Thursday, January 31, 2013

X-Men: All-New, All-Women

And no, I don't plan on making an "X-Women" joke today
In case you hadn’t heard by now the post-Avengers vs. X-Men status quo in Marvel Comics theses days is “Marvel NOW!”, which is similar to the DC Reboot in that a ton of new #1 issues were printed and many creative teams were shaken up. Unlike the DC Reboot it’s not actually a reboot at all. Marvel, clearly wanting to do something similar to boost sales, managed to resist the urge to toss out decades of continuity to do so. That means Marvel wins, if just on principle. New titles are still coming out but the one that caught my attention, as well as the internet’s, has been the re-launch of (Non Adjective) X-Men, set to premier in April. The main draw; it’s an all-female cast of X-Men. Despite existing since the sixties and having probably the largest collection of female characters in any comic book franchise there has never been an all-woman squad of X-Men before this. Written by Brian Wood, who is known for writing women well on a consistent basis, the book will feature Storm, Jubilee, Kitty Pryde, Psylocke, Rachel Summers Grey, and Rogue.

Now there has been some controversy with this announcement. A lot of fans have claimed “reverse sexism” over this and are even demanding some male characters to be added to the cast. Frankly I don’t get the rage; if it’s something that can help attract female readers then it’s something I’m all for it. The fact is that this book will feature three characters from my Top Ten X-Men list and that automatically make me at least curious about it. Now as of this writing not much has been revealed about the premise of this book but I’m about 97% sure I’ll be at my local comic book shop to get my copy the day it comes out.

Today I felt like taking a look at the characters featured in this book in order to guess what kind of title this may be. Plus it might be fun to check out what the team members have been up to recently since, as I’ve said a few times, I haven’t been keeping up with the X-Men books very much during the last few years.

Over analysis on the X-Men after the jump.


She's had at least 16,495 costume redesigns. Probably
What’s Up: I’ve already talked about Ororo Monroe in length two years ago. Basically she’s one of the most well-known and popular black superheroes in the world, showing up in more adaptations than just about anyone else. She controls the weather, making her one of the most powerful mutants alive, and is the X-Men’s secondary field commander having spent the majority of the 80s leading the team and is usually in charge of at least one squad at any given time.

But Lately…: Despite being a high ranking team member Storm played no role whatsoever during X-Men: Schism and only a minor one in AvX. In fact it was in AvX that her husband Black Panther decided to annul their marriage because…um…he was pissed at Namor for attacking Wakanda? This was one of the more bullshit aspects of the 12-part series since the whole depiction (which was barely touched on) pretty much assumes that both heroes are too dumb and headstrong to actually talk about their respective team’s issues and their individual needs. And yeah, I know that their marriage was little more than a "sort-of-maybe-kind-of" racially charged publicity stunt but even so it’s lame that its dissolution wasn’t met with more maturity and grace.

Beta Says: If the cast of this book is going to be portrayed as a team (and why wouldn’t they?) Storm WILL be the squad’s leader. Now Storm comes in two flavors: badass, but borderline Mary Sue, 80s Storm and Earth Mother and super uninteresting Storm. Since she seems to be rocking the Mohawk yet again I’m hoping this means we’ll be seeing more of the “moves to the beat of her own drum” 80s variant which possessed some feminist overtones. Or it could just be a cosmetic change. Just don’t use overdramatic 90s cartoon Storm.

"Fog! Conceal us from this evil!"

Quick, before Marvel forgets she exists again!
What’s Up: Number Three on my Top Ten X-Men list Jubilation Lee is one of my favorite comic book characters, despite her awful codename. An orphan who snuck into the X-Men’s secret base she has (had?) the power to create multi-colored globules of explosive plasma out of her fingertips. She soon found herself as Wolverine’s sidekick and despite my objections they remain very close to this day. In the early days she was extremely hostile to the non-Logan members of the X-Men but cooled down over the years before being a prominent member of the junior X-Men team in Generation X up until that book ended. She is one of the very few Asian superheroes.

But Lately…: Jubilee lost her powers along with most of the mutant population in the aftermath of House of M. Later, while still de-powered, she joined an incarnation of the New Warriors where she was second-in-command under the new Night Thrasher where she used high tech gauntlets to simulate super strength and finally got a half-way decent codename (“Wondra”) though it didn’t last long. Finally she returned to the X-Men…only to get turned into a f**king vampire. Why? Because vampires were so damn popular at the time, I really guess. As far as I can tell she has remained a member of the undead and has struggled to keep her bloodlust in check while also trying to find a way to suppress some of the vampire weaknesses (like sunlight) so she can live a half way normal life.

