A few months back, I reviewed X-Men: Unstoppable. I enjoyed the book chronicling Juggernaut’s run on the team. Unfortunately, I didn’t know the hatred fans had for the Chuck Austen run. (I stand by my opinion: Unstoppable is a good series of issues.) Maybe one day I will read more of Austen’s run to truly understand the vitriol. Until then, I submit to everyone who feels Austen is the worst X-Men writer of all time, X-Men: Dangerous Liaisons by Peter Milligan.
Bizarre lust triangle
You can make excuses for the ‘Golgotha’ storyline. The titular villain has the ability to prey on the X-Men’s weaknesses. Watching the team give in to their fears and turn on each other is not the most original plot, but it’s fun. It also makes sense that the story would be fairly generic since this was the start of Milligan’s run on X-Men.
That being said, some of the scenes involving Emma Frost, Rogue, and Mystique would make a fan of 1990s comic books blush. (The issues collected are from 2005.) I understand that Emma’s sexuality is part of her character, but I don’t have to see her crack. I also should never have to hope my wife doesn’t walk in on me reading an X-Men comic. Pearl clutching aside, there are moments in the book where Emma looks sexy without being trashy. It just goes to show the artists could have done without the titillation, but decided to keep it in.
Can’t we all just get along?
One of the biggest trademarks of any X-Men book is the internal strife. All stories involving some form of team dynamic will have a level of infighting; by having them get into the same squabbles everyone else does, it humanizes characters and makes them more relatable. X-books take that to a melodramatic level, however. The love triangles, petty jealousies, and outright hatred are part of the charm of the titles. The comic is as much a soap opera as a superhero comic.
Milligan takes it beyond that point. Even though previous writers will play up the differences to varying degrees, at the center of it all is the team’s core values. They are a group of mutants fighting for a better world for others just like them. The more salacious moments always take a backseat to the actual story. Milligan, on the other hand, seems to revel in the team’s instability. It’s a constant barrage of why the team cannot and should not be together. Others have made this an interesting part of the X-Men, but Milligan waters the entire concept down. Again, you can kind of defend it due to Golgotha, but it wears thin for the reader quickly.
At least it’s consistent
Dangerous Liaisons also includes a crossover with Reginald Hudlin’s Black Panther. The story is weird and all over the place. Along with the team up with Panther, the crossover brings in Storm, Red Ghost, talking gorillas, and mutated crocodiles. It’s as fun and exciting as it sounds.
Once more, the story takes a backseat to the personal drama. (That actually may be a good thing in this case). This time, the issues are between Storm and Panther. Panther is incredibly unlikable in this book — he’s overbearing and arrogant and each scene seems to be setting him up for a comeuppance that never comes. Storm isn’t much better, either. She forces herself onto the team for a reason I must have missed and doesn’t seem to want to be there. Even worse, she and Panther argue the entire time before making out for no reason. This was one of the most confusing and boring stories I have ever read.