This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!
The X-Men represent a particularly confusing corner of the Marvel Universe. It would be hard enough to keep the ever-growing list of characters straight even without all of the time travel, shape-shifting, and body-doubling shenanigans. I suppose mileage varies depending on how familiar one is with all of those characters and timelines, but for me, the most readable X-Men stories tend to strip things down: a few characters, a specific problem, and clearly defined parameters that limit the solutions. Unfortunately, Multiple Man 1 doesn’t do a great job of laying out any of those components. Continue reading →
Today,Taylor and Drew are discussing Uncanny X-Men 600, originally released November 4th, 2015.
Taylor: In my junior year of college I took a creative writing course that required each student to have at least one of their stories workshopped. This involved everyone in the class reading your story and then picking it apart in front of you during class. All the things your peers thought about your story, both good and bad, came out during this process. I remember it being a humbling and somewhat traumatic experience. It’s hard to put something you created out there in the world for everyone to scrutinize and it takes a thick skin to not let the negative comments beat you down. In Uncanny X-Men 600, the final of writer Brian Michael Bendis’ run on the series, Beast is put on trial by his peers for actions. In doing so he attempts to defend his actions and those of the author who gives him life. Continue reading →
Today, Drew and Michael are discussing All-New X-Men 41, originally released June 3rd, 2015.
…it was a good metaphor for what was happening with the civil rights movement in the country at that time.
Stan Lee on creating the X-Men
Drew: The X-Men’s role as a metaphor for the civil rights movement is as well-known as it is obvious — a group of people, marginalized by a coincidence of birth, struggle to be accepted by a society that fears and hates them. With so many institutions codifying racism with backwards rules, from school boards to lunch counters, it didn’t take much exaggeration to blow up that marginalization to comic book proportions. As those policies fell out of use, though, the X-Men came to stand in for other groups that were institutionally marginalized. As society continues to discard bigoted policies, however, the struggle for civil rights becomes less and less about fighting institutional rules that can be pointed at, and more about combating smaller day-to-day injustices. By their very nature, those smaller conflicts don’t lend themselves as well to superhero action: exaggerate them, and you lose the insight into how they affect people every day; don’t exaggerate them, and you don’t have anyone for your hero to shoot eye-beams at. Brian Michael Bendis and Mahmud Asrar opt for exaggeration in All-New X-Men 41, and may lose their message along the way. Continue reading →
Today, Taylor and Michael are discussing Uncanny X-Men 33, originally released April 15th, 2015.
Taylor: When watching any of the Star Trek series you quickly become aware that every episode centers primarily on one character. Depending on how important the character to the series, they’ll have more episodes than others. For example, Picard generally gets about five to six focus episodes each TNG season while Troy gets two to three. Generally, this means you know if an episode is going to be good or not. Picard episode? Yes! Geordi episode? No. With as cast that numbers somewhere in the thirties (at least) it comes as no surprise that Brian Michael Bendis would try this technique with Uncanny X-Men. This way, every character gets a taste of the limelight and most readers leave satisfied. The question though, is does this doom the series to a Star Trek-like cycle where some issues are great and others are not solely based on stars in them? Continue reading →
Today, Taylor and Michael are discussing Uncanny X-Men 32, originally released March 25th, 2015.
Taylor: In the modern world revolution has become sexy. One has but to look at our continued fascination with James Dean and Che Guevera to realize this. One reason for this obsession with revolution is that we always love new things and, if nothing else, revolution promises something new and different. However, strip away the romanticized version of revolution and you’re left with something much less appealing. In particular, the likes of the ongoing war in Syria comes to mind. In the end while we appreciate the fruits of revolution the actual process of it turns out to be quite messy. Uncanny X-Men 32 explores the difference between the perception of revolution with the reality of it to mixed results. Continue reading →
Today, Drew and Michael are discussing Uncanny X-Men 30, originally released January 28th, 2015.
There was an old lady who swallowed a cow
I don’t know how she swallowed a cow
She swallowed the cow to catch the dog
She swallowed the dog to catch the cat
She swallowed the cat to catch the bird
She swallowed the bird to catch the spider
She swallowed the spider to catch the fly
I don’t know why she swallowed a fly — Perhaps she’ll die!
