iceman

Iceman is blechhh

I know that Iceman is supposed to be the spotlight gay character for the X-Men universe and we’re supposed to be yay hooray for that, right?

I’m sorry, but Gay Iceman is a horrible character.  Absolutely abysmal.  Awful, terrible, gross and bad.  I shout BOOOOOOOOO!!!!!

But it’s not the fault of the character…or characters, as it were.  The revelation that Iceman was a homosexual was supposed to be a big moment for Marvel.  They promoted it as a big moment.  The mess of the teenage original X-Men brought from the past to show the present ones the errors of their ways was an interesting idea, but it flew off the rails by having crazy things happen to each of the kids.  Cyclops left the team and hung out with his dad in space.  Angel got power cosmic fire wings.  Beast abandoned science and started dabbling in magic.  Jean Grey’s got the Phoenix coming after her.  And Iceman, oh, lovable Iceman, comes out as gay to his fellow mutants.

It was an unexpected retcon-ish moment in which they took Bobby Drake’s disinterest in girls in the first issue of X-Men way back in 1963, a throwaway line (spoken from his foot) that was to establish him as younger and more immature than his fellow classmates:

bigdeal

and decided that it meant that he was instead interested in the other players on the field.

And you know what?  There’s nothing wrong with that.  The character that was there had that way about him, nature or nurture need not apply here, and that was great.  And it would have worked fine had they stayed with the focus on the teenage Iceman hanging out with the original X-Men.  But, funny enough, that character has gotten remarkably little spotlight time in forefront as this marquee homosexual character, because instead of doing something with him, they instead used it to start making changes to the established Iceman.

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Chuck Austen’s X-Men: Day of the Atom

After a brief respite to push out Grant Morrison’s ideas, New X-Men has been switched back to its original Adjectiveless form for the ReLoad and Chuck Austen’s mess has been pushed over, giving hope that Uncanny could eventually get some of its long-gone prestige under Chris Claremont.

teamTook Place In
X-Men #157-160

Team Line-Up
Havok (Leader), Iceman, Wolverine, Juggernaut, Polaris, Gambit, Rogue

Others You Should Be Aware Of
Jay Guthrie, Sammy the Fish Boy, Nurse Annie, The Rest of the X-Men, I guess

In case you had forgotten (and I know it’s been a while), we last left our heroes in Kentucky in which Archangel and Husk finally got their act together and Austen having assembled his 10-man roster, was seemingly ready to push on.

Well, none of that really matters here, because five of his roster – Archangel, Husk, Jubilee, Nightcrawler and Northstar – are no longer on his team. The biggest factor here is the loss of Archangel and Husk who were pretty much his most-used characters. They and Nightcrawler were lost to Chris Claremont, though Archangel and Husk would not reappear for nearly a year. Nightcrawler would join up with the former X-Treme lineup, giving him a much better place alongside Storm, Rachel Summers and Wolverine for that old-school Claremont vibe. And no demon-Pope/dissolving wafer plots. Good for him.

Austen didn’t get left empty-handed, though. I suppose in exchange for the characters he gave up, he is given Rogue and Gambit from Claremont, and if you read X-Treme at all, you know that Claremont giving up Rogue was probably a really big deal. Unfortunately, she’s left in an odd position here. Through the latter half of X-Treme both Rogue and Gambit were powerless, using their wits and physical traits to stay relevant to the team. At the end of the book, Sage and Rogue had some kind of weird tryst arranged to restore Gambit’s powers (please don’t ask), but Rogue was still powerless. As this story opens, she seems to have regained her absorption abilities, but none of the other half-billion that she had during Claremont’s use of her.

I mention this because when I first bought this story a decade ago, no one really knew what she could or couldn’t do. There was no storyline mention of her having any kind of powers, and the art kind of positioned her like Salvador Larroca had no idea what she could or couldn’t do. I was writing for the now-defunct Mutatis Mutandis at the time and I recall having discussions on the boards where we debated the matter. It ends up being no flight, no strength, no invulnerability, though during her own solo book at the time she eventually permanently gets Sunfire’s powers. Again, less said the better.

Other than that, all Austen pieces remain in play. Sammy the Fishboy is back at the school (with his mother, even, for some reason), Josh Guthrie from She Lies With Angels is showing up (he’ll become a cast member of New X-Men: Academy X), and Nurse Annie and her boy Carter is still manning the coolest hangout in the school – the infirmary. Got it? Let’s begin.

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Catching up: Astonishing X-Men

Once upon a time, Astonishing X-Men was launched to be the new flagship title of the X-Men line, but numerous delays from its high-profile creators eventually led the rest of the line to move on without it.  By the end of both Joss Whedon, then Warren Ellis’s runs, the book seemed to be doomed to a status of X-Men Unlimited, hoping to sell on is past history of excellence.  I used to complain all the time about it.

