It’s usually a bad sign when anything takes a hiatus. Whether it’s a sitcom that disappears or a magazine pulled for re-tooling, there’s certainly cause for concern when production is halted.
So when it was announced that X-Statix, Peter Milligan’s lively and cheeky version of X-Factor would be suspended for two issues, it seemed like bad news. In its place, Milligan has authored a two-issue detective story, Wolverine/Doop. In all likelihood, Marvel made the move to tie-in with the X2 movie and its central character. X-Statix resumes with a September release.
In the meantime, readers are given an enjoyable pulp comic that breaks from the X-Statix mold a bit. Whereas Milligan has explored and dredged popular culture with the regular title—X-Statix is about as meta-fictional as a comic gets—Wolverine/Doop is the comics equivalent of a buddy movie. The snarling clawed one is apparently best pals with Doop, the flying, green, bulbous, gibberish-speaking videographer of X-Statix. It’s a match-up that makes about as much sense as Owen Wilson and Jackie Chan, but Milligan makes it work.
Wolverine and Doop are on the case of the missing Pink Mink, an apparently powerful furry boa that has escaped its high-tech holding cell. The Pink Mink, as it turns out, is the physical manifestation of the Pink Lady, an alluring and intoxicating woman who can confuse men and force hallucinations. Logan and Doop are both convinced they are immune to the hallucinations, and believe the Pink Lady may have infected each other with the dangerous Code X gene, the mutant equivalent of manic paranoia.
Milligan wonderfully strips Wolverine of the hot-tempered madman persona, where he uses his claws more often than his brains. Instead, Wolverine plays the detective, rarely fighting and always looking after his buddy Doop. Doop, on the other hand, still remains something of a mystery. Aside from the fact that his language is indecipherable to the reader—Wolverine and Doop chat like Han Solo and Chewy—Milligan shows that Doop is both playful and a bit of a gumshoe. Beyond that, however, Doop is simply along for the ride.
Milligan’s storytelling ability really shines. Unlike most comic story arcs that tend to drift over six or more issues (usually so they can anthologized easily), he has to employ some economy here. X-Statix is Milligan’s chance to mine celebrity culture and parody both the idols and the idol-worshipers with a relatively literary style. In this two-issue story, the author drops much of his commentary. He does, however, have fun stabbing at the genre a bit. Wolverine and Doop hit nearly every plot point in the old detective story blueprint. The duo is hired by big-shots only to be double-crossed, they turn against each other, they face off against an apparently invincible and exaggeratedly gruesome foe and they let the bounty slip from their hands too easily. And of course, there’s the girl. Even Doop is somewhat libidinous in the end.
The real star of the show is the art of Darwin Cooke. Cooke borrows a decent amount from classic pulp art and infuses his style with a Saturday-morning cartoon animation. In fact, Doop’s character is probably best characterized through his facial expressions, which Cooke makes as emotive as possible. In some sense, Cooke is the Spike Jonze to Milligan’s Charlie Kaufman.
It’s difficult to see, however, why this was timed to tie in with X2. It’s a fun story, and to some extent this inventive team’s Wolverine is closer to Hugh Jackman’s humane big-screen version than anything in the stale X-title environment right now. But how could a casual fan pick up a story about the movie’s main character teaming up with a nonsense blob that looks like Slimer from Ghostbusters to lock up a rogue, magical boa? Surely Milligan enjoys stretching his legs and giving Doop a little more light, but as a marketing plan it’s weak. It would have made much more sense to have this title run simultaneously with X-Statix, a book too good to warrant a suspension. As Marvel keeps going back to the well and thinning out the “X” mystique, it’s lucky to have Milligan there to breathe life into a tired concept.