Drew: Way back in All-New X-Men 1, Hank McCoy was up against a problem so insurmountable, his only solution was to drag the original X-Men into the present to help solve it. Uncanny X-Men 30 finds Eva Bell against an even more insurmountable problem, one the original X-Men already failed to solve. What’s she left to do but to go back in time and call in the X-Men’s boss? It’s escalation in its purest (and most obvious) form, but does bringing Charles Xavier back from the dead suffer from the repetition? Continue reading →
Today, Drew and Patrick are discussing All-New X-Men Annual 1, originally released December 24th, 2014.
Coincidences to get characters into trouble are great; coincidences to get them out of it are cheating.
Emma Coates, “Pixar’s 22 Rules of Storytelling”
Drew: This is a pretty well-worn axiom of fiction writing, and while I don’t have any qualms with the assertion that good coincidences are bad, I think it’s important to acknowledge that bad coincidences aren’t necessarily good. We’re all familiar with how deflating a Deus ex Machina resolution can be, but I firmly believe that an arbitrary, unlikely problem — a Diabolus ex Machina, if you will — can be just as bad. Actually, it might be worse; while we might understand a writer painting himself into a corner (thus requiring a miracle to get out of it), there’s no such justification for a coincidence up front. The arbitrary rules of sci-fi technology has always been a pet peeve of mine, but as the laws governing time-travel take center stage in All-New X-Men Annual 1, the conflict became a full-on Diabolus ex Machina, derailing what could have been a thrilling, emotional journey. Continue reading →
Today, Taylor and Patrick are discussing All-New X-Men 28, originally released June 11th, 2014.
Taylor: Madness fills an interesting role in our imagination. Just enough madness and you’re considered a genius. A little too much madness and you’re considered a nut. We tend to think of someone as being “mad” if they have any of a number of mental defects but retain enough of their personality to still be somewhat coherent. Perhaps the most well known madman of all time is Ahab. His singular quest to destroy the white whale consumed his entire life, even if he did retain the vestiges of a sane man. And that’s perhaps what makes him such a disturbing character. Despite (or perhaps because of ) his madness, he is charismatic. We forget that he’s insane sometimes and actually feel that his quest against Moby Dick is justified. Xavier is similarly hell-bent on killing the X-Men of the past, and similarly might have good reasons for wanting to do so. All-New X-Men 28 has me wondering if this quest is the errand of a madman or the product of love gone awry.
Today, Shelby and Drew are discussing Original Sin 2, originally released May 21st, 2014.
Shelby:Last issue, we discussed the merits of a superhero murder mystery. Patrick mentioned that the fluidity of the rules of the superhero world make for a much more fast and loose sort of mystery. It raises the question of how such a mystery can even exist; when you’ve got Emma Frost and Doctor Strange running around, how can you possibly know the answer to anything? I suppose that is was the Watcher’s function; despite the number of characters who have the capability of knowing everything, Uatu was the only one who actually did. The entity for whom there was no mystery is now the subject of a murder mystery of epic proportions. That fact is not lost on writer Jason Aaron, who decides to further upend the concept of the murder mystery by telling us who did it in the second chapter.
Today, Patrick and Greg are discussing All-New X-Men 26, originally released April 20th, 2014.
Patrick: Superheroes are tools. No, not the “Superman is such a tool” kind of way, but in that they are all able to act as narrative and emotional shortcuts. Between shapeshifters and psychics, healers and teleporters, extra-dimensional sorcerers and reality-manipulators, there’s really nothing that the X-Men aren’t capable of. The brevity with which they can be used to evoke emotions might be even more impressive — just think of the ennui immediately invoked by the appearance of Jean Grey, or the uneasy sense of righteous revolution that accompanies Magneto. Brian Michael Bendis’ All-New X-Men seems designed to celebrate this tool box: bring the original quintet of X-Men to the present day brings all of those emotional shortcuts to the fore. Issue 26 might be the first time Bendis actually uses those tools, instead of laying them out neatly for us to all to quietly admire before putting them back in their protective cases. Continue reading →