Monday, May 23, 2011

X-Men [Indeterminate Amount of Time] Day 2: Beta's Top Ten X-Men

They were the strangest because..."X" means "mysterious" I guess?
So today we’ll be doing the Top Ten X-Men Part One meaning I’ll be discussing the first five on the list and later this week (Hopefully) we’ll do the last five.  This way I can avoid writing, and you can avoid reading, a giant amount of gobbledygook.   Let’s get to the list, shall we?

Honorable Mention:

Gambit: I used to love Gambit. He was mysterious, possessed a roguish charm and was flat-out cool.  Of course in 1997 or 98 Marvel foolishly revealed the details of his dark past and it basically killed the character for me.  Since then he’s usually written as a fairly 2-dimensional character who’s only consistent trait is that he’s in love with Rogue.  I feel like I have more to say but I think this might deserve its own blog post.

Click below for the list proper.

#10: Havok
Havok's defining character trait: hideous costumes
Every few years Marvel Comics makes an earnest effort to raise Alex Summers’ stock in the Marvel Universe to help him shake off his perception of simply being Cyclops-lite (Havok is Cyclops’ younger brother).  This is usually a really good thing; Havok is possibly one of the most underrated X-Men in history. The most memorable of these attempts was probably Mutant X when Havok found himself trapped in an nightmarish alternate reality where he lead a (Mostly) evil version of the X-Men.  The most recent was his (Along with Polaris and Rachel Summers) stint to space where he battled his insane brother Vulcan for the fate of the Shi’ar Empire.

Despite all these tries Havok constantly seems to be regarded as a second tier X-Man at best.  He’s not really regarded as one of the most memorable characters in the team’s history but I’ve always liked him and he always came off as being a tremendous waste of potential.  One thing that always bothered me though was his relationship with Polaris as it seemed like both their characters are somewhat defined by each other which is a common problem among certain X-Men.  Bottom line is that I’ve always liked Havok and I wish his presence was higher in the X-Men mythos and Marvel in general.

Havok hasn't made an appearance in any of the films thus far but it looks like he’ll be part of X-Men: First Class, played by Lucas Till but his connection to Cyclops will likely be very different.

#9: Colossus
He must break you
Every superhero team needs a strongman and the X-Men have one of the best.  Though Piotr Rasputin may look like a big, dumb Russian he’s actually a big dumb softy Russian.   Few of the jaded and cynical X-Men seem to have the big heart that Colossus has or are as easy to get along with.  One of the weird things about this character was that he debuted in Giant Size X-Men #1 which introduced a Second Generation/Multicultural Pals version of the team.  This was 1975, during the damn Cold War.   And yet here was this Soviet born character who was treated no differently than anyone else and in fact was portrayed as being one of the nicest characters introduced (As opposed to resident assholes Sunfire, Thunderbird and, of course, Wolverine).   Frankly this guy would have been a really lame Iron Man villain ten years earlier.  That’s the difference between the Silver Age of Comics and the Bronze Age of Comics in a nutshell.

I like Colossus mainly because of the inherent nobility and bravery he has displayed over the years. His defining character trait for me was his heroic self-sacrifice when Beast revealed a mutant death was required to fully create a cure for HIV the Legacy Virus.  Piotr, whose little sister Illyana had died from the virus a few years earlier, didn’t hesitate to volunteer himself leading to one of the most memorable and dignified deaths in comics (Not that it stuck, but still…).  Score one for communism, I guess.  Colossus is so low on the list mainly due to the fact that for all his good points Piotr is prone to falling victim to angst.   Plus one time he cheated on Kitty Pryde with an alien who didn’t even speak English.  D’oh!

Colossus appeared in X2: X-Men United and X-Men: The Last Stand, played by Daniel Cudmore, and did absolutely nothing of note.

#8: Emma Frost
This was the least sexually exploitative image of Frost I could find.  Yuck
No nonsense, cold hearted, aggressive, cynical, shameless; these are a few of the words to describe the telepath formerly known as the White Queen of the Hellfire Club’s Inner Circle.  Despite her many negative qualities (Such as being more on the “Let’s Kill Our Enemies” camp of super heroics) I’ve always liked Miss Frost for her complete dedication to teaching the next generation of mutants.  As a foe of the X-Men she was known for her evil counterpart team to the Junior X-Men Squad New Mutants called the Hellions and was very devoted to them until their unfortunate deaths.   She eventually joins Professor Xavier’s cause (Kind of) by becoming one of the instructors of a second X-Men school during the mid-nineties in the pages of Generation X.  After that book ended she became a teacher at the main school and by extension a member of the X-Men proper.   She’s been a (Mostly) loyal member ever since though her dubious past, her aggressive nature, and her own insecurities seem to constantly put her at odds with her teammates.

