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Dec 2

The X-Axis – 2 December 2012

Posted on Sunday, December 2, 2012 by Paul in x-axis

I’m taking the opportunity presented by the current wave of relaunches to make the jump from print to digital as each book comes round for a relaunch.  This is fortunate, as I’m still waiting to receive the books from this week that I ordered in print, but by this point, that’s just Gambit and X-Treme X-Men, neither of which is exactly the focal point of the schedule.  What we do have is the second issues of no less than four Marvel Now titles.  Oh yes, and an annual.

A+X #2 – The first issue of A+X sold remarkably well, inheriting the top ten sales of AvX: Versus, of which it is ostensibly a continuation.  I’ll be fascinated to see how long that lasts, considering that (notwithstanding Jeph Loeb’s vague gestures at foreshadowing in issue #1) it now seems pretty clear that this is simply going to be an anthology of self-contained stories united solely by the theme of team-ups between Avengers and X-Men characters – a line which is getting increasingly blurred anyway.  In quality terms, this is probably for the best; A+X is simply a playpen in which creators can do whatever they feel like for a few pages, and the format here is far less restrictive than the very limited Versus.  But books like this don’t have a track record of sales success, so it’s hard to imagine A+X sales holding up once readers and retailers figure out what the book actually is.  If, somehow or other, it bucks that trend – well, more power to it.

The two stories in this issue are throwaway stuff, but they do deliver as fun shorts.  First up is a Black Widow/Rogue story by Chris Bachalo – unusually, credited for the story as well as the art.  It’s straightforward; Black Widow’s day off is interrupted by a Sentinel, Rogue comes to the rescue, they squabble, then they team up.  But Bachalo writes pretty good dialogue, he sets up his jokes well, and generally he looks like he knows what he’s doing.  It probably helps that he’s comfortable with doing large numbers of panels per page, so he can get more into the available space without seeming to rush.  And of course he’s chosen a very simple set-up to begin with, since it’s really just there as a backdrop for the duo to squabble over anyway.  It’s traditional team-up territory, but skilfully done.

In the back-up, Peter David and Mike Del Mundo have Tony Stark offering Kitty Pryde a job, and stumbling upon some stray Brood who weren’t mopped up in that recent Wolverine and the X-Men storyline.  David knows how to use the available pages – his Iron Man is suitably smug, and the central story offers a reasonably inventive way of defeating the Brood that doubles as a way of giving him his comeuppance.  Del Mundo seems surprisingly at home here; he’s not done that much interior work that I can recall, other than a fill-in issue of Uncanny which seemed a little awkward, but here he’s clearly less concerned with trying to work in a house style, and delivers exaggerated yet elegant characters that play well to Iron Man’s persona.

There’s not a huge amount of depth to either of these stories, but they know what they can do in the space available, and they do it well while looking good.  That’s about as much as you can ask for from a book like this.

All-New X-Men #2 – Brian Bendis spent the whole of his first issue finally building to the Beast travelling back to recruit the 1960s X-Men in the closing pages (despite that being the one plot point that was heavily promoted in advance, but that’s not Bendis’ fault).  If the first issue suggested that Bendis was juggling his subplots better than in Avengers, well, this issue isn’t so encouraging, since what we get is literally an entire issue of conversation scenes with the 1960s X-Men.  They react to Beast; they come to the present day and react to that; they talk among themselves; they decide to go and face Scott.  And that’s pretty much your issue right there, along with the present day Beast being promptly sidelined by his mysterious and convenient health problems.

Of course, in taking this approach, Bendis is focussing on the bit which ought to be interesting about having the original team come to the present day.  There’s a fair case to be made that he’s better off just doing it in undiluted fashion rather than trying to work it into an action story, and it’s certainly pacing that’ll work in the collection.  On balance, I think he gets away with it, especially considering that it does end with the promise that we’re moving on to the confrontation in the next issue.

A more contentious area is whether the characters actually are reacting appropriately, or whether they’re just doing what the story requires of them.  Bendis is really writing a folk memory version of the original team rather than trying to mimic their behaviour in the original series.  That may be the right way to go; the style of the early Lee/Kirby stories is wildly out of kilter with today’s Marvel Universe and unless you’re wanting to foreground a metatextual angle, the team have to be filtered through a modern sensibility.  They’re not really the X-Men from the comics of the 1960s, they’re the X-Men from an early point in their history as continuity now stands in 2012.

