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Mar 11

X-Men #8 annotations

Posted on Wednesday, March 11, 2020 by Paul in Annotations

As always, this post contains spoilers, and page numbers go by the digital edition.

COVER / PAGE 1. Cyclops and the New Mutants (specifically, Magma, Mirage, Wolfsbane and Magik) versus the Brood.

PAGE 1. Magma asks Mirage about Rahne’s egg.

The Akademos Habitat / The Sextant. The area of Krakoa where the members of the former teen teams live, including the New Mutants, as seen in their book.

Magma was a member of the classic New Mutants, but didn’t go on their recent trip to space, which was depicted in the Hickman-written New Mutants #1-2, #5 and #7. Mirage did.

The King Egg. This is the King Egg that the Starjammers were trying to steal in New Mutants. We’ll find out later that it’s a Brood King Egg. The Brood are insectoid aliens who go around planting eggs in people in order to turn them into more Brood; they’ve been major X-Men villains since the 1980s.

In New Mutants #1, the New Mutants hitched a lift with the Starjammers in order to get to the Shi’ar Empire (so that they could visit Cannonball). The Starjammers had their own mission, to steal a King Egg from the “Benevolence” space station. A data page in that issue said: “Under no circumstance should a King Egg be removed from its containment shield. Interstellar pheromone production can result in unexpected swarm activity. Never introduce a King Egg into an alien biome.”

The Starjammers’ attempt to leave the New Mutants behind while they went on the raid backfired, and the New Mutants (specifically Wolfsbane) wound up reaching the egg first, without realising what it was. At the end of that issue, the Starjammers apparently escaped with the egg, leaving the New Mutants behind with the Shi’ar authorities. However, New Mutants #2 reveals that Wolfsbane actually swapped out the egg and hid it inside Mondo’s body. Mondo still had it in issue #7 (it’s visible in the panel where he brings out the flower), and evidently he brought it back to earth.

Corsair mentioned in New Mutants #1 that they had a “very serious buyer” for the Egg, but we didn’t find out who it was. We’ll see later that it’s Ronan the Accuser.

PAGES 2-4. The Brood gather in their spawning ground to hunt for the King Egg.

All as foreshadowed in the data page in New Mutants #1. The giant whale-like creatures that the Brood live in are the Acanti, who were being used as Brood spaceships in their 1980s stories too.

Though the Brood are not a technological race, they are still a massive hivemind of the sort that was presented as a major civilisation by scale alone in Powers of X.

PAGES 5-6. Recap and credits. The story is “Swarm”, by Jonathan Hickman, Mahmud Asrar and Sunny Gho.

PAGE 7. A data page recapping what happened to Gladiator, Black Bolt and Vulcan at the end of the 2009 crossover War of Kings. It’s a pretty straight recap of where matters stood at that time. We’ll see later in the issue that none of it stuck (though the Fault is still around, for what it’s worth).

PAGE 8. Vulcan dreams.

Vulcan is dreaming of being stuck in the Fault after War of Kings. The art is symbolic – Vulcan was the mad Shi’ar Emperor at the time, and wasn’t wearing his superhero costume. However, the Fault itself resembles the way it was shown in FF #6 (a Hickman comic).

PAGES 9-11. Vulcan wakes from a drunken night. The Brood arrive.

This picks up on a reference in X-Men #1, where the data page introducing the Summers House said: “While all mutants are technically welcome, Vulcan has been bringing home quite a few acquaintances from the Krakoan mainland who have stretched the acceptable boundaries of decorum.” For whatever reason, Vulcan seems now to be prone to heavy drinking, which wasn’t particularly a trait of his in the past. Perhaps it’s connected with the circumstances of his return. Judging from Scott and Alex’s dialogue, the art is meant to show the place looking much more messed up than it actually does.

The two women on the other sofas are Petra and Sway. They’re teammates of Vulcan’s from X-Men: Deadly Genesis, which retconned in a short-lived stand-in team of X-Men, trained in secret by Moira MacTaggert, who tried to rescue the X-Men from Krakoa in Giant-Size X-Men #1 and seemingly got wiped out. Until now, Petra and Sway were the two members of that team who seemed to have actually died, but evidently they’ve been brought back by resurrection. One might figure that Petra, Sway and Vulcan – who all had some of the most traumatic experiences of their lives on Krakoa – would be particularly uncomfortable with the place.

“I fear the fire within me has been extinguished.” As we saw in issue #1, and we see again later, this version of Vulcan has something of a tendency to grandiose dialogue, and talks incessantly about the fire inside him. It doesn’t seem like entirely stable behaviour.

“It’s all I remember from…” Assuming that Vulcan has been resurrected in the normal Krakoan way, his memories would have been restored from the X-Men’s last back-up. That would not have included anything that happened to him in the Shi’ar Empire, since it would have been out of range – we’ve previously established that even the Orchis Forge station is out of range, and that’s in the same solar system.

PAGES 12-13. Broo tells the New Mutants what their egg is.

