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 →
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 →
This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!
Taylor: I never have high hopes for crossover issues simply because, more than anything else, they tend to be really goofy. Goofy can be a good thing, but the kind of goofy I’m talking about here isn’t. Going into this issue, I was prepared to be underwhelmed simply because the the idea of pre-Mjolnir Thor teaming up with the current Thor felt, well, goofy in a bad way. However, I am delighted by this issue because it knows exactly what it is. Writer Jason Aaron is firing on all cylinders in an issue that is at once funny, brazenly over the top, full of great character moments. 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, Patrick and Michael are discussing All-New X-Men 36, originally released February 11th, 2015.
“It’s not as good as the first one.”
Patrick: There’s a certain magic to the first time you experience a genre or franchise or medium. Novelty is cruel in this regard: no matter how good a sequel is, part of the luster disappears when you revisit the well. Comic book creators and fans know this too well — every reboot and relaunch is a promise to recapture whatever it was you first loved about superheroes in comics. What’s insane about this approach, is that we all fell in love with comics at different times, reading different books and for different reasons. What one person thinks of as “classic” Batman, another thinks of as new and hackneyed. There’s no guarantee that a “back to basics” approach is going to mean the same thing across fandom, never mind whether or not it’s valued the same way. As the Original X-Men wrap up their adventures in the Ultimate Universe, writer Brian Michael Bendis ruminates on just what it means to try to recapture the greatness of the original. Continue reading →
Today, Taylor and Drew are discussing All-New X-Men 34, originally released December 17th, 2014. Taylor: It’s a thing that happens in most time and dimensional travel stories. The inevitable meeting (or in some cases near meeting) between a character and a different versions of themselves. It’s interesting to think about why this trope even exists. One possible explanation could be that since we enjoy reading about our heroes, it would be even better to have a double dose. However, seeing our beloved characters act in different ways or in different situations also is entertaining. And then there is the thought that we all wish we could meet different versions of ourselves, to see what we would be like if x happened instead of y. Whatever the reason, All-New X-Men 34 once again finds our heroes meeting different versions of themselves, but is there anything new left to say about this situation?Continue reading →
Today, Taylor and Drew are discussing All-New X-Men 33, originally released Ocotber 29th, 2014.
Taylor: A sense of belonging is important for our day-to-day lives. The city we live in, the place we work, where we sleep, and who we interact with are in some way or another based on our desire to feel we belong. Now, whether this sense borders on the quasi-mystical or is a simple impulse to feel comfortable is unimportant. Rather, humans being social animals just want to belong to part of the whole. When you’re a mutant, however, finding a place where you feel that sense of belonging becomes all the more difficult. It’s hard to relate to others when they very may well despise you (and also when they don’t know what it’s like to levitate and the like). The All-New X-Men, more so than their regular X-Men counterpart,s know this quandary, as they’re displaced in time along with being displaced socially. So what happen’s when their sense of belonging is stretched even further? Continue reading →
Patrick: I likes me a good anti-hero. There’s nothing quite like cheering for a character’s success and failure at the same time. Let’s take Walter White as a perfect example of this in modern fiction. He is a terrible husband and father, and an even worse friend, who makes dangerous decisions in the name of greed, power and desperation. And yet, I cheer every single one of his personal victories, no matter how immoral they might be. So much of Breaking Bad is about that character finding a way to feel powerful in the face of illness and poverty, and about how that need to feel powerful never goes away. The ride is exhilarating because there’s nothing more satisfying than a character with agency. Say what you will about Walter White — he has goals and he takes the steps necessary to achieve those goals. Supergirl has no such agency. She spends the majority of issue 17, fighting Wonder Woman just because, and then stops fighting her for equally arbitrary reasons. Neither a hero, nor an anti-hero, Supergirl ends up the clueless victim of her own series.
Drew: Supergirl really drew the short straw on this crossover event. She very quickly aligned herself with a villainous cipher whose motives and methods have yet to be fully explained, which makes her gullible at best, downright stupid at worst — traits we generally don’t associate with heroic figures. We could excuse some of this based on her desire to return to Krypton, but each moment she spends with H’el without asking for just a little more information strains credulity that much further. Supergirl 16 does well, then, to give Kara time away from H’el, reasserting that this character — and this series — might just have some agency after all. Continue reading →
Drew: Ironically, I’m kind of a sucker for stories about con men. I like movies like Matchstick Men and Catch Me if You Can more than they probably deserve, and the scams from LOST and Justice League Dark might be my favorite parts of those series. With so many compelling, relatable con artists running around fiction, it’s easy for me to forget that they’re generally bad guys. It’s somewhat understandable that they aren’t depicted negatively more often; we like to think that we’re smart, and that the protagonists we identify with are also smart, so it’s a risky move to depict a hero being taken in by a scam. Mike Johnson attempts that risky move in Supergirl 15, with decidedly mixed results.