There comes a point where you have to think that surely SOMEONE is attempting to put out something decent in the X-Men world. There are a lot of good creators out there making quality comics that make fans of other genres really happy. Those creators do not deal with the X-Men.
Blue and Gold got the X-Men into a place more familiar for casual fans. Unfortunately, it’s still a rudderless ship and it’s coasting aimlessly through a sea of ugh. And now they’ve got a big event going – sort of – in which the Phoenix is back! It’s happening EXACTLY the same way it happened back when the Avengers stood in its way for AvX and demolished the last decent status quo the X-Men had out of Schism. But that Phoenix is gone and now there’s a new…well, actually it’s the same Phoenix coming again and we’re getting Jean Grey ready for it. Or something.
I say “or something” because there’s not a single damn X-Book in the line that pays attention to anything any of the other X-Books do. Which is strange, since THEY ALL USE THE SAME CHARACTERS. In this week’s run, I’m going to show you Kitty Pryde jealously pooping on a gay good-bye party for Iceman, whilst also trapped in the Negative Zone saving a planet from a giant monster, as well as formulating a couples-therapy mission for her teammates. All coming out on the SAME DAY.
There’s some good, but there’s also a whole lot of UGH. Here’s the list:
- Astonishing X-Men #7 in which we get the VERY IMPORTANT return of Charles Xavier! Or it would be if any other title knew it was happening.
- Iceman #9 in which everyone throws a goodbye party for Bobby who’s moving to LA to be with his new boy toy, including the jealous ex DAKEN!
- Phoenix Resurrection The Return of Jean Grey #2 in which the X-Men pretend to be doing something while the allotted number of issues comes out to resurrect a long-dead character.
- Rogue and Gambit #1 in which character development is thrown into the shredder to get everything right back to where everyone loved it twenty years ago.
- X-Men Gold #19 in which the X-Men do something because the book has to come out every other week.
I know it’s been a while, but in case you have forgotten, SPOILER ALERT for events that take place in these issues.
We’ve just finished up a neat story of a post-life battle between arch-rivals Professor X and the Shadow King branching from the Astral Plane into the real world in which we get the big reveal that Charles Xavier, old Professor X himself, has been given a new chance at life in the vessel of Fantomex, whose body he is now inhibiting. That was a really neat finish.
Unfortunately, the story immediately goes off the rails. Now resurrected in the young, handsome body, Charles – now calling himself simply ‘X’ – goes through a rabble of situations, making telepathic fixes all around. A major one, if you care about character development, is giving Warren Worthington full mental control of his Archangel side. You know, the side they fixed a few years ago when they had him evolve into Apocalypse then die and be reborn as Angel, only to go right back into that old status quo for no rhyme or reason. So now he’s basically back to where he was before Craig Kyle and Chris Yost decided to make him an uncontrollable murder machine in X-Force.
The problem here is that there is simply no way that Charles Xavier should still be using telepathy now that he’s in Fantomex’s body. Just because he had it before doesn’t mean he has it now. Uncanny Avengers told an entire story about the Red Skull stealing Xavier’s brain to gain his telepathic powers. The power was a mutation in the brain – that’s how mutant powers have always worked. If you don’t have that brain, then you don’t have that power.
It’s a pretty staggering jump that the entire return of Charles Xavier depends on. Of course, I’m wondering why they would be doing a Xavier return story now in Astonishing when the X-Men line is so focused on the return of Jean Grey? Does no one in the editorial office ever say no to a story idea? This should be a big deal, and you can’t say that the other characters aren’t aware of what’s going on when you are using the same characters in every single story. If Xavier pops up during the Phoenix story and everyone is shocked, what is Old Man Logan going to say? He was there for all of these moments.
Oh god, Iceman. I hate you so. I know we’ve been through this before, but oh god Iceman is the worst. And maybe because you heard that I thought Generation X was the worst book in the X-Line of late, you decided to up your game. Or your gay-me, since that seems to be the only thing you can talk about.
Okay, so since last you suffered with me, Bobby’s first date with a dude went so well that he’s decided to move in with his boyfriend Judah, who as you remember lives in Los Angeles, which means that he’s going to abandon his life’s work with the X-Men to shack up. It’s not like the X-Men have hypersonic jets or long-range teleporters that could make a commute like this meaningless, but this is Iceman, so it’s TOTES 4 REALZ a big deal.
So Bobby brings in his boyfriend for the goodbye party and all of the X-Men are super happy for him except for sort-of-ex-girlfriend Kitty Pryde who has decided to become totes jelly (that means jealous in stupid talk) and break up the party because apparently someone called in a noise complaint. For the dozen people standing in the middle of a mansion hall wedged in Central Park. And we can ignore that Kitty is rebuilding her relationship with Colossus in X-Men Gold (or that she’s currently trapped in the Negative Zone over there). She needs Iceman to know that he is not doing right by following his heart!
