Patrick: Marvel and DC are known for their outrageously fun sandboxes. Each publisher has an impossibly large sack of toys to play with, and creators work their entire lives to have access to them. And when they finally get their hands on those toys, the gloves come off, and the story telling gets ambitious, bombastic and spectacular in every sense of that word. Brian Bendis, Brian Wood and Jason Aaron may have been given access to a shallower sandbox, but their gleeful deployment of several versions and generations of the same handful of characters has cast an enormous number of iconic characters into the spotlight. We’ve had the pleasure of watching them wrestle with the emotional result of all of these characters coming together, but Wolverine and the X-Men 37 finally gives us the Battle Royale (of the Atom) we’ve been waiting for. It trips every pleasure-center in my lizard brain, and I’m suddenly 9 years old, playing with my toys in my childhood bedroom. In this way, Battle of the Atom achieves something amazing — not only do I have to confront time traveling X-Men, I have to reconcile my own prepubescent excitement, as it rockets from the past and lands squarely in the present. Continue reading →
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.
Today, Drew and guest writer Ethan Andyshack are discussing All-New X-Men 6, originally released January 16th, 2013.
Drew: Like the characters in All-New X-Men, comics have a complicated relationship with their own histories. Some fans love the richness imparted by a long, cohesive history, while others are put off by the notion of needing to know every little detail for a story to make any sense. Obviously, the situation with All-New X-Men is made even more complicated by the notion of time travel (what narrative isn’t?), but that complexity might just allow it to comment directly on comics history. That wasn’t a revelation I was expecting out of this series, but it’s one that comes through with piercing clarity in All-New X-Men 6. Continue reading →
Today, Patrick and guest writer Ethan Andyshack are discussing All-New X-Men 5, originally released January 2nd, 2013.
Patrick: I had to do a group English project in the first quarter of my Sophomore year in high school. We were on the Junior High / High School system, so this was actually my first year at the school, and sort of my first experience really having to work with new people. There were four of us, and because it was high school, we got together the night before the project was due to essentially do the whole project. I won’t bore you with the details of the project (gigantic literary baseball cards), but there came a point in the night where all three of my other group members thought we were done… but then I noticed that we had woefully neglected the assignment requirements and we actually had another night’s work ahead of us. This was around midnight, so we tabled the project for a second and had to decide which was worse: the unpleasant task of staying up all night or failure? We chose the former and still ended up just getting Bs.
Today, Patrick and Drew are discussing All-New X-Men 4, originally released December 19th, 2012.
Patrick: Time travel narratives end up appealing to our vague understandings of chaos theory and the butterfly effect (thanks Jurassic Park, for introducing those into our media-vocabulary). But usually that assumes a time-lapse: events unfold differently throughout time and our future is changed to match the changing past. All-New X-Men shows these same ripples, but throughout the present, as the emotional impact of Beast’s time-travel project effects everyone in turn. Instead of seeing a cause, and then skipping 25 years later to see the effect, we’re subjected to the slow, real pace of cause and effect. It makes for a much smarter, much more sincere time travel story. Oh and there are X-Men in it too. Continue reading →
Today, Drew and Shelby are discussing All-New X-Men 1-3, originally released November 7th, 21st, and December 5th 2012, respectively.
Drew: Regret is a funny thing. We’ve all felt it, even if for something as simple as wishing we had ordered that other thing that looked good on the menu. It comes in many flavors, from shame to wistfulness, but all require us to be removed in time from the event we regret. As an observation, that’s almost too obvious to mention — except when time stops working like we expect it to. We’re used to looking back, but how does regret work if you can look forward, as well? At the end of its first three issues, All-New X-Men seems poised to address this very notion, as we rapidly take the perspectives of people looking to their pasts, as their pasts gaze into their future. It’s a crazy idea, but just like the plan that brought it about, it might be just crazy enough to work. Continue reading →