Beta Says: Why in the bloody goddamn hell did the writers decide that the only way to bring her back to the team was by turning her into a vampire? Are the writers at Marvel just stoned all the time? That nonsense aside I’ve heard that Jubilee will be the main character of this book which sounds interesting but I don’t actually know what that means. Maybe she’ll finally get turned back to normal, or maybe we’ll some other interesting non vampire specific character growth. All I know is that a comic starring Jubilee but not featuring Wolverine is enough to interest me.

Kitty Pryde
Also she has a dragon, because why the hell not?
What’s Up: The original junior X-Man Kitty Pryde can phase through solid objects. She’s one of the most light hearted characters the X-Men ever produced and also one of the few Jewish superheroes . Kitty is the blueprint for which all of the young hanger-on teenage X-Men are based on and judged by; even Jubilee can be considered a Kitty Pryde rip off by cynical fans. She was a mainstay of the X-Men for years and eventually went on to join the British superhero team Excalibur (along with Nightcrawler, Rachel Summers, and eventually Colossus). She returned off and on with the X-Men until Astonishing X-Men where she sacrificed herself by permanently phasing into a giant space bullet that threatened to destroy Earth but subsequently being lost in space for all time.

But Lately…: Luckily for Kitty the bullet was retrieved by Magneto who wanted to earn the trust of the X-Men. Unfortunately for us, the readers, she was trapped in ghost form…you know, a plot point that was already used back in the 80s during the Mutant Massacre storyline. Thankfully her powers were restored after she…died, I guess? Then resurrected? Ugh, whatever. Since then she has become the headmistress of Wolverine’s new Jean Grey School for Higher Learning. Also Kitty recently broke up with her long standing boyfriend Colossus and is now dating….wait, this can’t right. She’s dating f**king Iceman now? Are you shitting me?

Beta Says: Iceman?! Is this an unfunny joke?! I’m like 90% sure he’s secretly gay (I totally used to think he and Northstar would hook up one day). *Ahem* Kitty Pryde was #7 on my Top Ten X-Men list so obviously I’m a big fan of the character. Because of the various skills writers kept giving her in order to make her more useful (I guess) she’s could play a number of roles in this book as she’s an expert hacker and a pretty good fighter as well. But I’m guessing she’ll fall into her more traditional role of “The Glue” where she is the person who reins in her insane less adjusted teammates. It occurs to me that I’ve never seen an ongoing X-Men team book with both Kitty and Jubilee (presumably because they both fill in that “Young X-Man” role). Hopefully Brian Wood will play on the similarities between the two.

It's like X-Men: The Last Stand plot points won't stop following me!

There's a lot of sexist artwork of Betsy, but this one is just cool
What’s Up: One of the most convoluted X-Men in history Betsy Braddock was originally a supporting character of Captain Britain in Marvel’s UK imprint (she is Captain Britain’s twin sister) where she possessed psychic ability of unknown degrees. She was later brought into the X-Men fold during the 80s first as an ally and eventually as a full member. Things get more complicated as over the years she’s had her body permanently switched with a Japanese ninja assassin (gaining supreme fighting skills in the process…somehow), had her telepathy switched to telekinesis, and gained weird shadow teleportation powers. She’s probably best known for her “psychic knife” ability and to a lesser degree her “telekinetic katana” power she later developed.

But Lately…: Betsy served with the dimension hopping Exiles for a while but has since return to the proper 616 universe. She’s had her powers greatly toyed with since her return because apparently no two writers agree whether she should be telepathic or telekinetic or both and to what degree. First she regained both powers but neither nearly to their previous levels then, even more recently, she had her telepathic potential unlocked and now is an Omega-Level mutant (the highest recorded power level) which would make her easily one of the most powerful beings on Planet Earth and probably the most powerful living telepath. She’s also been a key member of Wolverine’s version of X-Force and at some point willingly gave up her ability to feel sorrow or regret.

