X-Terminators #1 Review: A Glamorous, Grindhouse Good Time

X-Terminators #1 is a mood. Actually, it's a couple of moods. There's the girls' night out vibe that comes from getting mutant party girls Dazzler, Jubilee, and Boom-Boom together at a bar. Then there's the grindhouse vibe that comes from having said mutant party girls get bloody battling vampires and other monstrous creatures. The two pair together nicely, each one cutting into the expectations and excesses of the other to create a well-balanced comic book concoction that proves delightful to read and that stands apart from the much more straight-faced attitude of the rest of the current X-Men line.

This debut issue couldn't be more upfront about what readers are getting themselves into with X-Terminators. The first page is a "Mature Audiences Only" graphic warning (promising?) that the issue contains crude humor, partial nudity, violence, and popular mutants acting like "absolute dumbasses." The issue then offers up two pages to prove its case, starting with a close-up of the word "praxis" in pink letters on the back of Dazzler's shorts before zooming out to show her in a version of her disco-era costume popping bubblegum and rollerskating through pools of blood as she battles a horde of vampire-like monsters.

(Photo: Marvel Comics)

In comics, going grindhouse typically means visuals that lean into dark and gritty territory with heavy shadows and muted colors. Artist Carlos Gomez and colorist Bryan Valenza buck that trend. The X-Terminators cast consists of three mutants with light and/or explosion-based powers. The art team uses both the characters' powers and their brightly-colored styles to subvert expectations about how the book should look, puncturing the expected darkness with light in a manner reminiscent of neo-noir's use of neon.

Using the expectations set by the opening pages, the creative team is free to present these characters in a fresh light that you won't see in more typical superhero stories, which often lean towards a PG rating. You don't expect to see Jubilee drawn wearing garter stockings, or Boom-Boom in an outfit that Jubes describes as "if Barbie was a sex addict," but here they are and it feels natural to both the characters and the atmosphere. Grindhouse in the wrong hands can be an excuse to indulge an artist's most lurid, cheesecake impulses, but Gomez doesn't fall into that trap. That's not to say his work is unsexy, but it isn't transparently playing to the male gaze.

Similarly, writer Leah Williams gets away with some dialogue that, even censored with "bleeped" lettering as it is here, likely wouldn't fly in a typical Marvel Comics superhero story. Writers will often use the "Parental Advisory" rating as an excuse to drop in a curse word or two, but Williams turns profanity into personality. Jubilee's rapid-fire use is particularly fun without coming at the character's expense.

The issue does suffer from a few storytelling problems. There's at least one sound effect that simply seems misplaced, and some stuff involving Jubilee and a monster truck that doesn't entirely track. Most perplexing is the introduction of a purple, eyeless creature. Dazzler finds the creature and treats it with all of the awe and surprise of someone finding a kitten. A story shouldn't have to explain itself or offer up all of its secrets immediately, but this is an instance where it's unclear if readers should already be familiar with the creature or if there's more to it. But the issue has its high points as well, from an iridescent dance scene to a perfectly laid out sequence of Boom-Boom feeding a time bomb to a sewer monster.

X-Terminators #1 is a delight. Williams is playing to her strengths by pairing a, thus far, simple plot with strong characterizations, humor, and a palpable sense of atmosphere, with Gomez and Valenza bringing the visual goods to back it all up. If you're looking for some mutants to show you the wrong way to have a good time (and who isn't?), X-Terminators is where it's at.

Published by Marvel Comics

On September 21, 2022

Written by Leah Williams

Art by Carlos Gomez

Colors by Bryan Valenza

Letters by Travis Lanham

Cover by Federico Vicentini