Bendis has taken the characters from a recognisable scene in X-Men #8, and it’s obvious why he’s chosen that scene – he doesn’t want to use Professor X, and this is the earliest point in history where the team are separated from him without some crisis being involved.  Unfortunately, his research on other aspects of continuity seems a little more dodgy.  Some of the dialogue suggests he thinks that Scott and Jean were already dating at this point (and the art sure has them hugging a lot).  They weren’t – the original set-up was a romantic triangle with Warren as Scott’s rival, which was still being used as a major plot point up as far as issue #26.  If anything, the fact that they ended up together should itself have been a big character moment for all three.  But Bendis doesn’t write it, by all appearances because he doesn’t realise it ought to be there.

And while Bendis knows that Jean didn’t have telepathy at this point, he unfortunately seems to believe that she just doesn’t know about it yet.  That involves disregarding her entire origin story, which has Xavier coming to her rescue after her telepathy drives her mad.  Granted, that story was itself a whopping retcon which didn’t sit easily with any of the early issues, but it has been the established version of history for over thirty years.  Having her start to read minds simply because she’s told that she can, doesn’t work; she knows perfectly well that she can do this, and she’s had the power switched off to preserve her sanity.  I’m fairly relaxed about writers being unaware of backwater stories from decades ago, and taking continuity in broad strokes, but even on the broadest and most generous approach, there’s no excuse for not knowing your characters’ origin stories.

A charitable reading, of course, would be that errors this glaring have to be deliberate, and I still wouldn’t rule that out – after all, these X-Men have to be explained away somehow or other, and either they’re getting their memories erased or they’re turning out to be from a different timeline, in which case all bets are off.  But do I trust Bendis and his editor enough to give them the benefit of the doubt on that?  Hmm.  If I look past those points, I kind of liked the issue – ignore the continuity problems and take the book entirely on its own terms and it works well enough.  It only runs into problems if you insist on trying to treat these characters as the 1960s X-Men.  But then, isn’t that the premise?

Astonishing X-Men Annual #1 – It may be billed as an annual, but what this issue actually contains is a normal length story plus a reprint.  The main feature, by Christos Gage and David Baldeon, has Northstar and Kyle on honeymoon in Paris, which is interrupted when Obscure Terrorist Group #1423 sends its henchmen to assassinate relatives of the X-Men around the world, and Northstar is hauled into racing around the globe to fight them while the rest of the team stay in the hotel room to keep watch on Kyle.

It’s a rather contrived set-up that Gage uses as an excuse to let Kyle have conversations with each of the other regulars, and discuss how a relationship with a civilian could work out.  That’s surely a discussion that would have come up with Kyle moved in with Northstar, rather than when they got married, but it’s still the more interesting material – largely because of what Gage thinks the regulars might have to say about the topic.  Karma laments about how her life has affected the younger siblings she’s meant to be taking care of; Gambit has no civilian family or friends and thinks that’s probably for the best (there’s Cecilia Reyes, I guess, but she’s at least got powers); Iceman tried having a real life and found it didn’t really work out; Warbird looks down on non-combatants on principle; and Wolverine (who does have a history of supporting characters winding up dead) finally gets to encourage Kyle to stick with it.

That’s a good use of the book’s cast to further the theme, particularly considering that Gage is working with characters who were chosen for him.  There’s a risk, though, of Kyle himself not being interesting enough to sustain this sort of focus.  He’s triply damned when it comes to making him interesting.  He’s in a relationship that’s required to symbolise Marvel’s corporate approval for gay marriage, so he has to be a Nice Bloke.  It’s a relationship with Northstar, whose inherent spikiness needs a more cuddly character to balance him out and serve as voice of reason.  And to the extent Kyle has a storyline of his own, it’s about his feelings of inadequacy due to normalcy.  All these considerations necessarily push him in the direction of blandness, and I’m not convinced this story solves that problem; it’s notionally his story, but it really uses him as a springboard for the X-Men to talk about themselves.

Still, the book’s got nice art from David Baldeon, who’s good with conversation scenes; and it’s got interesting ideas about some of the X-Men, which is enough to carry the story.

The back-up is 1992’s notorious Alpha Flight #106 by Scott Lobdell and Mark Pacella, the story where Northstar came out as gay – something that had always been fairly heavily implied, but not previously stated outright.  This got a lot of attention at the time, since it was still a fairly unusual move in 1992.  While a positive move in that sense, the story has a pretty dire reputation among fans, and now that I’ve actually read it, I can see why.

The story has its heart in the right place, but it’s painfully clumsy in the execution.  Northstar finds an abandoned baby whom he takes to the hospital.  The baby turns out to be HIV positive.  (It’s a story about gay people in 1992, you just knew HIV was going to be involved.)  The Canadian public rally in support for the innocent little baby.  This provokes an attack from a retired Canadian superhero called Major Mapleleaf who is bitter because his son died of AIDS, and he didn’t get the same sympathy because he was gay.  Northstar then spends the remainder of the issue fighting the ageing stereotype while they debate whether high profile homosexuals have a moral duty to come out, an argument which Northstar ultimately accepts.

