Back from the Dead
On July 9, I heard the news that Peter Milligan would be resurrecting Princess Diana to join X-Statix in the story called “Di Another Day”. Milligan said “Diana is perfect for the comic, which hopes to make a satirical commentary on today’s celebrity crazed culture, because she is ‘someone famous for being famous’”. A spokesman for the Royal Family called the book “utterly appalling”.
Only a few days later, Marvel got cold feet and said “upon reflection, the company has decided to remove Princess Diana and all references to the Royal Family from the five-part X-Statix series”. So, Diana became Henrietta, her hair black instead of blonde, and the now six-issue storyline would be called “Back From The Dead”.
If you’ve never read X-Statix, the intro page sets the stage for you. “Adored by millions, these mutants-for-hire have triumphed over adversity and hatred by smiling for the cameras and partying with rock stars, supermodels, and anyone with a Q-rating over 35”. The story begins with an electric shock scene that comes out of nowhere, moving into a dark tunnel with headlights at the end (the tunnel being where Diana met her demise).
Next, we see the spirit of Henrietta Hunter. Henrietta is a pop star who has a powerful mutant power of empathy and channels it into her career. “I understand people’s suffering. I feel people’s pain. I also know how to make catchy pop records”. The comics go on to tell the story of her demise.
The Eurotrash, a team of mutant hired guns, has been sent to take out Henrietta. They are (as usual in X-Statix) an odd group of mutants: Miz Tree—“grew up and mutated in a forest of tax-efficient conifers”; The Wall—“a respected author and spokesman for the new Germany. He left when the berlin wall fell… right on top of him”; Surrender Monkey (my favorite)—from France, he “has the uncanny ability to quit at just the right time”; Oxford Blue—combines “ferocious violence with a boyish stammer”; Blind Ali—“lost his sight in a bombing raid on Baghdad”.
The owner of X-Statix, Spike Freeman, plots against his team to manipulate and increase their popularity (and his wallet). First, the media begins to question the team after they let Henrietta get captured. When X-Statix rescues her, the media then accuses them of excessive brutality when X-Statix kills every member of The Eurotrash. While this occurs, Henrietta may possibly be causing the death of the old man who began her assassination.
In part 3, a freeway sniper in the U.S. is killing random people, and the head of homeland security is questioned as to “how can this occur on his watch”? A missile accident causes tragedy for a member of X-Statix, and it turns out the man behind the shootings is the mysterious “Mister Code”. He thinks that this violence will toughen up America as we have become “fat and complacent”.
Guy (team leader of X-Statix) discovers the team isn’t so “morally” clean when information that members of the team have been involved with illegal weapons deals comes to light. He erupts in violence, killing off a major player from the X-Statix crew. America hears about the team’s improprieties and turn against them. The Code then kills our beloved Henrietta, and is himself killed before we find out his identity.
To avoid paying extra royalties, the record label creates a new song remixed from Henrietta’s old recordings. Like a certain movie that doesn’t “ring” a bell right now, Henrietta’s song creates a curse: “if you hum (it) you got one minute to recite all the lyrics or you die. Get the lyrics wrong, you’re dead”. Naturally, the body count accelerates at an astounding rate.
The story arc wraps up with an abrupt, fitting and odd end for a story that had to bury its heritage. It seems that the story of the murder of the beloved Princess considered some possibilities that the British Police (reexamining the accident) are looking at as well. Instead of a cutting edge and possibly prophetic book, we get a neutered story riffing off a popular Hollywood remake causing the deaths of three X-Statix members.
It would have been nice for Marvel to stick to its guns (since they had approved the story previously) on this story. I doubt the Royal Family would have been insulted (especially if they saw Henrietta the Taliban Slayer) and jumped to a conclusion without knowing Milligan’s entire story. Maybe the reprinted trade paperback could give more insight of what might have been. We can hope.