X-Terminators #1 May Revive Marvel’s MAX Imprint’s Legacy

The following contains major spoilers for X-Terminators #1, available now from Marvel.

Much like DC’s Vertigo Comics, Marvel’s MAX kicked down the doors of censorship, unleashing f-bombs, exit-wounds, and sex scenes onto its pages in 2001. Even though Marvel had published mature comics through 1982’s Epic Comics imprint, MAX reignited the company’s drive to reach an ‘Adults Only’ audience, sometimes to hilarious — and awkward — results. The daring MAX gives readers Ant-Man’s guide to great sex. Fury depicts Nick Fury strangling a man with his intestines — a move which prompted Stan Lee to respond with, “I don’t know why they’re doing that”. Like Lee, the imprint left many readers with concerns about the future of Marvel Comics.

While some series drifted into exploitation and ultraviolence, other titles like Brian Michael Bendis’ Alias and Garth Ennis’ The Punisher exemplified the peak of MAX’s potential. These unabashedly r-rated series produced some of the best Marvel Comics ever, stories that heavily influenced the Jessica Jones and Punisher TV shows. Free from the shackles of censorship, these titles revealed the devastating pain of trauma. With the recent release of the MAX-inspired X-Terminators #1 (by Leah Williams, Carlos Gomez, Bryan Valenza, and VC’s Travis Lanham), let’s explore if the series can resurrect the glory days of Marvel’s ‘adults only’ imprint.

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The comic is a booze-filled bloodbath that honors the legacy of MAX through sexual innuendo, skimpy clothing, and gratuitous violence. Even though these elements occasionally appear in mainstream Marvel titles, X-Terminators #1 wears its ‘Mature Audiences Only’ label with pride. The issue opens with a panel that zooms in on Dazzler’s tight, form-fitting shorts, revealing the word ‘Praxis’ etched across her butt. She launches an onslaught against a horde of gargoyles as she rollerskates across a scarlet-stained floor, blasting the creatures to smithereens. Chocked full of blood and cheeky close-ups, the issue earns its ‘Adults Only’ label in rapid time.

Although X-Terminators #1 welcomes MAX fans back with its renewed sense of sex appeal and thirst for violence, the comic — or, more likely, the editorial team — opts to censor profanity from the book. It’s a shocking move for an issue geared towards mature audiences, a move that would make Marvel’s former imprint hang its head in shame. Yet MAX’s most beloved titles succeeded not because of their barrage of f-bombs, but because of their innovative takes on characters like Jessica Jones and Frank Castle. In this vein, X-Terminators #1 infuses its heroes with a jolt of new life, proving that an ‘adults only’ backdrop is the best way to showcase its team to the max.

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The issue places the squad’s chemistry on a pedestal and shows why this quirky band of outsiders may be the most entertaining mutants in comics today. After Dazzler discovers her boyfriend, Alex, is having an affair, she calls upon her besties, Jubilee and Boom-Boom, for a night of drunken excess and bad karaoke. This scene allows Williams to flaunt the team’s dynamic to the fullest. Jubilee mocks Boom-Boom for wearing an outfit that looks like something Barbie might wear if she was a sex addict, and Boom-Boom points out that she would’ve worn a different outfit had they told her the dress code was “depression.” Barbs like these highlight the team’s chemistry, revealing that witty banter and harsh sarcasm are the lifeblood of any close friendship.

Unfortunately, their alcohol-fueled therapy session is cut short by Alex, who reveals his true form as a vampire. A fight ensues, but Alex has an ace up his sleeve. His necklace is much more than a trendy fashion statement; instead, it’s a pendant that shields him from light, rendering Dazzler and Jubilee’s powers useless. Elsewhere, Boom-Boom, drunk out of her mind, awakens on a dock surrounded by acid. Yet her night’s only just begun, as a mob of monsters surrounds her, waiting to pounce and devour her. Thankfully, Jubilee and Dazzler swoop in to save their friend, mowing down bodies in a monster truck-like frenzy.

The fight scenes in X-Terminators #1 should cause die-hard fans of MAX to smile with glee. While not as gory as Fury’s execution from his MAX solo series, this issue still holds its own. Blood covers Boom-Boom and her sensual Barbie dress while Jubile dismembers bodies with her monster truck of doom. Through all the guts and gore, the squad sticks together, utilizing excessive violence to solve their woes. Most importantly, their personalities shine amid the bloodbath, continuing MAX’s tradition of merging relentless carnage and exciting characters into one.

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