Somewhere in there, there’s at least an attempt to grapple with worthwhile issues.  Unfortunately, the whole thing is rendered by Mark Pacella in an eye-searingly terrible Rob Liefeld pastiche that completely stymies many of the attempts at emotion, and the script saddles Northstar with such excruciating dialogue as “Do not presume to lecture me on the hardships homosexuals must bear.  No one knows them better than I.  For while I am not inclined to discuss my sexuality with people for whom it is none of their business – I am gay!”

It’s awful, and it’s not just a case of styles changing – this was seen as a poor example of the 1990s style even at the time it came out, and in any event it’s a style that was never exactly suited to heart-rending “issue” stories.  It holds a certain interest as a bizarre curio, but that’s about it.

Uncanny Avengers #2 – Despite the awkward seeming premise, I’m enjoying this one so far.  It probably helps that Rick Remender isn’t spending too much time on selling the merged team concept, and putting the focus more on his Red Skull story.  While he’s here because he’s a villain from the Avengers’ side of the Marvel Universe, the Skull is a villain who makes sense as an X-Men opponent.  Remender wisely plays down the Nazi iconography in favour of just making him a full-bore unrepentant bad guy; it’s not that he doesn’t have motivations, it’s just that they come from a philosophy that’s clearly not intended to provoke any degree of sympathy.  And while you can make the case that he should have taken an interest in mutants long ago, the short answer to that is one of dramatic licence: he wasn’t interested in mutants because he was a Captain America villain.  That sort of criticism is valid as far as it goes but really falls into the same territory as “why don’t the public feel the same way about superheroes who aren’t mutants?”  The answer is “because anti-mutant prejudice isn’t part of the premise of Avengers“, and if that makes the Marvel Universe a little bit incoherent, well, so it goes.

Actually, Remender does have a go at addressing some of these points.  So we have Thor, for example, explaining that he’s previously assumed that the mutant issue would sort itself out in due course, but now he’s planning to take a more direct interest.  Still, it’s probably best not to think about it too hard, since there’s not much Remender can really do in these opening stories that ought to be any more dramatic than some of the things that have happened in the past.  I get the impression he’s trying to sell Avalanche’s attack in issue #1 as a major turning point, and I have a bit of trouble getting on board with that; I don’t see it as sufficiently out of the ordinary for that, given the sort of things that happen routinely in the MU.

Much of this issue focusses on Wanda and Rogue as the Red Skull’s prisoners, with the Skull (now boosted by telepathy from you-know-where) trying to convince Wanda that they can work together to get rid of the mutants again, which, after all, is what she wanted, right?  I like the way Remender is using the Skull’s power-up simply to make him more persuasive; it’s more interesting having him nudge characters than simply seizing control of them.  Then again, it does seem to slightly duplicate one of the Skull’s new henchmen, who has the fabulous name “Honest John, the Living Propaganda”.  That’s a fabulous concept for a villain, and it shows Remender continuing to play to one of his strengths from X-Force, by taking the sort of crazy ideas that might have seemed at home in the Silver Age, but presenting them in such a way that they don’t seem retro.

Cassaday’s art also seems to improve on the first issue; the Skull is the sort of ridiculous design that doesn’t necessarily play to his strengths as a photorealist artist, but when it works, the grin works.  His designs for the Skull’s followers are a nice departure from superhero convention as well.

So far, so good.

X-Men: Legacy #2 – Perhaps the relaunched title most likely to divide readers, and certainly the one that represents the biggest commercial gamble among the X-books.  This issue, Legion struggles to regain control of his mind and bring his rogue personalities back under control, then encounters a strange creature from the future who’s apparently trying to manipulate Legion so that he does something he’s meant to do in the future.  So there’s a main story in the outside world, intercut with Legion in his own mind trying to rebuild and capture the personalities with the useful powers.

It’s too early really to tell where any of this is going; at this stage Si Spurrier is still positioning Legion as a viable protagonist with an agenda and some degree of self-control.  The format of having Legion take on his rogue personalities one at a time in order to gain access to the powers that they represent could be a good set-up, though it occurs to me that all of this contains the questionable assumption that the “core” Legion personality is any more real than the rest of them are.  Perhaps they’re coming to that; has he really been selected as anything more than the personality least likely to do damage while he’s in control?

The claustrophobia inside Legion’s mind is well handled, though there are still issues with a slightly one-dimensional villain, and several curious references that suggest Spurrier really does think Legion is Scottish, not Israeli.  Perhaps he’s confusing him with Proteus, which would be understandable.

