X-Men Red 1: Discussion

by Spencer Irwin and Ryan Desaulniers

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

Spencer: What are the X-Men best known for? I’d honestly say that there’s two answers to this, because while thematically the X-Men are most often used to explore discrimination and social justice, in execution they’re just as well known for their unwieldy cast, soap opera dramatics, and byzantine continuity. I think what I like most about Tom Taylor and Mahmud Asrar’s debut issue of X-Men Red is how heavily it leans into that first aspect, while ignoring the latter almost entirely. There’s plenty of character within these pages, of course, but this is first-and-foremost a title with a mission and a message. Continue reading

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Phoenix Resurrection: The Return of Jean Grey 2

by Drew Baumgartner

Phoenix Resurrection 2

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

Does anyone remember the “flash sideways” device from LOST‘s final season? The show mined a lot of fun out of the mystery of just what the heck that other world was — a parallel universe? a new timeline? purgatory? — but I never really found the guessing all that fun, as the magical/metaphysical nature of that particular mystery meant that any and all of those things could be equally right. I tend to feel that way about most mysteries that delight in building up red herrings to look as likely as the ultimate answer (perfectly demonstrated in Clue‘s multiple endings; the culprit can only be found by the movie telling us whodunnit, not through any deductive work on our own), but it’s particularly pronounced in stories with a fantasy or sci-fi element that might defy our own experience of the world. That is, if we’re operating in a world with a magical island, is it possible to rule out even the most absurd theory? These are the thoughts running through my head as I read Phoenix Resurrection 2. Continue reading

An Unstoppable Force is not Stopped in Jean Grey 10

by Patrick Ehlers

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

Patrick: Superhero comics are full of unstoppable forces. Darkseid, Doomsday, Thanos — these are all bulldozers that the heroes claim to be powerless against. But, time and time again, they are repelled, resisted and defeated. That’s done out of narrative necessity. For starters, we want to see our scrappy heroes overcome impossible odds. But more importantly, if our heroes are slaughtered and their homes razed, how can the story continue? Writer Dennis Hopeless and artist Alberto Alburquerque plow headlong into their series conclusion by giving their own nuclear option a W. Continue reading

The Right Kind of Experts in Jean Grey 9

by Patrick Ehlers

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

There’s a whole corner of the Marvel Universe devoted to mutants with psychic abilities. It is a niche corner, seemingly invisible to the rest of the heroes, particular those without the X-gene, until the point one of them threatens to upend everything. Usually, this has to do with their connection to the Phoenix force, which is simultaneously the source of their most terrifying power and their most humbling weakness. It’s complicated, it’s abstract, it’s supernatural and extraterrestrial at the same time. In short, it’s not easy to understand. In Jean Grey 9, writer Dennis Hopeless and artist Victor Ibáñez illustrate just how much special knowledge is required to deal with Young Jean Grey and that ominous Phoenix. Continue reading

Subverting Dickens in Jean Grey 6

by Patrick Ehlers

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

“Before I draw nearer to that stone to which you point,” said Scrooge, “answer me one question. Are these the shadows of the things that Will be, or are they shadows of things that May be, only.”

Still the Ghost pointed downward to the grave by which it stood.

“Men’s courses will foreshadow certain ends, to which, if persevered in, they must lead,” said Scrooge. “But if the courses be departed from, the ends will change. Say it is thus with what you show me.”

The Spirit was immovable as ever.

Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

The point of A Christmas Carol is that Ebenezer Scrooge could — and should — abandon his avarice, and become a better man. The moral about the dangers of greed have aged remarkably well, but there’s something about the message “change who you are” that feels a little less virtuous in 2017. In Jean Grey 6, the titular X-Man has to come to nearly the opposite conclusion: there is no changing who you are, so you’d better find a way to accept yourself. Continue reading

Jean Grey 4 Delivers a Puzzling Moral

by Spencer Irwin

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

The best idea in Dennis Hopeless and Harvey Tolibao’s Jean Grey 4 is that the Odinson teaches via stories — quite often rambling, drunken ones. It’s an ingenius use of the character, exploiting both his greatest strengths and weaknesses, but unfortunately for an issue about teaching lessons, the moral never fully comes together. Continue reading

Jean Grey 3: Discussion

By Ryan Desaulniers and Ryan Mogge

This article containers SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

Ryan D: When one writes about comic books, due to the popular types of stories being told, the critical eye encounters Joseph Campbell’s template for “the hero’s journey.” This monomyth pervades the pages of superhero titles, and seems even more prevalent in solo runs of characters due to the ease of accessibility inherent to that narrative. In Jean Grey, however, Dennis Hopeless and his creative team use a different kind of literary precedent — that of the Bildungsroman –– to tell the story of the young Jean as she gears up to meet the looming threat of the Phoenix. The Bildungsroman is a novel of formation or education with the psychological and moral development of the protagonist as the crux of the narrative, along the lines of Ponyboy in The Outsiders or Marji in PersopolisJean Grey 3 continues that trend of Jean moving painfully towards development and maturity as she learns a lesson in the company of “Marvel’s First Mutant,” Namor. Continue reading

Jean Grey 1

Alternating Currents: Jean Grey 1, Drew and Spencer

Today, Drew and Spencer are discussing Jean Grey 1, originally released May 3rd, 2017. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

Drew: Ah, the solo album — is there any more fraught trial in popular culture? Making it as a solo act is a grueling process, and while most never rise above obscurity, artists who are already well known for their work with a band have the blessing/curse of starting their solo career in the public eye. It requires instantaneously landing on a musical voice that’s somehow familiar enough to appeal to longstanding fans (capitalizing on that notoriety) yet also distinct enough to justify the solo status. Dennis Hopeless and Victor Ibáñez face a similar tightrope in Jean Grey, aiming to give the (in)famous X-Man a voice that could distinguish this series from her other adventures. Continue reading

E is for Extinction 4

Alternating Currents: E is for Extinction 4, Drew and Patrick

Today, Drew and Patrick are discussing E is for Extinction 4, originally released September 30th, 2015. This issue is a Secret Wars tie-in. For more Secret Wars coverage from the week, check out our Secret Wars Round-Up!

secret wars div

Drew: Do you ever hate movies for ruining a good premise? Like, not just for failing to live up to the potential they had, but for poisoning that premise for anyone else. You might have an interesting story where plants conspire to wipe out humanity, but the only thing anyone will see when they look at it is The Happening. A similar phenomenon can happen with smaller details, from memorable character names to meet-cutes to death scenes, that, for one reason or another, are so strongly associated with a crummy piece of art that it’s difficult to repeat. X-Men: The Last Stand is one such piece of crummy art, yet E is for Extinction 4 aims to reclaim many of the moments it had soiled. That’s an unexpected windmill to tilt at, but the more surprising fact is that the issue largely succeeds in winning those moments back. Continue reading

All-New X-Men 41

Alternating Currents: All-New X-Men 41, Drew and Michael

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