Beta Says: It’s really hard to guess where Wood will place Psylocke on the team since so many writers have previously used her in so many different ways. I’ve seen her act in the Team Mom role, be a femme fatale type character, and even a violent loner. If I were guess as she’s often portrayed as a darker character, one willing to get her hands dirty for the greater good, she will probably play a more “Wolverine” or “Emma Frost” type role and be something of a conflict inducing trigger to the more lighthearted characters (perhaps she’ll be at odds with Kitty Pryde). Unless her power level is altered or forgotten about (and depending on how powerful Rachel Grey is portrayed) she should be by far the most powerful member of the team regardless. Honestly I’ve never been a big fan of Betsy but in researching for this blog I’ve warmed up to her a bit and am curious how Brian Wood will portray her.

I miss that jacket
What’s Up: Originally a villain Rogue eventually joined the X-Men when seeking to control her mutant powers; the ability to absorb the memories, skills and even superpowers of others merely by touching them. Rogue is one of those X-Men that everyone knows about, primarily due to her presence on the various X-Men cartoons (as well as being the point of view character in the first X-Men film). She’s that flirty southern gal who also needs to balance that aspect with her tragic background.

But Lately…: After years of being defined by her inability to touch others without hurting them Rogue’s mental block preventing her from controlling her powers was removed by Professor X (why he couldn’t have done this thirty years ago is a question those who don’t realize Professor X is Marvel’s greatest super villain). Now she has complete and utter control over her power absorbing ability which makes her potentially one of the most dangerous entities in the Marvel Universe. She also had a lead role in the X-Men: Legacy ongoing series. Like most of the classic and popular X-Men characters she played almost no role in the main Schism or AvX books since, you know, that would have made sense.

Beta Says: Another A-List X-Man I think Rogue’s presence is what turns this book from just being a “All Girl Book” and turns it into a “All-Star X-Man Book”. Despite Rogue being #4 on my Top Ten X-Men list I haven’t been keeping very good track of her the last few years. If Storm wasn’t in the book I’d assume Rogue, who is currently one of the more experienced squad leaders, would have been the field commander of this team. Second-in-command, perhaps? 

Also some jerk tried to connect Rogue to The Sentry in The Sentry: Fallen Sun #1 a while back. A lesson for aspiring bad writers: the best way to diminish a great character like Rogue is to make her in love with a Mary Sue type character like the Sentry.

Oh don't worry, Sentry; I'll being talking 'bout your ass real soon!

Rachel Summers Grey 
What’s Up: Rachel Summers is another very convoluted X-Man. Actually she might be the most convoluted X-Man and I don’t have it in me right now to go on and on about her background. Long story short; Rachel is adult daughter of Cyclops and Jean Grey from an alternate future. She was the catalyst for the critically acclaimed Days of Future Past storyline and later sent to the present by our old friend the Phoenix Force. She joined the X-Men, later Excalibur, while also having merged with the Phoenix at some point. She is currently not possessed by the Phoenix. There’s more but I’d prefer my head not to explode so let’s move on.

But Lately…: Rachel was a part of a team of X-Men formed to follow the then recently revealed Vulcan (the previously hinted at but ultimately underwhelming “third Summers brother”) into Shi’ar space. In a storyline that lasted waaaaay too long she and her teammates were basically stuck out on the ass end of the universe for a long while before Rachel and the others were finally rescued and returned to Earth. She has since taken a position at the Jean Grey School. Captain America did not ask for her opinion on the Phoenix Force during AvX.

Beta Says: Rachel Grey is the only living person on Earth who would have any idea of what the Phoenix wanted on Earth and what it was capable of and for some reason SHE BARELY DID A GODDAMN THING IN AVX!! The one thing she did in the main series? Lie to Wolverine about what Cyclops was doing. Bravo, writers, bravo. Goddamn that crossover was poorly plotted. Anyway I have to admit that I’m not sure why Brian Wood would have Rachel and Psylocke on the same team as not only do they basically have the exact same powers but Rachel is sometimes described as also being an Omega Level mutant. It seems redundant to me but perhaps it will be explained. That said I dig that jacket she wears in the promo images. I may be willing to overlook redundancies with the cast solely because I think it’s cool.

Bottom line this is one of the best casts for an X-Men book ever made. It has a wide variety of personalities, several iconic characters in one setting, immense racial (and temporal) diversity, and a strong creative team behind it. Yeah, you can get mad about there not being any boys but frankly there is not lack of male characters in comic books in general so I don’t feel too bad over it. I’m buying this book as soon as it’s out and I’m hoping it does well.

Don't screw me on this, Marvel. My heart can't take it.

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