Since Marvel and Fox still have a relatively uneasy relationship, you’re not going to see Marvel launch massive cross-promotion campaigns for Deadpool 2. You will, however, see Marvel take advantage of the newfound hype for the film’s characters in the form of new trades, which explains this week’s release of X-Men: Domino. Spanning more than 30 years of publication, this trade shows just how much the lucky lady has matured since her debut in the 90’s to the stellar character she is today.
The initial pages from X-Force & Cable Annual ’95 included in this collection are completely unnecessary, doing little to provide anything meaningful to the character, especially with no context about the story. I did get a kick out of the 90’s art style which really made me appreciate how distanced comics are from the days of massive shoulder pads and physically impossible waste-lines.
Thankfully, the trade moves quickly into Domino’s first solo outing with her 1997 mini series Domino, but this series exemplifies exactly why the comic industry struggled in the mid 90’s. All the 90’s comic book tropes are on full display here- scantily clad female leads with massive breasts and butts, mundane plots, poor dialogue, female characters quickly jumping into bed with male counterparts, and middle school level humor. There are some painfully funny lines in this mini series, like “domi-NOBODY,” “geek-o,” and even an appearance by the hysterically named “mandroids.”
Despite it’s adherence to contemporary comic book stereotypes, these three-issues succeed in laying a foundation of passion within Domino, showing just how far she will go to save someone she loves. The dialogue may be damn cheesy, but it still manages to create a heartfelt and tragic story explaining why Domino is so brash and closed off later in her career.
Jumping ahead six years, the trade follows with another Domino mini-series, this time a four issue story that’s a massive step up in overall quality, but still shows its age. Fans of the modern incarnation of the character will recognize this iteration of Neena Thurman much more than the 90’s stories as she is a full blown merc with a cheeky sense of humor. This series also plays up her luck mutation much more than the earlier ones while even taking shots at 90’s X-Men books as Domino says “A few years ago I was heading up a mutant strike force. But, hey, it was the nineties… who wasn’t?”
The modern art in these four issues ditches the hyper-sexualized character models for a more realistic Domino that doesn’t look ripped from a 14 year-old’s spank bank. The narrative benefits from a noir style narration that provides key insight into the mind of Domino, displaying just how cunning and intelligent she is.
Like her first solo outing, this story explores why Domino is such an intriguing character- her unflinching sense of morality despite her murderous reputation. Readers see Domino lose a dear friend in an explosion only to find out he had been double-crossing her, reconnecting with her mother while discovering she was created by the government as a part of a weapons program, and learning she has a brother who is an immensely powerful mutant that everyone sees as nothing more than a threat to be eliminated. Even through all of this, she never loses touch with her sense of right and wrong.
Domino displays tremendous heart, humor, and tactical ability here, going tremendous lengths to uncover the mysteries of her past leading to her estranged family. The last two issues are particularly compelling with much is revealed about Domino while she heroically saves her little brother in a pretty emotional conclusion.
The 2003 mini-series is good, but the highlight of this trade is undoubtedly 2010’s Uncanny X-Force: Sex and Violence. This story doesn’t reveal much about Domino as a character, but it is easily the most entertaining of this 276 page collection. It’s an incredibly mature story of sex, violence, and hilarity that truly encapsulates the fun of modern Domino.
The art is absolutely mesmerizing too, showing a much grittier tone than any other stories. This is definitely not a portion kids should read- Wolverine’s classic berserk fighting style is illustrated gruesomely as he lops off limbs while Domino shows just how effective she is with a gun. I love how this series doesn’t try to tell you how Domino’s powers work, rather it shows you how her luck plays out through the illustrations. Plus, Domino is hilarious throughout, exchanging hysterical quips with Wolverine nearly every page.
This collection does a tremendous job of showing just how far Neena “Domino” Thurman has come in her 30 year history. While the early issues are rife with painful reminders of a darker time in comics, the later issues are wonderful reads that place Domino at the top tier of Marvel’s merry mutants.