At the moment, this is more of a book with the potential to go either way, than a title which is clearly working.  The jury’s still out.

Bring on the comments

  1. kelvingreen says:

    even on the broadest and most generous approach, there’s no excuse for not knowing your characters’ origin stories.

    Bendis has never been good at continuity, so your trust would probably be wasted.

  2. Suzene says:

    Alpha Flight #106 is ridiculous on all levels and deserves every bit of its infamy, but there is one bit of characterization there that I think works nicely, namely Northstar, who absolutely hates to lose in any scenario, adopting a baby whom he ultimately can’t do anything for except give a name to be buried under. Fits nicely given his own background as an unwanted orphan and his future characterization as a teacher at Xavier’s.

  3. Niall says:

    “even on the broadest and most generous approach, there’s no excuse for not knowing your characters’ origin stories”.

    This is true of writers, but it also applies to editors. Surely some editor should, you know, edit scripts that come to them with rather glaring errors.

    Come on. There has to be somebody employed by Marvel who knows as much about the X-Men as Paul, right?

  4. Dave says:

    Interesting contrast between Remender’s modern version of silver age style ideas with Aaron’s, where Aaron’s just come across (to me) as wacky for the sake of it, and like silver age ideas in that they’re pretty stupid.

  5. Two Bed Two Bath says:

    “There has to be somebody employed by Marvel who knows as much about the X-Men as Paul, right?”

    Any rational person would think so, but…given that the overwhelming attitude in comic books (not to mention science fiction, fantasy, and horror in general) has, over the last several years, become ‘knowing things is for nerds,’ well…

    Considering the resulting slow, steady pogrom in those communities against anything that has even a whiff of ‘nerdy’ to it, it’s unsurprising that we get things like Jean Grey being rewritten in All-New X-Men #2 or the primary plot of the new Fantastic Four #1 (the FF’s costumes, not their bodies, are made out of unstable molecules? Eh, who cares? You don’t want people to think you’re a *geek*, do you??)

    The whole attitude has such a dispiriting sense of belligerent anti-intellectualism running through it. Yes, I know that knowing Clark Kent’s social security number isn’t a mental feat on par with doing combinatorial analysis; and I’m as filled with loathing for joyless continuity obsessives as the next person, but still.

  6. Michael P says:

    “Pogrom”? Really?

  7. Two Bed Two Bath says:

    You’re right, ‘pogrom’ was a piss-poor choice of words; I’m sorry. When writing that screed, I went with the first thing that popped to mind (i.e. I was stupid).

    Please accept my apologies, and if you read that paragraph, please substitute a better, less offensive term for ‘campaign of destruction’ in its place.

  8. Rhuw Morgan says:

    With regards to Legion’s Scottish accent, am I the only one waiting for the reveal that Proetus has reassembled himself from the Necrosha arc of the previous volume of X-Men: Legacy in the psyche of David and that he is the one in control and killing off all the Legion alternates?

  9. Adam says:

    Going all digital? Nooooo…

  10. Paul says:

    Digital is a vastly superior format. No adverts to wreck the atmosphere. Colouring never gets reduced to murk by the printers. And I don’t need to fill my house with boxes. It needs to be cheaper in order to really reach a wider audience, but judged purely as an alternative to the physical comic, it wins hands down.

  11. Kenny says:

    After all those years collecting X-Men: Legacy, I stopped after #275. Legion is NOT a character who could carry a solo title for me UNLESS Mike Carey returned to write it, which is clearly not the case. Speaking of, I thought Gage’s Legacy run came across as entirely bland filler. And I KNOW Gage can write good stuff, like World War Hulk: X-Men, Avengers: the Initiative, Avengers Academy, the Secret Invasion issues of Thunderbolts, or even the Astonishing X-Men annual, which I enjoyed. Glad I stuck with Uncanny Avengers- I picked up the first issue on a whim after deciding earlier not to get it. It looks quite promising!

  12. D. says:

    “But books like this don’t have a track record of sales success, so it’s hard to imagine A+X sales holding up once readers and retailers figure out what the book actually is.”

    Marvel Team-Up v.1 lasted 150 issues. It’s just a question of how the writers treat it.

  13. Tim O'Neil says:

    Marvel Team-Up lasted 150 issues in an era where the vast majority of comics were sold on spinner racks and little kids liked buying team-up comics with multiple protagonists because they felt like they were getting more bang for their buck.

    My biggest problem with UNCANNY AVENGERS was the fact that, despite the fact that the villain says he’s the Red Skull, he’s a clone who just woke up after being asleep for 70 years. He’s no more the Red Skull than William Naslund was Captain America. Kind of disappointing.