Broo is a mutant member of the Brood, introduced in Astonishing X-Men vol 3 #40. Basically, he has human notions of compassion and friendship, and wound up being taken in by the X-Men as a student during the Wolverine and the X-Men era (where he was a prominent recurring character).

Broo mentions that he was at the “independence party” – presumably the one we saw in House of X #6 and Powers of X #6. He wasn’t visible in that issue, but sure, he could have been in the crowd. Evidently non-human mutants like him are welcome on Krakoa too.

Oya (or Idie Okonkwo) is a friend of his from those days; as well as being a regular in Wolverine and the X-Men, she was also in Generation Hope and All-New X-Men, but she’s faded into the background since then.

Krakoa is continuing to shift and change, Oya notes. Wolverine pointed out something similar in Wolverine #1 and it seems to be more than just an ongoing building programme. Broo, who is not a resident of the island, is uncomfortable with that, but the conversation swiftly moves on.

PAGES 14-20. The Brood attack Krakoa. Cyclops, Havok, Marvel Girl, Vulcan and Broo set off into space with the King Egg to lure them away.

Captain / Commander. Cyclops and Magik’s formal ranks as Krakoan defence officers.

Vulcan is still blathering about fire and insists on comparing the spaceship to the fire within him. He did the same thing in issue #1 when talking about a barbecue, but the analogy was less strained in that case. Specifically, Vulcan used the line about fire being fire in that issue too. It’s much clearer here that Cyclops is tired of this meaningless fire blather and (impatiently) indulging Vulcan – though that begs the question of why he’s bringing Vulcan with him on this mission, when by the look of it he’s in no state to be trusted with anything of importance.

PAGE 21. Data page. This is an update of the previous page, to tell us what Gladiator, Black Bolt and Vulcan have been up to more recently.

The Krakoan text reads “UPDATE”, if you couldn’t figure that out.

Gladiator‘s text refers to the plot of recent issues of New Mutants.

Black Bolt‘s return from his apparent death in War of Kings is treated here as a mystery. In fact, Hickman’s own FF #7 (2011) has a flashback which shows Black Bolt surviving within the Fault, fighting a monster, and ultimately being rescued by the Inhumans’ teleporting dog Lockjaw. But the Shi’ar author wouldn’t know that. The terms “Midnight King” and “Celestial Messiah” comes from Hickman’s Fantastic Four and Avengers runs, though I’m not familiar enough with them to say whether they have any particular significance here.

Vulcan, we’re simply told, “never died”. That would make sense on one level – Black Bolt wasn’t killed by the T-bomb, he just fell into the Fault. So maybe the same applied to Vulcan. But in that case, who’s the guy with the X-Men, and why doesn’t he remember anything? Is he the original Vulcan, escaped from the Fault with amnesia? Or did the X-Men resurrect Vulcan because they assumed he was dead, when the original still out there somewhere?

PAGES 23-24. Sunspot persuades the Kree Accuser to let the Starjammers go so that they can collect the King Egg.

This Accuser is presumably the customer for whom the Starjammers were stealing the Egg is in New Mutants #1. He’s presumably not the best-known Accuser, Ronan, who was apparently mercy-killed by Black Bolt in Death of the Inhumans #3 (a grinding bloodbath of a series if ever there was one).

Sunspot is annoyed with the Starjammers for betraying him in New Mutants #1. New Mutants #7 established him with a second home in the Shi’ar Empire so that he could hang out with his good friend Cannonball. The woman in the last panel of this scene is Izzy Kane (Smasher), Cannonball’s wife. The flying kid is their son Josiah Guthrie.

PAGE 25. Gladiator is alerted to the Kree Accuser’s presence.

Gladiator is still running the Shi’ar Empire for now, while Xandra is brought up to speed in order to take over. Like a good medieval king, he’s enjoying a nice bit of hunting by gunning down the Brood. The two Imperial Guard members are Manta (with the cape) and Oracle (in pink).

Kubark, also known as Kid Gladiator, is Gladiator’s teenage son, and a major character from Wolverine and the X-Men. He’s basically an immature version of Gladiator – in fact, his early appearances presented him as a dangerous maniac, but Wolverine and the X-Men was always a bit over the top, so you may have to translate that a bit for saner titles.

PAGES 26-27. Trailers. The Krakoan reads NEXT: INTERGALACTIC TROUBLE.

Bring on the comments

  1. SanityOrMadness says:

    Wasn’t the Fault meant to be sealed at the end of Thanos Imperative, the story which tied up War/Realm of Kings?

  2. Col_Fury says:

    Given that it’s Petra and Sway Vulcan is drinking with, and they all apparently have a problem, I’m thinking this Vulcan was cloned from backup at the time of Deadly Genesis. Maybe they’re all having trouble adjusting for the same reason; they’re living in the place that killed them.

    Also, if that’s the case, Vulcan wouldn’t/couldn’t remember any of the War of Kings stuff.

    I’m also willing to bet that Vulcan meets Vulcan soon-ish.

  3. Chris V says:

    I thought Mantis’ child, Quoi, was the “Celestial Messiah”?

  4. Ben says:

    I actually thought this was a pretty good issue.

