that this is a clear send-up of 1990s Image-style work. Indeed, Rob Liefeld might have a case for infringement here, if this comic weren’t an obvious parody, and of his art specifically. The book opens when Janet Van Dyne, who in this universe is also combined with Rita Farr and Domino—making her a rare Amalgam Universe triple-changer!—heads to a secret X-shaped building as per a pre-arranged invitation by some unknown party. Inside the building is the cast of characters that will ultimately comprise the X-Patrol! Like in eight pages from now! 
"I must practice the seldom-used American colloquialisms like 'no.'"
Stupid razzin' frazzin' low-cost nose job
Twin brothers Piotr and Alexi Rasputin were deemed too ugly by their own mother, and grew up in relative isolation with only each other for company. When Piotr, who had the mutant gene, turned into living metal while saving his brother’s life, Alexi became jealous and estranged from his sibling, leaving Piotr forever alone. 
The mutant ability to turn into more interesting characters!
Archaeologist Paige Guthrie uncovered a mysterious dial that, when she focuses her mutant abilities on it and dials H-U-S-K, turns her into a variety of heroes with aspects of the Marvel and DC Universes. 
Always ready to play jai alai.
Once heir to the subatomic world of Tamojoran, Shatterstarfire instead joined the rebellion and helped usurp the monarchy of which she’d been a member. When the war concluded and the rebels won, Shatterstarfire was betrayed by her comrades, and was rescued from that hostile land by Spider-Boy. 
Before Andrew Dice Clay found his character.
Young Hank Logan was dying from a mysterious, but his scientist parents saved him  by administering a serum that activated his mutant ability to change into any animal! The serum also turned him green, and made him look like Hank McCoy from Marvel’s X-Men. 
"Uh, what else? She had a blood transfusion from the Hulk and her Kryptonian city was shrunk by Brainiac."
And hey, why not JANET VAN DYNE! 
A gambler so successful, she was called Domino (despite there being no casinos where dominoes can be played for money), Janet sought greater thrills and financed her own jungle expedition. There, weird gases activated her mutant power to grow super big, or shrink super small! And it turns out she’s been working with the guy that put this whole group together, 
The difference between me and you is...I make this weird eye-gleam thing look good.
A guy...from their future. According to him, anyway. And Niles has got some bad news for them: 
"We are like some kind of patrolling force of doomed people! A doomed patrol!"
But it’s not all bad, the inevitable dystopian future that will be the ruination of humanity can be forestalled if they follow Niles’ game plan. The next step is to face off with Doctor Doomsday, known to the X-Patrol as a foe to the JLA and best friend of Thanoseid. But we know him as a kind of awkward mash-up of Doctor Doom and Superman’s one-time killer, Doomsday. Hey wait a minute…isn’t it supposed to be the JLX in this universe?? Anyway, once they enter Doctor Doomsday’s airspace, their craft is shot down by a missile, and everyone that can’t fly starts plummeting groundward. 
The most heroic thing is not calling attention to other people's coping mechanisms.
Beastling turns into a dragon and snatches up the ladies, naturally, aside from Shatterstarfire, who can fly under her own power and handles Niles. Ferro Man falls rapidly to the ground and right through Doctor Doomsday’s roof, but he’s alright. One everyone’s there, it’s time for a really uneven fight against Doctor Doomsday! They blast the poor sap with everything they’ve got, even from Husk who uses the dial to become Polaris, Mistress of Magnetism! 
"Diabolical...they're running Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends opposite Challenge of the Superfriends!" 
While most of the X-Patrol has Doctor Doomsday distracted, Niles and Janet hack into his computer to find out about his evil plot. There, they learn he was creating a bridge across dimensions in order to bring a super-powered army from another dimension: ours! Well, not ours, exactly, but the Prime Earth and Earth-616 universes of DC and Marvel. You get the idea. He wanted to bring the regular guys to the Amalgam Universe, is what I’m saying. 
Okay, Mary Marvel Girl is the best ever.
Doctor Doomsday catches Niles Cable at the keyboard, and body checks him in the back. This makes Janet grow big and Beastling turn into a green Sasquatch to tackle Doctor Doomsday, while Janet and Ferro Man tend to Niles’ crumbled form. Husk flips the dial to turn into Mary Marvel Girl, and she has the telekinetic powers necessary to float Nile safely to the harbor, where I hope there’s a boat waiting for them! 
The Scooby Gang is at it again!
Luckily, there is, and the X-Patrol escapes, to the chagrin of Doctor Doomsday. 
This time, I mean it!
But he can take solace in the fact that he got one swipe in: Niles Cable is paralyzed from the waist down! 
This was an absolutely ludicrous comic book, that was a more-than-subtle poke at a certain style—and the fact that it was still somewhat popular at the time makes it even more ballsy. Of course, the Doom Patrol did their own homage to Rob Liefeld with Doom Force Special #1 (July 1992) by Grant Morrison and…a whole lotta artists, but this feels more genuine because the X-Patrol gets to use actual derivative characters created by the hormone-addled mind of a teenage Liefeld. The art and layouts and spot-on for the genre, and if this wasn’t intrinsically hilarious, it would be ironically hysterical. It’s also interesting that the Amalgam Universe, which existed for a handful of issues, is more cohesive in places than the DC Universe has been since Rebirth. It’s almost like editorial staff matters!
"Can someone point me to the restroom?"

Bits and Pieces:

A hardcore 1990s aesthetic and some very EXTREME! period tropes makes for a fun read in this romp through 90s X-Men and...well, not too much Doom Patrol at all, really. But it's still funny. Folks that don't understand sarcasm can give this one a pass, but if you can laugh at comics and maybe yourself, you'll enjoy this issue.


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