  14. kingderella says:

    i didnt notice the continuity glitches in ‘all new x-men’, and i enjoyed the issue. but yeah, now that youve pointed them out, those glitches are pretty major.

    i appreciate that bendis is keeping things light and dynamic so far. but still, youd think jean would be a little more bothered by the fact that shes, you know, dead. and somewhere down the line, well have to deal with the ‘little x-men’ reacting to rachel and nate grey, cable, the dark phoenix saga, the dark angel saga, gabriel summers…

    wolverine, face on the floor, ass in the air: stuart immonen is the best.

    ‘uncanny avengers’ didnt really click for me. and i have to say, im not all that impressed by the art.

  15. Matt C. says:

    I’m not very familiar with X-Men material pre-2000s, but my reading of All New X-Men #2 was similar to Paul’s – definitely got the sense the X-Men were being written as we would think of them today, rather than how they actually were in the 1960s. And even I realized the whole “I have telepathy?” thing seemed off-kilter.

    The only thing that makes me want to give Bendis the benefit of the doubt is the scene where Jean manages to telepathically knock Logan out despite him stating “that stuff doesn’t work” – seems to be a hint that something might be different. Or it could just be bad writing (i.e., “she’s different from the Jean he knew so her telepathy works differently!”)

  16. Ash says:

    “Unfortunately, his research on other aspects of continuity seems a little more dodgy.”

    “even on the broadest and most generous approach, there’s no excuse for not knowing your characters’ origin stories.”

    This would’ve been avoided if there was a good editor on the book, but it just ultimately proves yet once again that the current Marvel editors don’t know what they’re doing.

    I miss those times when there were editors who bother to do research into continuity, or even *gasp* bother to point it out or reference past issues using footnotes. But those things are all considered uncool nowadays, so welcome to the ADHD-generation of comics readers.

  17. Michael says:

    With the mentioning of the role of editors, it seems to me that the editors of comics don’t seem to do the job that most people would assume they do. At Marvel, I really don’t know what they do outside of going to creative summits. Other than that – you’re guess is as good as mine. They seem to serve no other purpose.

    At DC, most of the editors come off as frustrated writers who can’t be bothered to actually edit books for all the time they spend dictating direction to the writers that they use like pens to bring to life their own stories. Reminds me of the days at Marvel when it was clear the editors were basically determining story direction which was – oh yeah, back when Bob Harras was at Marvel.

    Despite seeming continuity glitches, I have to say I’m more interested in what’s going on with X-Men than I have been in years.

  18. ZZZ says:

    I’d thought the bit about Jean suddenly being able to use telepathy just because someone mentioned it seemed off (and abrupt) but didn’t remember that she knew about the mental blocks keeping her from doing it. I have a feeling Bendis is going with a “broad strokes” approach to continuity, but he could surprise us and explain it (even if only because someone points it out to him after reading this issue so he comes up with something to explain something he didn’t know he’d need to explain). It also seemed off to me that Hank and Warren were flying the Blackbird but that could be okay – writers just seem to have whichever character they like best fly the plane these days and no one ever seems to remember that Scott was a professional pilot anymore (just like no one seemed to remember that Nightcrawler was the team medic and secondary team pilot back when he was alive) and but obviously Scott wasn’t a pro yet in X-Men #8 and for all I know Hank and Warren actually did fly the plane back in the 60s issues.

    Did the guy Terror Inc.-looking guy in X-Men Legacy actually say he was from the future? I don’t remember that but I could easily have missed something. He certainly expected Legion to do something important, but I thought that was because precognition was one of his powers (indicated by the thing with him knowing which icicle to tap to cause a rock to fall in an appropriate place).

    Was I the only one who read the ends of both storites in A+X to indicate that the lead characters were going to start dating? I was? Never mind.

  19. Taibak says:

    Sadly, even assuming that an unnamed character flew the plane back in the 60’s won’t work. Stan decided that Professor X flew the plane with, um, telepathy.

  20. Nick says:

    “My biggest problem with UNCANNY AVENGERS was the fact that, despite the fact that the villain says he’s the Red Skull, he’s a clone who just woke up after being asleep for 70 years. He’s no more the Red Skull than William Naslund was Captain America. Kind of disappointing.”

    Well Nasland wasn’t a clone and didn’t have Steve Roger’s memories, but I agree with what you mean.

    I can kind of understand Rememnder wanting to draw a line under what has happended before and by using this new Red Skull there isn’t the baggage of him being defeated 724 times by Captain America since they’ve both been revived.

