Let’s be blunt, Marvel MAX is a wreck. Every title they announce I feel an immediate pause in my heart as my body tries to kill itself. Okay, “Fury Max” and “Punisher MAX” are the exception but Garth Ennis is actually good at this stuff. It’s not that the MAX books are poorly written, excessively and needlessly violent, unarrousingly erotic, and full of the most misplaced swearing in any literary body since Bazooka Joe decided to get edgy; it’s that this is something they pride themselves on. This week Marvel inducted one of my favorite characters into the Marvel MAX universe in “Fantomex MAX”. What’s more infuriating is that the book strips Fantomex of every aspect that makes him cool or interesting and then has the gall to act like it’s an improvement.
In Rick Remender’s “Uncanny X-Force” there is literally a point where Fantomex is sitting shirtless in the middle of a kinky sex party. There were ladies in animal costumes consuming copious amounts of alcohol and illicit substances. Obscene? Definitely. Ostentatious? Unbelievably so. And yet so fantastically fitting for the book and the character. The character is already supposed to be an over the top caricature. He’s a gun toting super-thief who can steal any priceless artwork or any lady’s heart. What the Hell are you going to do to improve this or make it more outrageous? Well, let me list the ways they tried to “improve” things.
Fantomex used to have a mysterious past that connected him to France and he artificially made everything in his life exceptionally French because nothing is cooler than a French super-thief. He actually wasn’t born in any country technically; he just decided being French was the coolest. For some reason, Max decided being from Glasgow was edgier, didn’t explain it. Remember how Fantomex had a central nervous system that had disconnected from his body and formed into a flying saucer? Remember how he would use it to fly to anywhere he needed? Remember how it was a part of him and so it spoke to him—in the voice of an attractive female but still a part of him? Do you remember E.V.A.? Great now throw all that out and instead put some rockets on a big poop colored box. The new and improved E.V.A.
E.V.A. feels like the epitome of their directionless in MAX. In regular continuity, yeah she is a sexy robot, but it’s more like an avatar that Fantomex chooses to represent E.V.A. because he really likes being surrounded by attractive things. This new E.V.A. is a computer A.I. and it really wants to have sex with Fantomex even though he treats her about as well as the Joker treats Harley. Is that what’s cool? Guys pushing off their needy artificial girlfriends? Because she puts on every sexy outfit she can think of to try and entice him. She tries sexy nurse, sexy pilot, sexy dominatrix—nothing can seem to catch Fantomex’s attention. He must be some kind of badass! And that’s what their readers are going for right? Cut out everything that isn’t badass because if heads aren’t exploding and every other word isn’t an expletive then I don’t want any part of it.
There is a familiar problem in every MAX series; they force the book to be more “Adult”. What does that mean? Does that mean Fantomex punches a guy’s head off? Does that mean characters punctuate expletives in the most awkward places? Now don’t get me wrong, saying words like sh&% and fu$@ can be incredibly useful, if I didn’t like them Samuel L. Jackson would be a problem. But the way they are written into MAX is like somebody needs to meet a quota so they squeeze them in the most awkward places. The words become flat and irrelevant, instead of punching up the book, they drag the material down.
You know what made Fantomex cool? The mystique that surrounded him (ha, it’s a pun too because he totally did it with Mystique in her series). Everything about him is a mystery to solve and the answers only lead to more questions. Everything he said was certainly a lie. He is the most self-obsessed, self-absorbed, self-centered character in the Marvel universe short of Dr. Doom. And yet he is so charming that it’s not a problem. This new incarnation has less dimension than a pencil line. When I compare “Fantomex MAX” to “Invincible” it’s like comparing a Crème Brulee to someone lighting their Cinnamon Toast Crunch on fire. Yeah, “Invincible” has sex and hoo boy there is a lot of blood and gore but it has practical application in the story. It isn’t forced into the story just to make the story seem “edgier”.