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 →
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, Patrick and Drew are discussing A + X 18, originally released March 28th, 2014.
Patrick: There was always going to be something artificial about the A + X conceit. For as much as it feels like they’re all good guys, so they should have no problem teaming up for a little BAM-POW superhero adventuring, there’s just too much baggage to sustain it for very long. As the series comes to close, it appears that A + X was a promise too heavy to be supported by such a fluffy, carefree experience. The final issue seems split on this opinion, simultaneously expressing how similar the two groups are while stubbornly refusing to find common ground between the two.
Today, Drew and Taylor are discussing Uncanny X-Men 17, originally released February 19th, 2014.
Drew: What would you do if you found yourself lost in the wilderness? It’s the kind of thought experiment that captured my mind as a child. I’m sure the survival skills I cobbled together from movies and second-hand stories from friends wouldn’t have gotten me very far, but I liked to imagine that I would be cool and in control. I still find myself mentally preparing for similarly absurd hypotheticals (where would I go if there was a zombie apocalypse?), but experience has made it clear that decision-making tends to be impaired by the heat of the moment. That is, you may know you’re supposed to turn into the skid, but there’s a pretty big gap between what you know and what you’re actually capable of when in a state of panic. The only way to practice working under pressure is to actually be under pressure, which is exactly what Uncanny X-Men 17 is all about. Continue reading →
Today, Patrick and Taylor are discussing A + X 16, originally released January 8th, 2014.
Patrick: We quiet, sensitive nerds at Retcon Punch tend to bask in the more intimate, honest moments in our superhero beat-em-ups. It’s not that we don’t also love a good fight or car chase or explosion or whatever, but we savor those moments when the characters stop to catch their breath. Its in those moments where the characters actually distinguish themselves, not in between punches, but after when all their precious training and superpowers can’t assist them. A+X 16 tells two such stories, neither of which have easy answers and both show the real mettle of our heroes.
Today, Ethan and Scott are discussing A + X 15, originally released December 11th, 2013.
Ethan:A + X revels in the chance to turn big name team-ups into superpowered Laurel & Hardy shorts, and A + X 15 follows suit. Along the way, we get a rehash on an age old question of metaphysics, a bio of a famous president, and the alien invasions of our fast-food franchises.
Today, Ethan and Taylor are discussing All-New X-Men 18, originally released November 13th, 2013.
Ethan: The best part of being in a relationship is that you get to spend so much time with the one you love. The worst part of being in a relationship is that you get to spend so much time with the one you love. For the X-Men, isolated from the world by that tricky little accident of being born with the X-gene, their ties to each other are incredibly strong. It’s no surprise that they so often find passionate love and lifelong friendship inside their circle. Just like any family or couple, though, they often drive each other completely crazy. Breathing room is hard to find when you’re all stuck in the same space, whether it’s a mansion or a mountain bunker, and All-New X-Men #18 explores how they fight, how they cope, and how they move forward.
Isn’t it worth a few bruised children to save the entire future?
Drew: Sacrifice is a funny thing. If helping others requires harming yourself, people will hail you as a hero, but if it requires someone else being hurt — even with the same net result — people hem and haw about ends justifying means. Obviously, the sticking point is free will; it’s perfectly okay to willingly do something yourself, but each of us must be free to make that choice. Of course, that can become a bit of a sticking point in time travel narratives, where there’s a sense that certain things have to happen — Sarah Connor has to survive to give birth John, Marty McFly’s parents have to kiss at the enchantment under the sea dance — in order for the story to even be possible. We tend to focus on the potential paradoxes there, often forgetting that the affected characters have effectively had their free will’s sacrificed by whatever time-travelers happen to be meddling with their pasts. The morality of that act is under scrutiny in Wolverine and the X-Men 36, as Jason Aaron adds new players to both sides of the debate. Continue reading →
Drew: I’ve always loved the hypothetical question: “if your friend/family member/significant other committed a crime, would you hide them from the police?” It pits our relationships against our morals, or, more elegantly, our loyalty to people against our loyalty to ideas. What do you value more? Obviously, there are a number of mitigating factors, including the relationship to the given person, and the severity of the crime in question, but the point of the exercise is to think about where those factors start to matter — is this love truly unconditional, or are there conditions that trump it? Some situations are harder to call than others, but Uncanny X-Men 12 might mark the first narrative I’ve ever read where a man is conflicted with the idea of aiding and abetting himself. Continue reading →
Ethan: If you’ve ever run away from home, or snuck out in the middle of the night to dodge your curfew, or even just stormed off in the middle of a fight, you know the feeling. The conviction that you’d rather be ANYWHERE but where you just left; an undirected need to get away; but the nagging little awareness that your escape is only temporary. Sooner or later, you’re going to have to turn around and confront whatever it is that pushed you away — finish the conversation with your parents, make amends with a friend or significant other — in short, come home. In X-Men #5, we find Jean and Scott on the outbound leg of this sort of journey, and contrary to their fears, they might not have to go home quite as soon as they think.