A lot of fans really dislike her presence on the team and would prefer her to become a villain again.  I feel that Frost has had one of the best transitions from hero to villain in comic books, one that wasn’t sudden and developed throughout the 90s and going back to being an enemy of the X-Men would feel like a step backwards.  I like her where she is, being the darker voice when it comes to the team; the one who offers the practical solution.  Sadly I feel like her “Kill ‘em first, sort ‘em out later” antihero attitude sometimes turns me off.

But even so she brings a nice diversity to any version of the roster she’s a member on and thus earns a spot on my list. Oh yeah, I’m not super crazy about her wardrobe. It’s a bit…fetish-y.  Yeah.

Someone made out to look like (Though I’m highly suspicious of it actually being) Emma Frost appeared in X-Men Origins: Wolverine (Tahnya Tozzi).   A more faithful version is set to appear in X-Men: First Class played by January Jones (Damn, that’s a good name).

#7: Kitty Pryde/Shadowcat
Six seconds before she hands you your ass
It’s somewhat cliché nowadays but once upon a time the idea of a young teenage junior X-Men hanging around with the team was a rather interesting and somewhat novel way to create a point of view character for younger readers to relate to as well as subtly demonstrate that the core team have aged (Characters aging is perfectly okay so long as it’s not Spider-Man, I guess).  Kitty was the first of many such characters, characters such a Jubilee, Pixie, Armor and Rogue in the movies (They are mostly women, now that I think about it. I’m not sure why that is. Also they’re normally paired with Wolverine. I find this creepy).  Technically I’ve spent the majority of my life not giving a shit about Kitty, often rolling my eyes at notions that Buffy Summers of Buffy the Vampire Slayer was influenced by her.  Basically she always seemed like a character that the writers had serious problems with finding her role in the comic other than “Kid Sidekick”; before she was 21 she had become a computer hacking expert, a ninja, and an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.  Hell, the writers couldn’t even stick with a codename for her as she’s had a bunch over the years, most of them the least cool names imaginable (They mostly just call her by her real name now but lot of people still call her “Shadowcat”.  It’s the best of the bunch despite how corny it sounds).

I changed my tune when I read Joss Whedon’s run on Astonishing X-Men.   From the first issue when she phased through the front doors (She was late because she was busy remembering to put clothes on, Emma dear) to her heroic sacrifice in Giant Size Astonishing X-Men where she effectively gave her life to save Earth from an attack by aliens; I am hard pressed to think of two many superheroes who and such a great run of being not only really fun and interesting to read about but also incredible badass.  Those all too few issue won me over and I now a self confessed Kitty Pryde fan.  I eagerly look forward to seeing more of her and her badass exploits because really: she’s clearly the second toughest and coolest member of the team.

Kitty Pryde made an appearance in all three X-Men movies, played by a different actress each time.  X-Men: The Last Stand was the only time where she was a proper character which was portrayed by Ellen Page.

Ellen Page, huh?

Man, I gotta finish my reviews of Whip It and The Tracey Fragments

#6: Jean Grey
"Also, I can kill you with my brain"
One of the original X-Men Jean started out as “The Chick” of the group but under Chris Claremont’s direction she ended becoming one of the most powerful beings in the goddamn universe.   So it’s a really good thing she’s normally so even tempered.

"Scott did WHAT with Emma Frost?!?!?!"
Completely appropriate and justified outbursts over her husband’s infidelity aside Jean is the glue that holds the team the together.  Who else could get a group of sociopaths, loners, thieves, murderers, and former super villains to work together regularly? (Okay, admittedly some of them were in love with her)  I always appreciated that Jean Grey was such a strong willed character while still maintaining an upbeat and friendly personality, especially considering she’s the host of the mass murdering Phoenix Force.  She’s the mother of the group while also pretty much being the last line of defense and the one who inevitably cleans up the messes…sometimes with telepathy or telekinesis, sometimes with fire.  Both work.

Depressingly the last few years some writers have heavily implied Jean and Cyclops’ several decades relationship was based on pity and she may or may not have been secretly in love with Wolverine (Bleh) and sadly she’s been unable to argue the point because she’s, well, dead ("Dead-ish".  She’s “dead-ish” I should say).  It’s a shame since I always liked them as a couple and their marriage in the 90s was a HUGE deal for me back then.  On the other hand I’d argue her demise was an unwanted, but ultimately necessary evil (More on that later).

Jean Grey shows up in all three X-Men movies played Famke Janssen.  The first one she spent being terribly dull, the second she spent being mildly more interesting but then died and the third she became omnicidal for the sake of being omnicidal then died again.  X-Men: The Last Stand was a terrible movie.

That’s it for today as I’d rather not writer, or make you read, a 2000+ word post right now.  So come back later this week for the second part of my Top Ten X-Men (Well either this or a review; whichever I finish first). [EDIT: Part Two can be found here]

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