Compassion is the Greatest Weapon of All in X-Men Red 5

by Spencer Irwin

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

A few weeks ago in X-Men Red Annual 1, Jean Grey met a bigoted anti-mutant protester and showed him kindness and compassion, relating to the turmoil and abuse he dealt with in his home life and continuing to worry about him long after their meeting had come to an end. Compassion continues to be Jean’s weapon of choice in Tom Taylor and Mahmud Asrar’s X-Men Red 5, and it’s a weapon she’s more than capable of deploying against an entire army. Continue reading

Waging Peace in X-Men Red Annual 1

by Patrick Ehlers

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

“I was the Phoenix. I burned so brightly. Then I was dead. And everything was dark.”

Jean Grey, X-Men Red (2018) Annual #1

Writer Tom Taylor starts this issue with the narration above, quickly summarizing the tragic arc of Jean Grey. It was a violent life, and the bullet points of her story are mostly bummers. Over Scott Summer’s grave, Jean promises that this time is going to be different, and this annual is all about what that might look like. Taylor and artist Pascal Alixe offer an issue full of love, understanding, and difficult conversations. Jean’s still here to win, but it’s not war she’s waging. It’s peace.

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X-Men Red 4 Battles Real-World Threats

by Drew Baumgartner

X-Men Red 4

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

Comics have always reflected our real-world fears — from inner-city crime or nuclear panic — by heightening them to exaggerated extremes. Except, I’d argue, when it comes to the X-Men’s persecution. Sure, the X-Men’s superpowers would qualify as an “exaggerated extreme” of the types of differences that normally mark a minority class, but it’s straight-up not possible for writers to come up with more exaggerated ways societies persecute their minorities. From apartheid to lynchings to genocides, there’s nothing the X-Men have faced that real-world minorities haven’t already suffered, grounding even their most fanciful stories in sober reality. It’s a fact that Tom Taylor and Mahmud Asrar have leaned into from the start of X-Men Red, lending the series a “ripped from the headlines” approach that is truly unique in superhero comics. Continue reading

X-Men Red 3 Offers a Portrait of Our Time

by Drew Baumgartner

X-Men Red 3

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

…it occurred to me that instead of them just being heroes that everybody admired, what if I made other people fear and suspect and actually hate them because they were different? I loved that idea; it not only made them different, but 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

That the mutants of the Marvel universe are reviled and oppressed has long made them an allegory for any number of minorities the world over, which in turn makes the X-Men an allegory for any number of civil rights activists. Much has been written about the MLK/Xavier and Malcolm X/Magneto parallels, but as the twentieth century churned on, those movements coalesced less and less around recognizable figureheads. These movements weren’t leaderless, by any means, but the leaders were no longer the household names they were in the early ’60s. X-Men comics responded in kind, broadening its cast and bringing in an array of perspectives to cover the more diffuse push for civil rights across the globe. This made the X-Men generalists in terms of their symbolic power — maybe they were drawing parallels to the gay rights movement, or apartheid, or even the holocaust. But that generalist nature may also have blunted any one of those parallels, limiting how specific any one of them can truly feel.

Or so I thought. I’d come to accept the X-Men as a broad comment on the nature of oppression and activism, but never turned to it for “ripped from the headlines” representations of discrete real-world events. Maybe I (and the rest of the world) wasn’t paying enough attention to real-world events to recognize them. Maybe those events weren’t being covered in the way they have been over the past few years. Whatever the case, I was completely bowled over by the unapologetic allegory for Charlottesville that Tom Taylor and Mahmud Asrar present in X-Men Red 3. Continue reading

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

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

Deadpool 38

Alternating Currents: Deadpool 38, Drew and TaylorToday, Drew and Taylor are discussing Deadpool 38, originally released December 3rd, 2014.

“I learned to recognize the thorough and primitive duality of man; I saw that, of the two natures that contended in the field of my consciousness, even if I could rightly be said to be either, it was only because I was radically both.”

Robert Louis Stevenson, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Drew: The duality of man might just be one of the most central notions of all philosophical thought. Indeed, it might be one of the simplest — is man good, or evil? —  but that doesn’t stop fiction writers from coming up with insanely complicated ways of approaching it. Scenarios like Dr. Jekyll’s or Bruce Banner’s are obviously artificial, but they allow us to ask questions that might not make sense in our day to day lives: what actually defines us? Is it our actions at our best? Our actions at our worst? Our sense of humor? Our intelligence? If any one of those things changed, would we be fundamentally different people? Deadpool 38 puts these questions front and center, as Wade’s newfound passivity continues to effect the people around him. Continue reading

Deadpool 35

Alternating Currents: Deadpool 35, Drew and SpencerToday, Drew and Taylor are discussing Deadpool 35, originally released September 24th, 2014.

Then things started to get weird;
middle of the night he would disappear.
He’d come home smelling like bad guys
and that would make me really mad.

Cars Can Be Blue, Dating Batman

Drew: It goes without saying that the lives are superheroes are kind of weird — that’s the reason they’re of interest — but they’re often so removed from any frame of reference that it’s easy to forget just how strange a superheroes daily life actually is. Over the last year and a half, Deadpool has learned that he has an estranged daughter, befriended a group of mutants engineered using his DNA, mourned the loss of his baby mamma, gotten married, and antagonized Dracula. It’s a long, strange list that only feels more disjointed when they’re listed together like that, which is of course what Gerry Duggan and Brian Posehn do in Deadpool 35, hanging a lantern on just how weird it is to be Wade Wilson. Continue reading

Nightcrawler 1

Alternating Currents, Nightcrawler 1, Scott and SuzanneToday, Scott and Suzanne are discussing Nightcrawler 1, originally released April 9th, 2014.

Scott: He’s back! The recent Amazing X-Men arc found Kurt Wagner, AKA Nightcrawler, being brought back from the dead, an excellent set-up for a new Nightcrawler title. Nightcrawler 1 not only reintroduces Nightcrawler to the land of the living as the star of his own series, it reunites him with ex-X-Men writer Chris Claremont. There’s a lot of catching up to do, and Claremont seems more interested in writing about Nightcrawler the way he remembers him, rather than concentrating on the things that have happened to the character in the interim. Repercussions of Kurt’s death and new life are strangely absent, making for an uneven and perplexing first issue. Continue reading

Amazing X-Men 1

Today, Taylor and Ethan are discussing Amazing X-Men 1, originally released November 6th, 2013.

Heaven is a place where nothing ever happens.

– “Heaven” by The Talking Heads

Taylor: So sings David Byrne in describing his vision of paradise. Whatever your beliefs or disbeliefs of heaven may be, there’s no denying the power of the imagery the word or thought evokes. For some, it may be a rosy paradise full of angels strumming on harps. For others it may be a state of mind that represents tranquility. And for others still it may mean a bed full of Doritos being fed to you while Arnold Schwarzenegger movies play endlessly on repeat (or is that hell?). But what would heaven look like to a member of the X-Men? A danger room set to beyond-lethal difficulty? A utopia where humans and mutants get along? A place free of the burden of having augmented powers? In Amazing X-Men 1, we get our answer and fans are reintroduced to a member of the X-Men who they have surely been missing.

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