That changed when Marjorie Liu took over the title and gave it something of a reason for existing, using a stable cast of X-Men characters that no one else was messing with including Northstar, Cecelia Reyes, Karma, and shockingly enough Gambit.  What does it say about the X-Men line when no one’s using Gambit?  Anyway, Liu gave a voice to the book and gave the book more of a family feel that the line has seemingly lacked while bouncing from major event to major event.  Instead of focusing on relationships that have built upon for decades (Wolverine/Cyclops, Kitty Pryde/Colossus), Liu’s title focused more on the bond between her cast which hadn’t been seen before.

Of course, she had me at Cecelia Reyes.  I love that short-lived era of the X-Men.

The major selling point of Liu’s Astonishing was the wedding of Northstar to his boyfriend, Kyle, but the book kept running past that and has since used Kyle as a supporting member of the cast – another thing that the X-Men books haven’t seen much of.

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Catching up: All New X-Men

As I catch up to the current issues of the various X-books that I haven’t been doing my eXaminations on, I decided I’d do a post about my thoughts on how each book is going in the whole Marvel NOW! hooplah.

First up is All-New X-Men, since it’s all new and all.

Brian Michael Bendis has had his fill of Avengers and moved his seat over to the X-table, now writing both of what one might consider the “flagship” books (though to be fair, there are two other books that are just X-Men team books as well and one about the school itself).  The first one out of the gate to wave the NOW! flag was All-New, and if you can’t tell from the image above, the whole premise is getting back to the X-Men roots through wacky time travel antics.

But that’s putting it mildly.  The reality of the book’s premise is a bit more convoluted in that Beast, believing himself to be dying from his latest round of genetic mutation (farewell, cat Beast), decides to nab the original five X-Men from the past and bring them to the present to make Cyclops realize how just awful he’s been of late.

Does that seem dumb to you?  That seems kind of dumb to me.

Anyway, the kids do the confrontation, predictably it doesn’t do anything of consequence and then the kids decide that since their Professor X is going to wipe the memories from their heads upon their return home anyway, they might as well stay in the present and fix things so they can go with the knowledge that they’ll eventually have a world worth living in, which admittedly the Marvel U has never been for mutants.

Now that’s an okay setup on a basic level, I guess, but it really doesn’t seem to be working in execution.  For one, the pickup point for the kids happens in the middle of the original X-Men #8 in which Beast and Iceman return home up in arms about being mobbed simply for being mutants.  That’s all well and good in the sense that it gives the X-Men a place where Xavier won’t notice them gone (of course, being that it’s time travel that is a moot point), but it puts the kids way to early in the heroing career to be in the all-in idealists for Xavier’s dream that the story seems to be requiring.

You might think it’s perfectly acceptable for the kids to want to make a difference here being that they are already teenage super-heroes and thus not much for exactly grand self-preserving life choices, but the underlying problem is what happens if something happens to the kids in the present?  If teenage Beast dies in the present, what happens to all the crap Beast’s done in his fifty years of existence?  All of the responsible super-heroes are standing around going “this doesn’t seem like a good idea” and then just shrugging and walking away.  It’s a story where everyone is putting aside any kind of common sense to the matter just because the premise doesn’t really make a lot of sense.

But comics can do that, so what am I complaining about?

The other thing I’ve noticed is that the kids don’t seem to really be acting much like their character bases, but that comes as much from the 60’s X-Men having been remarkably dull characters for a lot of their Silver Age antics.  Iceman and Beast handle easily enough – one needs to be goofy and the other needs to be pretentious – but the rebelling teenage Cyclops doesn’t really fly as well with me.  Silver Age Cyclops was much more straight laced then that, especially right at the beginning, where the storyline nabbed the kids from.  Angel doesn’t get any kind of real characterization at all, though he leaps over to Uncanny not long in, so I may be talking to soon.

My main problem with this book is that it just seems to be stalling for time.  We’re 14 issues in and not that much has actually really happened.  The kids are in the present and hanging out with Kitty Pryde, and that’s about it.  It’s like they’re just standing around until something comes around to need them.  And being that something dealing with their time traveling stuff is going to be in the Next Big Event, that may be exactly what this book’s going to do.

Fine if you’re really aching for a Jean Grey in your life, but underwhelming for me.

Next time: Astonishing X-Men

Top 100 X-Men: #6-10

Cool.

#10: Iceman
X-Men, X-Factor
The original ‘kid member’ of the X-Men, Iceman has been around since day one yet still has never managed to shake the immature reputation.  Not that he seems to be particularly trying.  Iceman seems to be a character of endless potential, being that every few years a creator will do a ‘Iceman not reaching his potential’ story.  So many of these have been done that he seems to have Proteus-level abilities…if only he could live up to his potential.  At least he doesn’t wear the clunky power belt anymore.