    But it seems kind of futile to me, since eventually someone will bring back the original Red Skull.

    I did think it was a nice touch to establish how evil the Skull is by having him want to sleep with Wanda, even though she is “a Gypsy, a Jew and a Mutant.” To me the only thing scarier than a zealot is someone who only believes something as long as it furthers them.

  21. ZZZ says:

    @Taibak – Oh yeah, and didn’t Xavier once scan a computer for information with his telepathy too or disarm a bomb or something like that? Seems silly now, but it occurs to me that if X-Men writers ahd stuck with that through the years instead of quietly dropping it once they realized it didn’t make any sense, we’d just consider “can control machines with his mind” as one of his powers today. Heck, it makes more sense than Iceman’s “can flash freeze ambient humidity” turning into “can transmute his very flesh into living ice” over the years (which I’m almost certain came about primarily because of a recurring art error).

  22. D. says:

    “Marvel Team-Up lasted 150 issues in an era where the vast majority of comics were sold on spinner racks and little kids liked buying team-up comics with multiple protagonists because they felt like they were getting more bang for their buck.”

    Don’t knock it; that was me. The owners of my local store — Tom and Bonnie — gave me the old, squeaky spinner rack when they got a new one.

    And MTU was a Spider-Man title, with monthly guest stars.

  23. acespot says:

    “There has to be somebody employed by Marvel who knows as much about the X-Men as Paul, right?”

    welp, Brucha Meyers used to do some continuity work for them back in the Cavalieri days. Unfortunately, editors don’t actually edit anymore. Their job is now to make sure the book is out on time, regardless of all else.

  24. Nick says:

    “Their job is now to make sure the book is out on time, regardless of all else”

    And it seems like half the time they can’t even bother to do that!

  25. Matt C. says:

    So you’re saying the Marvel editors’ job is just to call up the artist once a day and make sure they drew some pages that day?

    (Not surprising.)

  26. David Aspmo says:

    The simplest reading of the Jean Grey thing is that Bendis is writing it as though she was not aware of the mental block. And, really, that would make sense – it doesn’t seem like it could be much of a block if she’s still aware of it. And that would explain why simply being told about her telepathy switched that power back on – because that alone was enough undo the block.

    Yes, this would require that she forget why she needed the professor’s help in the first place, but it’s not too much of a leap to say that part of the block makes it so that forgetting such a thing doesn’t bother her and just she doesn’t give that much thought.

    This would also help with the original retcon by explaining why she or anyone else never brought up her telepathy in the original stories.

    I just pulled out the Bizarre Adventures story, and it doesn’t indicate what her awareness of the block is, either way… and neither does the Sean McKeever/Mike Mayhew Origin issue from a few years ago. I don’t know if there’s any other story that would address this, but at first look, I think this solution works.

  27. Tim O'Neil says:

    A word of support for the editors – they actually put the books together, after all. Meaning they work out stories with writers, shepherd the book through every subsequent creator, make sure everything is copacetic with other editors and higher-ups on the production chain, ride the book through in-house production, make sure the book is ready to hit the door the moment they press “send” on the digital files – and then start all over again, x 10 or 15 times a month. I am certain that they are all extremely hard working people, and that every deadline is a squeaker and every finished comic book, good or bad, is a minor miracle of scheduling and logistics.

    But that means that stuff like playing continuity cop just doesn’t rate at all – or if it does, it rates somewhere above remembering to send a card for the colorist’s birthday and somewhere above going over this month’s office supply order for Staples. We’ve all got this Platonic ideal in our heads of how we think superhero editors should function, and there’s basically only one man who ever actually filled that role – Mark Gruenwald. Gruenwald worked at Marvel at the same time Peter Sanderson was the company’s archivist (a position that was made redundant during, I believe, Marvelution, all the way back when). Again, people seem to believe Sanderson’s sole job was to ride herd on Marvel continuity, but that’s not what an archivist does. “Archivist” is a very specific position with its own set of demands, and while I don’t doubt that Sanderson spent a lot of time storing and cataloging the company’s fragile (and probably valuable) libraries, he probably also spent just as much if not more time filing away minutes of staff meetings and indexing ancient memorandum – which is more in line with what a corporate archivist would be doing at most companies. His continuity knowledge was strictly off-the-books, and of all the editors at the company I believe Gruenwald was the one who utilized Sanderson in that capacity the most – which is funny, because if there was one editor who probably didn’t need the help, it was him.

    It all started to make sense for me once I read that most of the fun “editorial notes” we always read growing up were actually inserted by the writer himself. If the writer doesn’t care to keep close track, and the editor is less concerned with minutiae than maintaining consistency over broad strokes, well, best get used to funny business.

