The X-Men hear a rumor that mutants are being arrested in Seattle and thrown into a mental institute. Always sensitive to mutant civil rights, Wolverine and four of his buddies decide to visit the Emerald City and check it out. One thing leads to another and poof!, the V-Men wake up in the funny farm with different bodies.
Wolverine is now a busty golden-haired young gal with pierced nipples. Cyclops is a cute Asian woman and his wife is a Rastafarian dude who suffers from shy bladder syndrome. Not to be left out, Rogue and Nightcrawler are also suffering from their own (less dramatic) personality crises. To complicate matters even further, all of them have lost their mutant powers.
But what’s worse? Losing your awesome retractable adamantium claws, or losing your awesome expandable penis? That’s a question Wolverine is having a hard time answering. He’s trapped inside the body of a girl and he can’t figure out how to pee. In other words, he’s not very happy. But he’s not alone. Jean Grey-Summers is having similar problems. She knows what a penis can do (we presume), but she’s experiencing a bit of anxiety at the urinal. For some reason there’s a lot of talk in this book about going to the bathroom. It’s sort of funny, but kind of weird too.
Mostly this is a novel focusing on gender and identity issues (with a little bit of superhero action thrown into the mix). How we determine who we are is a complex thing. Everyone’s identity is based on his or her unique traits and experiences. To her credit, the author allows the navel-gazing X-Men to ruminate for 300 pages on their predicament. Each of them has a different point of view and each of them brings a tiny bit of clarity to the discussion.
Ultimately, the five X-Men shed their temporary husks and reclaim their original bodies. Casualties are minimal and lessons are learned. However, if readers are looking for meaningful insights into social context and matters of personal identity, a superhero novel probably isn’t the best place to start. It doesn’t matter who you are, concludes Rogue. “The only thing keeping you from being happy is yourself.” [Insert happy face emoticon here.]
[X-Men: Dark Mirror / By Marjorie M. Liu / First Printing: January 2006 / ISBN: 9781416510635]