But that doesn’t change that Iceman has dedicated nearly his entire adult life to Charles Xavier’s dream and has stuck with the X-Men through both thick and thin.  He had a brief time of inactivity, but he came back and went on a love tryst, nailing the dreaded Nurse Annie, Polaris and even Mystique all within a couple years.  He’s been a little out of focus lately, but mainly because he’s been busy providing nearly the entire mutant race with drinkable water.  I think he’s doing pretty well.

Go ahead. She's safe now.

#9: Rogue
X-Men
Rogue had the distinction of being the first major villain to switch sides and join the X-Men.  Sure, the Changeling technically beat her by a couple decades, but he was hardly major.  Rogue took on the entire Avengers team by herself and did pretty well, taking out Ms. Marvel, Captain America and Thor single handedly.  Intriguing in both her inability to control her powers as well as her enigmatic past (we still don’t know her full name), Rogue has become one of the most popular X-Men specifically based on characterization…and being a hot southern belle.

For far too long, she became embroiled in a relationship with Gambit that overshadowed any other aspect of her character, but recently she has managed to break free from that and become her own character once again.  Now in full control of her powers (with an excellent explanation as to why she lacked it before) she has become the main teacher/advisor of the younger mutants amongst the X-Men and she has really taken to the role.  And since gaining control of her powers, she seems to average at least two completely bad ass moments a month.  You simply cannot say that Rogue is not awesome.

Don't let the cuteness fool you. She will f your world.

#8: Shadowcat
X-Men, Excalibur
Joining the X-Men at the tender age of 13 would not be easy for anyone, but Kitty Pryde not only made it work, but shined in the role.  Cute as a button, an intellectual genius and skilled with ninja prowess, Kitty has been the heart and soul of the X-Men world for decades.  We’ve watched her grow up from the innocent little girl who just wanted her own X-Men costume into a true hero that has nearly sacrificed herself numerous times to protect her friends and even the entire world.  And she finally hooked up with Colossus after an editorial mandate broke them up years earlier.

She tends to steal any scene she appears in and has a larger than life personality.  Her mere presence puts even the ice cold Emma Frost on edge and she has stared down the likes of Mojo and even Loki successfully.  She was a mainstay of Excalibur in an effort to keep Professor Xavier’s dream alive while the X-Men were seemingly dead, and has stuck with various teams ever since.  Fans and villains agree – Shadowcat is one character who deserves respect.  And she has a pet dragon.  You wish you did.

Bamf!

#7: Nightcrawler
X-Men, Excalibur
He’s a blue and furry, religious swashbuckler who just happens to be the son of the devil…and that label can apply to both his father and his mother.  But that doesn’t keep Nightcrawler’s spirits down as he come through great adversity to find inner peace within himself.  He was a priest, but we’re really not even going to get into just how that ended.  What’s more important is his love for adventure, the respect he’s earned from his friends and the inability to shake him of his core values despite what is thrown at him.

Being almost murdered specifically because of his appearance, Nightcrawler had every reason not to fight for Xavier’s dream, but instead he embraced it wholeheartedly and has been fighting for it ever since.  He was the heart of the X-Men for years before becoming the concience and voice of reason to the insanity of the original Excalibur, eventually taking the spot of leader for a great amount of time.  Serving still as concience of the new mutant society of Utopia, Nightcrawler gave his life to protect the life of Hope, possibly the last chance of mutantkind’s survival.  In death, he showed that he was willing to give all that he was and more to protect the dream he so believed in.

He'll wine and dine you then decapitate you for being unfit.

#6: Archangel
X-Men, X-Factor, X-Force
Life has not been kind to Warren Worthington III.  The millionaire playboy became a founding member of both the X-Men and X-Factor, but his high flying days were cut short when his wings were amputated after severe injuries suffered during the Mutant Massacre.  From there he was mutated by Apocalypse to become the Horseman of Death, only to break free and eventually rejoin his friends…albeit with blue skin and metal wings.  Slowly, he overcame murderous tendencies and a staggering case of gloominess to eventually recapture his former humanity and eventually regained both his feathered wings and his caucasian complexsion.

Archangel’s story has been one of redemption, all the while staying a member of the X-Men (and being their financial backer) as well as running his own company.  Losing his wings again revealed that Apocalypse’s influence had not been lost on him, and he now can transform back to the metal-winged Death, complete with homicidal urges, at will.  He’s become an unlikely member of X-Force while still remaining the charming, charismatic Angel in his downtime.  How’s that for messed up?

Check here for the entire list thus far! 

It’s almost over!  Check back Friday for the final five members of the Top 100 X-Men list!  You can probably guess who they are – but can you guess what order they’ll be in?