    (But with that said, I think they are going to have to throw us some kind of curveball with the original 5. Someone is going to get killed or lose an arm or something else that will be a major “whoa!” story beat that finally clues the reader in to the fact that the timelines have definitely diverged and that there is no way to return the original 5 intact.)

  28. Sol says:

    kingderella, I’m with you on “Uncanny Avengers”, and must say it was particularly the art that turned me off.

  29. odessasteps says:

    Reading the Sean Howe book gives a nice insight jyst how crazy it is/was to be a Marvel editor.

  30. Ulukai says:

    “I don’t know if there’s any other story that would address this, but at first look, I think this solution works.”

    Uncanny #308 has a flashback where Jean and Xavier talk about her mental blocks, and how she’s breaking them herself trying to reach out to Scott.
    Also there’s this from uncannyxmen.net’s Jean spotlight (before Scott has joined the team):
    http://www.uncannyxmen.net/images/article/love01.jpg

  31. D. says:

    Since when has telepathy — Jean’s or otherwise — “not worked” on Wolverine?

  32. LeoCrow says:

    Tim O’Neil says:
    [...](But with that said, I think they are going to have to throw us some kind of curveball with the original 5. Someone is going to get killed or lose an arm or something else that will be a major “whoa!” story beat that finally clues the reader in to the fact that the timelines have definitely diverged and that there is no way to return the original 5 intact.)

    This is my suspicion as well. I don’t think these are really the original 5, but more like an alternate reality version of them. And i have a suspicion that we well see old Iceman mourning over the dead body of his younger counterpart. Also that some of the characters (young Jean and maybe Scott) will stay in the 616 U in an attempt to deage the main cast and some of the new members will go to their time-universe to make sure they don’t end up like the 616 universe. this could be used as enough material for a new crossover and at least one new spin-off series.

    However, there is a simpler possibility. As we all know, in the 616 universe, the original x-men are now in their mid 20s. Therefore they weren’t alive in the 60’s. That in itself makes continuity more flexible. Unlike the DCU, in the MU continuity is far more relaxed so what we see here maybe should be accepted as the new canon without even having to resort to a crisis event

  33. Dave says:

    Isn’t the ‘baggage’ of a villain being defeated over and over again almost the whole point of using recurring villains? Otherwise, why keep going back to them rather than creating new ones? Readers want the ‘big’ ones coming back.
    On the other hand, I’d have used Sin. Would have been nice to have had the Skull as a legacy villain, or at least to not have removed her reason to become the new Red Skull so soon after it happened.

  34. Tim – I just have visions of one of the young X-Men losing an arm and, like that Future-Self South Park episode, the current X-Man either instantly losing it through the timeline adjusting or Beast hacking it off quickly to make it match.

  35. Kreniigh says:

    Re: A+X… Is there a worse choice of Avenger for Rogue to borrow powers from than Carol Danvers? Talk about being tone-deaf to a character’s origin story.

  36. Tim O'Neil says:

    Except for the fact that there have been a few stories written in the past couple years showing Rogue and Carol become, if not fast friends, at least willing allies who have put their issues behind them.

  37. ” Any rational person would think so, but…given that the overwhelming attitude in comic books (not to mention science fiction, fantasy, and horror in general) has, over the last several years, become ‘knowing things is for nerds,’ well…”

    You’re confusing knowledge and trivia. Being well-read in non-fiction and fiction alike is important, especially for a creative writer. Obsessing over the specific details of a singular fictional history and rejecting any new stories that don’t fall in line with those old stories isn’t. If anything, that’s the kind of insular mentality that makes those stereotypical “nerds” the ones who lack knowledge, because they won’t branch out of their genre backwaters and violently refuse any attempts to be removed.

  38. D. says:

    Tim, whether or not Rogue and Carol have buried the hatchet, there is no way Carol can credibly permit Rogue to “borrow” her powers again. The 5+ years that Rogue and Carol lived together in Rogue’s skull were written as though it was a rape. No way Carol lets it happen again, even if she’s forgiven Rogue.

  39. justin says:

    I was going to throw a ‘let’s not shit on the editors’ out there, but Tim O’Neil did a much better job. I have to say though, comments like:

    ‘So you’re saying the Marvel editors’ job is just to call up the artist once a day and make sure they drew some pages that day?

    (Not surprising.)’

    really rub me the wrong way. I’m sure these people work hard, even if we aren’t always pleased with the end results. Sorry to single out Matt C, there were a few other comments that would’ve worked just as well.

  40. BringTheNoise says:

    Obsessing over the specific details of a singular fictional history and rejecting any new stories that don’t fall in line with those old stories isn’t.

