I’ve been a fan of Leah Williams ever since her X-Tremists run a few years ago. That was a five issue mini-series during the X-Books’ “Age Of X-Man” storyline where Nate Grey had reshaped reality in his image. It saw a group of mutants working as a police force to arrest other mutants, and it gave us the love story I never knew I needed: one between Betsy Braddock and The Blob.
I would go on to follow her briefly when she was given X-Factor in the Hickman era X-Books, but that title was a victim of bad timing. It came out right before the X Of Swords crossover that made me abandon X-Books across the board because I didn’t want to get suckered into annual crossovers where I’d have to buy every book in the line rather than just the three I wanted to keep up on (at the time, those were X-Factor, Excalibur, and Marauders).
Luckily, late last year, Leah was given another X-Mini to work on, this one called X-Terminators. It told the story of Dazzler, Jubilee, Boom-Boom, and Wolverine (Lara) facing the consequences of a girls’ night out gone horribly awry.
Jubilee AND Leah Williams? I was in!
Writer and Artist: Leah Williams and Carlos Gomez
Protagonists: Jubilee, Dazzler, Boom-Boom, Wolverine (Lara)
Antagonists: Vampires, The Collector
After having suffered a break-up with her short-term boyfriend, Alex, Dazzler is in desperate need for distraction. I’m not sure any real friendship has ever previously been established between herself and Jubilee, but the first person she calls is the X-Men’s resident firecracker. Jubes is hanging out with Boom-Boom at the time, so they both decide to go cheer Alison up.
While drinking and dancing at a dive bar, the three come down ill and realize their drinks were poisoned! Alex, it turns out, isn’t just a creepy, cheating boyfriend… he is also a vampire. The three heroines are attacked and defeated. They each wake up in some weird MurderWorld-esque scenarios that they fight, swim, and drive their ways out of to reunite. They are then matched up against the reigning champ of this strange place: Wolverine!
Of course, they don’t actually fight; Lara is thrilled to see them. And when the quartet refuse to do battle for the vampires in attendance (despite Jubilee’s pleas that they WWE it up for the crowd), Alex unleashes the magic of some captured fae he has collected to run them through even more torturous gauntlets… involving magic mirrors, a maze, and some vamps that paid extra for their own shot at the victims.
It ultimately turns out that the girls are all in space and aboard The Collector’s ship. He and Alex have been working together to gather a menagerie of beasts to fight and display, and Alex has been keeping all of his kidnapped “girlfriends” there, too.
They free themselves from The Collector thanks to Dazzler’s quick thinking, Boom-Boom’s time bombs, and Lara’s knowledge of his ship. When they teleport back to Krakoa, they are put on trial for possibly instigating a war with the Vampire Nation. For four issues we get flashes to the present day showing they are being put on trial for some misdeed, but no sooner than we find out why they are than Jubilee fast talks their way out of it (all the vamps they killed were defectors from the Vamp Nation, so they actually did Dracula a favor).
The series climaxes with the girls getting their revenge. Dazzler and all the women Alex had abducted go after him, while Lara, Jubilee, and Tabi head back to The Collector’s ship to distract him.
And it’s at this point that the years and years of speculation that Jubilee is low-key incredibly powerful are paid off as SHE DEFEATS THE COLLECTOR, an Elder of the Marvel Universe!
TWO UPS AND TWO DOWNS
+This book is unabashedly stupid funny. It takes three mutant women that have always felt a little redundant and allowed them to play off of each other and feel like a match made in heaven as far as a team goes. The book has jokes about the size of Dazzler’s ass, Boom-Boom’s slutty night out outfit, Alex not letting the girls block his line of sight while they pee, and just other general goofiness. This isn’t a serious book, and they even lampoon the very nature of the current X-Titles (with Jubilee at one point saying it would be easier to just die and wake up on Krakoa before Dazzler talks her out of that).
So my biggest up here is my most controversial one. If you don’t want to see a comic that mocks a lot of the very nature of the current comics atmosphere, is in no way kids-friendly, and doesn’t even pretend to want to be taken seriously, then this might not be for you. But I had an absolute blast with it. It’s fun-loving and takes-no-prisoners. It treats the heroines with respect, while also making them idiot goofballs at times. Lovable idiot goofballs, but still.
+Carlos Gomez is one of my favorite artists working now after this title. There’s nothing “special” about his art. It’s not particularly stylized or different from what you think of when you think of comic art. But that doesn’t mean it’s not great at fitting into that mold. The monsters and fae are imaginative. The action is brutal and dynamic. The colors are bold and powerful, as they should be for this kind of story. And he makes the girls attractive without reducing them to sex objects. He’s an incredibly talented artist who was a definite spot-on choice for this kind of book. I’ll be keeping an eye out for what he does next!
-While 90% of the dialogue is an unquestioned joy, some lines are a miss. It feels either unnatural or like the characters aren’t nearly as witty or cool as the rest of the book presents them. I’m not sure if Leah Williams underthought or overthought some of the dialogue, but this series would have me laughing for ten pages in a row, then someone would say something that didn’t jive with what came before it.
-Leave it to a Marvel book daring to feature an all female cast of heroes being portrayed as confident and fun to bring out the worst parts of comic fandom. X-Terminators was hit almost immediately upon the release of its first issue by dudes trashing it, its writer, and its characters in a myriad of insipid YouTube videos with angry reaction faces in their thumbnails and the word “woke” in their titles. There’s literally nothing in this book to get offended over or upset about (unless you just hate potty humor, or you are pearl-clutching over the idea that a small child might read a book with the words “ass” and “piss” and “sex” in it). Men aren’t denigrated or belittled in any way. It doesn’t attack any particular “values” or anything like that. It’s just an all-female cast written by a woman… so trash it, some folks must. This is a Down against the book for reminding me that these people, you know, continue to exist.
And I’m not saying this book is for everyone! It’s not. If you read this book and said “Hey, I didn’t like it. The humor didn’t land for me and the story was contrived”, I get it and I respect it! I’m all for that. There are dozens of mediocre-to-bad comic published every month. But let’s not pretend there is anything here worth a ton of vitriolic YouTube videos using buzzwords those losers don’t even have solid definitions for.
I’m a fan of Leah and a pretty widely known Jubilee mark. That said, I recently read another mini-series written by a woman and starring characters I love, and I thought that was abysmal, so I’m more capable of fighting off bias than some. That said, hot damn, I loved this book. It’s the first comic in YEARS that I rushed to my comic shop to get every week on the day it was released. It was funny, the characters were charming, and the story was unexpected. Also, honestly? The power geek battleboard fan in me is kid of marking out over Jubilee’s showing here. Jubes beats Silver Surfer 10/10 now!