And then some random baddies attack the mansion to distract the grown-ups while all of the teenage characters get suckered into the Danger Room while it’s turned on in “Super Dangerous Mode”, just so the villain of the story can get Iceman and Judah alone. Because guess what? The villain, Daken, is apparently Judah’s ex. Because this is Iceman. And then some new character who can amplify powers turns on his former friends and super amps up Daken so Iceman can have a Boss Fight before his book thankfully gets the axe.
Oh, and Judah gets killed off too. And normally I would just move on and leave it there, but, since this is Iceman, they managed to do it in a way that just infuriated me.
In case you’re not familiar with comic book tropes, the “Women in Refrigerators” thing was a statement against interesting female characters being created specifically to be killed off for the dramatic effect in the male hero’s story. It was named for the love interest of Kyle Rayner when he took over the mantle of Green Lantern who was murdered and literally stuffed into a fridge. As popular things do, this got pretty convoluted by people who didn’t really get it to the point where it became a statement on any harm coming to any female character. But originally, it was a good point.
This reference, however, is almost mocking that point. In having Judah be killed off just so Iceman has a reason to be REALLY MAD in the Boss Fight, they are basically saying that he was created in this book specifically for the point that Women in Refrigerators was going against. Iceman doesn’t develop any from this story, because once Judah is gone and Iceman goes back to the status quo pool of unused X-Characters, it will be like this never happened.
But that would also assume that there was anything particularly interesting about the character whatsoever. Comparing him to Alex DeWitt is like comparing a disposed Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup wrapper to the actual uneaten candy itself. The shape is there but there’s no substance or flavor. Judah was there specifically so Iceman could have someone to be gay towards.
This book is not the celebration of anything that it pretends to be. This book is a travesty. It should be taken away from this planet and hurled into the Sun.
Phoenix Resurrection the Return of Jean Grey
That is a ridiculously redundant title. But I digress.
There was an X-Event a while back – I think it was Second Coming – that had a mini-series lead-in that I remember crapping all over. The story was basically a bunch of X-Men standing around Utopia waiting for Something Important to happen and each book had a reflection of what it meant for those characters to be there as X-Men. It was a pointless, quickly forgettable money grab, but I remember disliking it mainly because it was plainly obvious that the writer of that mini had no idea whatsoever what would be going on in the main story. He was tasked with spitting out four issues to serve as a lead in, but there was no story to be lead in to. It was sold to be the starting point to lead into the main event, but they were two completely different stories that did not at all fit together.
That is what this book comes off as, not only to the solo Jean Grey title that set it up, but also to the entire X-Men line. Basically, they have decided to do a “Phoenix Returns to Earth” story. In case you’ve forgotten how big of an event that should be, remember that the last time it happened, the entirety of the Avengers and X-Men came out for it and it divided the Marvel heroes staunchly between mutant and non-mutant. It was a major deal.
They are basically telling the exact same story again, though this time the bird’s coming for the young out-of-time Jean Grey instead of Hope Summers. That would, of course, beg the question of what did the finale of AvX and Hope’s decree of “No More Phoenix” actually accomplish if we’re back exactly where we were before going through the motions again.
Unfortunately, while AvX had a whole lot of story to tell in its run, dealing with twists and turns and splittings and betrayals, this story really doesn’t have any point beyond “at the end of the last book, Jean Grey is back.” So to fill time, we have to have the X-Men go do random stuff and look busy.
I suppose my main problem with this book is that while it seems to be the major important event, it pretty much ignores what’s going on in all of the actual X-Men titles. It hasn’t even touched upon what happened in the last issue of Jean Grey, in which the actual Phoenix arrived on Earth and overpowered Jean Grey. Two issues in, you would think that it would come up.
Instead, we’re given a strange little mind-trip mystery in which I’m assuming is a Jean Grey in heaven scenario, being that she’s interacting with Jamie Madrox and her childhood friend Annie, and a ‘Scott’ and ‘Dr. MacTaggert’ are name dropped. All of these characters are dead (though I’m still ignoring the Jamie Madrox one for love of X-Factor), so there’s Jean interacting with them kind of like the flash-sideways in the final season of Lost and Magneto showing up as a kind of bridge between the two. Or something. I’m really pulling at straws here.
This, however, contradicts that the spirit of the deceased Jean Grey has been back for a while now and conversing with her teenage counterpart over in the solo title. Again, ignoring what’s happening in the other books. And then there’s also the little bit of the X-Men not being able to use Cerebro to pinpoint where Phoenix may be because they have no psychics.
