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

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Pacing as Character in All-New Wolverine 33

By Patrick Ehlers

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

I love the idea of popping into a character’s far-flung future. It’s a way of taking a character’s essence and teasing out the results of a life lived in that essence — the ultimate if-then statement. If you’re a violent loner, then you end up alone and wracked with guilt. It’s all effect, and the cause is understood to be part of the character’s DNA. All-New Wolverine 33 kicks off the “Old Woman Laura” story, and writer Tom Taylor and artist Ramon Rosanas show the result of Laura’s legacy of positivity and leadership. Even in a world that was rocked by Doom World Wars, there’s still joy, prosperity, sorority and productivity in Laura’s future. Continue reading

Are New Mediums Influencing the Artwork in Astonishing X-Men 10?

by Taylor Anderson

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

Much has been made about how the internet and e-books are killing the printed word. Even though that’s a bit hyperbolic, it is true that more and more people are reading books on an electronic device. This same trend holds true in the world of comic books, where sites such as Comixology have cut into the traditional printed market. I myself prefer to read comic books on my iPad these days, and as I do so, I sometimes wonder how this change in medium might be affecting the way comics are made and published. With that in mind, I couldn’t help but consider Astonishing X-Men 10 an interesting case study in the way electronic formats might be alternating the way comic book artists produce their craft. Continue reading

All-New Wolverine 32 finds Catharsis in Revenge

by Drew Baumgartner

All-New Wolverine 32

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

This issue opens with a heartbreaking flashback sequence chronicling the simultaneous loss of innocence for two young girls. One is Amber Griffen, whose father was killed at his first day on the job protecting a presidential candidate. The other is Laura Kinney, who was the assassin sent to kill that candidate (and anyone else within clawing distance). Years later, it’s easy to understand why these women would be enemies, but Tom Taylor and Djibril Morissette-Phan take care to demonstrate that Laura is every bit as victimized by these events as Amber, telling their stories in parallel to drive that point home.

Amber and Laura Continue reading

Scaling Back in X-Men Red 2

by Patrick Ehlers

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

Last time we wrote about X-Men Red, Spencer and Ryan saw the series as somewhat foundational — asserting the attributes that makes an X-Men comic and X-Men comic. That means both the soapy sci-fi details of the characters’ pasts and the political commentary were turned up to 10. The scale for both was just huge — I mean, Jean addresses the United Nations and was framed for murdering the UK ambassador for crying out loud. X-Men Red 2 continues to engage in the same kind of character- and political-work, while scaling back to considerably more personal levels, and the result is almost intimate. Writer Tom Taylor and artist Mahmud Asrar have such a strong handle on these characters’ voices, the moments don’t need to be huge to make them impactful. Continue reading

The Perfect Team-Up in All-New Wolverine 31

by Patrick Ehlers

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

While reading All-New Wolverine 31, I realized that I have been measuring Deadpool team-ups by how good of a foil the other character is for the Merc with the Mouth. I like Deadpool with Captain America because their differences are obvious and legion. I like Deadpool with Logan, because while they’re both immortal murder machines, Logan sees the tragedy in his existence, while Wade somehow twists that into comedy. I like Deadpool with Spider-Man because there’s a sort of one-ups-manship there: “you think that’s goofy, Pete? WATCH THIS.” All-New Wolverine 31 presents a new kind of pairing: Deadpool and a character who is excited to learn from his example. Gabby’s not a foil, but their relationship is basically perfect. Continue reading

The End of Deadpool vs. Old Man Logan 5 Isn’t About Her

By Patrick Ehlers

Deadpool vs Old Man Logan 5

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

The damsel in distress is creaky, well-worn trope. It’s an obvious and immediate call to action, and an easy way to assert both the heroism and the masculinity of our heroes. But, like, it doesn’t really really explain the motivation of our adventurers, does it? Deadpool vs. Old Man Logan presents the recurring issues of two immortal warriors as a kind of “we need to rescue / we need to deal with Maddie” quest. But whatever her deal is, and whatever she really needs, is totally secondary to how Wade and Logan deal with the problems that keep cropping up in their lives. It’s a depressing reminder of how stuck both of these guys are. Continue reading

Melting n’ Melding Bodies in Astonishing X-Men 8

by Taylor Anderson

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

There’s a scene in John Carpenter’s The Thing when Kurt Russell and the rest of crew at an Antarctic research station realize that their sled dogs have been melted by an alien and blobbed together into one hideous creature that is the stuff of nightmares. Like a lot of the movie, it’s disturbing to say the least. There’s something about the the design of the blob-dog-alien creature that just rings as…wrong. Eyes are where they shouldn’t be, jaws open up from weird crevices, and melted organic all make for something that looks like it came straight out of Hell. It sounds awful (which it is), but that’s also what makes the movie great and, coincidentally, is what makes Astonishing X-Men 8 enjoyable as well.

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

Those Brutal Claws in Deadpool vs. Old Man Logan 4

By Patrick Ehlers

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

Omega level mutants — always a problem, right? They have such power, but so little control over it. What’s a government to do? Let the ticking time bomb walk around free? Hook them up with a mutant training academy? Or maybe it’s in the public interest to take ’em out. Education seems like the most humane option, but Deadpool vs. Old Man Logan 4 reminds the reader just how fucking deadly two non-Omega level mutants can be when they understand how to use their powers. Continue reading