X-Men: Curse of the Mutants – Smoke and Blood #1
The vampiric story arc Curse of the Mutants continues in this one-shot that takes place just after the events of X-Men #2. This is the X-Club one-shot for the story line, very similar to the way X-Men: Blind Science #1 spun out of Second Coming. In fact, it’s creepily similar in its plot as well, probably because the same guy wrote both issues. Mister Jeffries appears extensively as a member of the X-Men Science Team, having joined up in Uncanny X-Men #505.
Though clearly the chronology of the story is placed after X-Men #2 (we know this because the X-Men are loading a newly captured vampire monster into the lab), there is a minor continuity error: Wolverine has a surprised reaction when he realizes that removing the light-bending medallion off the vampire creature removes immunity to sunlight. He ought not have this reaction, as the medallions’ function was clearly explained by Blade in that issue.
Similar to Blind Science, the X-Club are physically segregated from the rest of the X-Men – though this time in lockdown in the lab under Utopia. An opening scene introduces Dr. Kavita Rao and Mister Jeffries along with five quarantined civilians who have contracted a vampiric virus from a bio-terrorism attack in San Francisco as depicted in X-Men #1 (not an Alpha Flight appearance). A completely hysterical panel shows Jeffries feeding himself takeout Chinese by a chopstick-o-matic device, no doubt of his own design.
The dark scratchy cartoon art by Gabriel Hernandez Walta, first seen by Alpha Flight fans in the Armor/Danger story in Nation X #3 is spot-on for this issue and a great match for Simon Spurrier’s “humorous horror story” style. He draws Jeffries with an unusually flat head for some reason, which is no worse than Clayton Crain’s choice to expose Dr. Rao’s sexy bare midriff on the cover.
The vampire monster escapes, and Jeffries tries to get to the patients before the monster does. Unfortunately, the monster has the classic vampire power of being able to assume a gaseous form and materializes nearby. A large splash panel shows him transforming nearby equipment and HVAC machinery from a vent in the ceiling to create a pair of totally awesome-looking guns to hold off the monster long enough for the patients to escape. Unfortunately, he never gets to fire either one because one of the patients wanders into the line of fire, babbles in vampire tongues, and is then eaten.
Dr. Rao then blasts the monster with her vampire “cure”, aided by a another one of Jeffries’ creations: microscopic parvodrone robots that serve as delivery agents. That doesn’t work, prompting Dr. Nemesis to lock himself into the fully quarantined lab. Simon Spurrier writes Nemesis just as he did in Blind Science, ripping off unanswered insults against Jeffries such as Space Cadet and the classic Maple-Gobbling Moron. Jeffries really ought to have enough of a spine to defend himself against this sort of abuse, and it is a shame that Spurrier thinks his head is so far into the clouds that the insults are lost on him.
Just as he was accidentally infected by the thing infecting everyone in Blind Science, it turns out that Jeffries is himself had accidentally been infected by the the vampire virus, allowing the vampire monster to exert a subtle psychic control over him the entire time. Once the psychic link is discovered and overcome with a painful feedback blast from Emma Frost, Jeffries finally does something extremely kick ass – he simply clenches his fist and with his mind, crushes the vampire monster to death using the previously injected parvodrones. Completely frakkin’ awesome.
In addition to the parvodrone micro-robots, the chopstick-o-matic and the pair of totally awesome-looking guns, Jeffries also uses his powers to create a giant vampire-killing UV lamp (also never used), a piezoelectric-powered cellphone (which came in handy when the power went down), as well as a fairly traditional-looking six-shooter. A nice mixture of contraptions: some high-tech, some weaponry, and overall an excellent use of Jeffries’ mutant powers, in direct contrast to how Matt Fraction just couldn’t figure out what to do with him with the coiled tentacles in Dark Avengers/Uncanny X-Men: Exodus #1 and flying metal shards in Uncanny X-Men #517, so nice job there, Simon Spurrier.
Jeffries and Nemesis then incinerate what’s left of the vampire monster’s corpse and exchange yet another little discussion about the science/magic axis of this entire plotline, something that seems to be difficult for the writers in this arc to deal with. In that exchange, Jeffries uses the same sort of rough-edged dialect written by Spurrier in Blind Science:
‘S what I’m trying to explain — It don’t matter if you believe in it or not… They do– and they been around a lot longer’n we have.
So if you are having a feeling of déjà vu while reading this issue, it’s normal – there are so many similarities to Blind Science. The major difference between that issue and this one, though both are enjoyable reads, is that in this issue Jeffries is portrayed as less of a bewildered bumpkin and more of a vampire-crushing ass kicker.