I don’t remember what hit up Psylocke (nevermind that you have Elixir who can heal anything), but surely there is someone there that can make the thing go? How about Karma? She has mental powers. You could probably argue a case for Cypher. I’m pretty sure X-Man (Nate Grey) made it out of New Mutants! What about Ink? He just got himself a whole crapload of powers tattooed on. And nobody knows where Monet is? She’s kind of in a bad way over in Generation X, being a possessed villain? Ring a bell? Hell, YOU JUST RESURRECTED CHARLES FRICKING XAVIER!!!!!!!!!!!!!
And here’s a big problem with the X-Men’s MO of all the characters you can think of in the background standing around while the popular characters talk about the story. Since right around the time the Scarlet Witch heroically cast magical genocide to fix her daddy issues, every character involved with the X-Men kind of just hang around in one big group. A book’s cast may feature a hand full of those characters, but if you look in the background, all of the rest of the mutants are just kind of standing there.
And this leads into the problem created by Grant Morrison 15+ years ago when he decided that mutants would be the next step of human evolution and that everyone would basically have super-powers. Now EVERYONE has super-powers. The mutants became the hipsters of the Marvel Universe and were just too damn cool to be a problem. Why does humanity hate and fear you when you spend so much time announcing how awesome you are? And since everyone has a power, every problem has a solution, right? Seriously – you can just tattoo “win battle” on Ink and he can save the day.
I’m really off on a tangent here.
The point I’m not making is that a solid story should incorporate what each character can bring to the table, and how they can better themselves to overcome said obstacle. It is literally what you literature teacher told you in middle school. X-Men have become “let’s have a problem here and X-Men it away.” At the end of the day, nothing changes, nothing matters, nobody cares. It’s BORING. That’s the problem here. This is just going through the motions.
Phoenix is coming. Throw a ginger in its way, hope for the best. That’s how this works. And I know that’s how this works because your entire line is “Remember when something was fresh and cool? We’re going to do that again!” You go to the moon. Someone sacrifices themselves. It’ll surely be a really good story because it was a really good story when it was told 30 years ago.
Rogue and Gambit
And speaking of taking things back again, here we are with a new launch book of mutant romance in Rogue and Gambit, the other mutant couple. Besides Kitty and Peter. And Storm and Forge. And Longshot and Dazzler. And Havok and Polaris. And Archangel and Psylocke. And Cannonball and Boom Boom. And Rictor and Shatterstar. And Iceman and Judah. Not so much on Iceman and Judah.
Anyway, since we’re deciding to cast off any and all character development, be it, you know, USEFUL or ENTERTAINING, Rogue has been rewound through a smooch with Deadpool that ejected the absorbed entity of Wonder Man that had resided within her (just go with it), leaving her with the after-effects of strength, flight and invulnerability. Oh, and because we can’t have nice things, she can’t control her absorption power anymore.
Now, of course, you would think that with the return of Charles Xavier back in Astonishing X-Men, which if I recall correctly came out at the same time as this story did (see above), the newly dubbed X would do one of his mental “gifts” to Rogue by fixing her control problems. You see, back when X-Men comics were good, a writer named Mike Carey told an awesome Charles Xavier story that branched into Rogue’s history and explained her whole condition and made her a complete character. It made sense and it worked for the character. But then, of course, they changed it back because back when the cartoon was on, Rogue couldn’t control her powers. So we really would like those moments where Gambit and Rogue can’t touch each other rather than actually giving them any kind of depth or personality.
Gambit is an odd character in that he should be one of the coolest characters Marvel has. He is, on paper, what one would call a “Hit.” He’s got the look, the style, the charisma, the flashy powers, the dark side. He should be the Fonz of the Marvel Universe, just with style. Unfortunately, his potential has been for decades saddled with a story point that has dragged him down to the depths of mediocrity. And that would be exactly what this new book is celebrating.
You have to give props to a title whose premise is ‘Remember when these characters were cool? Let’s not try to achieve that again through story or planning, but instead just say hey it’s as cool as it used to be.’ So props. Gambit and Rogue get a book together specifically because they were a couple 20 years ago. Their mission? A couples thing in which they talk about how they used to be a couple and probably will end up as they were before. Because you remember how cool it was then? Let’s do it again and again.
And then we have X-Men Gold, which I might point out features many of the characters shown in the other titles also released this week TRAPPED IN THE NEGATIVE ZONE. You know those X-Men stories where they went to the jungle or something and didn’t do X-Men things? Those were always the worst because they were out of their element and they didn’t really work that way. If I wanted interplanetary stories in the Negative Zone, I’d read Fantastic Four (or not, because MARVEL). So the X-Men get to spend issues stuck in random planets that don’t matter and have no impact on anything else happening in the line. It’s a perfectly average X-Men adventure.
Until next week!