    So why bother with continuity at all? Serious question – if something as central to the character as how their superpowers work can be completely changed on a whim, what’s the benefit of pretending that these stories follow on from each other?

  41. Shadowkurt says:

    D.: Carol did already permit Rogue to borrow her powers in X-Men Legacy #270, when Rogue attempted to free her from Magik’s prison. And while the time when Rogue had Carol’s persona as a kind of alter ego in her mind was deeply unpleasant for both, it’s not as if Carol remembers any of that: her problem was precisely that a lot of her memories, feeling etc. were stolen from her, but she didn’t get them back – they were simply wiped out when Magneto destroyed Rogue’s Carol persona.

    http://www.uncannyxmen.net/db/spotlight/showquestion.asp?faq=10&fldAuto=118&page=13

  42. Niall says:

    It’s a hard magic universe. Yes, how powers work, matters.

    There’s a distinction to be made between criticising an individual editor and criticising the way editors are being used. I can complain about the way police officers or nurses spend too much time on paperwork and not enough time nursing/policing without denying the fact that, even when they’re doing paperwork, they’re still working hard.

  43. odessasteps says:

    Given the stories you used to hear about artists fritting away the day playing video games, i wouldnt blame an editor for having to be a babysitter as one of their job details.

  44. Marilyn Merlot says:

    Speaking of which, I always loved the story of Bob Layton going to Liefeld’s house and refusing to leave until Liefeld had finished drawing one of those Deathmate issues.

  45. D. says:

    Shadowkurt — I haven’t read the story in Legacy. I’m simply saying that if you read Carol’s character from #168 through #260, there’s no credible evolution of the character that would allow Rogue to absorb her powers and psyche again.

    To be honest, I don’t think it’s very consistent with Rogue’s character either. Arguably, absorbing Carol was the worst decision Rogue ever made, and se suffered tremendously for it. How could she know that the same problem wouldn’t arise again?

  46. D. says:

    Correction: It was UXM 171 when Rogue first arrived at Xavier’s, and 269 when Magneto separated Carol.

    I always wondered, how is it Rogue still had Carol’s powers even after her psyche was removed? I know later authors have mucked around and said Rogue holds on to a residue of anyone she absorbs. But Carol’s powers have been fully present all along.

  47. BringTheNoise says:

    There’s a distinction to be made between criticising an individual editor and criticising the way editors are being used

    Indeed. I’m not attacking editors here at all – my question was about Nitz The Bloody’s argument suggesting that expecting logical consistency in what is supposed to be an on-going narrative is bad for writing.

  48. Mike says:

    I thought the reason why mutants are feared and hated while non-mutant superheroes aren’t has more to do with the whole “homo superior/mutants replacing humans” thing than any concern over the danger their powers cause. People occasionally getting super powers from radioactive chemical spills aren’t as pressing an existential threat to humanity.

  49. David Aspmo says:

    Ulukai says:

    “Uncanny #308 has a flashback where Jean and Xavier talk about her mental blocks, and how she’s breaking them herself trying to reach out to Scott.
    Also there’s this from uncannyxmen.net’s Jean spotlight (before Scott has joined the team):
    http://www.uncannyxmen.net/images/article/love01.jpg

    The second example has no specified time to it, so it could have occurred before the blocks were in place – indeed, it looks like she’s using her telepathy in that scene, so I’d say that’s more than likely the case.

    The first example… well, there are going to be rough edges to any continuity as sprawling as the X-Men. As Paul said, the mental block was itself a retcon, and I’m sure you could go back and find moments from the 60s comics that contradict the idea that Jean ever had telepathic powers.

    Hell, in that same conversation from #308, the timeline of Jean being catatonic for “nearly three years” doesn’t match up with the -1 issue that describes that time as being a year at most – and both of those issues were written by Scott Lobdell.

    Actually, reading it now, the overly expository nature of the dialogue in that conversation makes it sound like Xavier is telling Jean about the blocks for the first time. Now, I’m sure that wasn’t the intent, and it’s just a side-effect of the clunky writing conventions of the time (the overcoming of which this last decade or so, by the way, I think often goes under-appreciated these days), but if you’re desperate to hammer out those rough edges…

    In any case, I just think it’s a bit much to conclude that Bendis is clueless and/or uncaring about continuity because he had a new interpretation of how a telepathic block functions.

  50. Taibak says:

    You could also make the case that mutants are hated and feared because of Magneto. I mean, he’s one of the most public villains in the Marvel Universe, he’s come close to inflicting damage on a global scale, and he’s done so while publicly proclaiming that mutants are superior and that normal humans should be enslaved or eliminated. Tough to argue with press that bad.

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