    Tempered heavily by the fact that it isn’t going to be picked up on for at best a long time, if ever.

    Has anything at all from these 8 issues been resolved in any way?

  5. Allan M says:

    The Midnight King name is from a vision that the Supreme Intelligence had, that the it and the entire Kree species would eventually be wiped out by the Inhumans. Specifically, a “Midnight King” would emerge from darkness (the Fault), unite the remaining Inhuman tribes and then destroy the Kree. Black Bolt duly returns from darkness, unites the Inhumans, but was then convinced that the prophecy was wrong and went back to Earth. This was an ancient prophecy, and the Midnight King moniker sticks to Black Bolt when he’s in space, so the Shi’ar would’ve heard it.

    Celestial messiah is odd. Hickman has it listed under Black Bolt’s name on the recap pages of New Avengers from the first or second issue with no explanation. The canonical Messiah is indeed Quoi, Mantis’ son. Maximus refers to Bolt as a celestial messiah once in New Avengers for his role seemingly dying to set off global terrigenesis during the Infinity crossover, but the Shi’ar wouldn’t know that. I think it’s Hickman nodding to his own work, and that someone seemingly returning from death to fulfil a millennia-old prophecy is legit messiah stuff.

    My read is that it’s a Shi’ar functionary noting that Black Bolt kinda sorta fulfilled an ancient prophecy, which could’ve put him in charge of a massive rival empire. Or destroyed it. Either way, relevant to the Shi’ar.

  6. Luis Dantas says:

    So, the Rull thing was reversed? I wonder how.

  7. Chris V says:

    Ben-Unlike other issues of Hickman’s X-Men, based on the next issue description, it seems that Hickman is planning for this to be a two-part story.

    It seems like Hickman is interested in telling tales about space travel, much like with the Avengers or FF.
    Not that he doesn’t have other interests with the X-Men.

  8. YLu says:

    If this is a cloned Vulcan restored from back-up, why would he have memories of being trapped in the Fault?

  9. Luis Dantas says:

    I am disappointed by this book, as well by the current status quo of the X-Books in general.

    This book is essentially “Cyclops Team-Up”, and is being written as if it were a Wolverine book that happens to feature a very generic version of Cyclops as opposed to Wolverine. Coming to me, that is not praise. Not at all. I want to read about characters who have well established personalities and goals. This is falling way, way short on that front.

    Having this issue rely on what was a main plot point in New Mutants months ago was a very poor editorial decision, aggravated by the refusal to have any sort of footnote. Such an arrangement hurts both books and lampshades that readers should not expect the relevant issues to be signaled to them in due time.

    And while the themes are certainly interesting, this has weak characterization and is hellish decompressed to boot. At four dollars an issue that will result in rapidly falling sales numbers, and it should. I assume that most of the money coming from Marvel comics these days is channelled through Marvel Unlimited; I can’t imagine that most readers would prefer to pay full price to keep current in books that make a point of not clarifying its own key points for years.

    Hickman has talent as a writer, but his strengths do not play well to the medium. He would need to write larger volumes, preferably in prose, to fully blossom.

  10. Si says:

    “Interstellar pheromone production”

    I think I just got hit by my first ever migraine.

  11. Thomas says:

    I think what Col_fury is saying is that we have a new Vulcan pre-kings clone but the mad Vulcan potentially in the fault. Krakoa Vulcan’s dream is a foreshadowing of that.

  12. wwk5d says:

    Overall, I thought it was a decent issue. Two things, though:

    1) Has the Brood King Egg ever been a thing before? Have the Brood had kings before? I haven’t the War of the KIngs/GOTG stuff, so have no idea if the concept was introduced somewhere else before…

    2) Why would someone of Gladiator’s power level need a gun? Why, it’s like giving Wolverine a sword that can cut through anything.

  13. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    1) I’m pretty sure it’s new. The Abnett and Lanning cosmic stuff didn’t involve the Brood at all if I recall correctly. I think there was a Brood ruler in Bendis’s GotG but it was a queen.

    2) For sport?

  14. Evilgus says:

    “Hickman has talent as a writer, but his strengths do not play well to the medium. He would need to write larger volumes, preferably in prose, to fully blossom.”

    Good observation! I agree completely on this and weak characterisation. I’m getting very frustrated with Hickman’s dialogue in particular: absolutely nobody sounds like themselves. Or, they’re interchangeably sardonic.

    But I’m sticking around for the ride at least. So many characters are rotated in I enjoy it, I just wish they had more meaningful individual subplots rather than being in service to the grand overarching theme.

  15. Ben says:

    Chris V- oh good! This book could have been a lot better with an action packed 2 issue story arc setup from the start.

  16. YLu says:

    Magma seems significantly less popular than every New Mutant of that era. Her absence from the recent Shi’ar arc just highlights that.

    Does anyone know how things wound up this way?

  17. Salomé says:


    “I’m getting very frustrated with Hickman’s dialogue in particular: absolutely nobody sounds like themselves. Or, they’re interchangeably sardonic.”

    Yes! I found it especially awkward when a couple of lines were repeated verbatim in an exchange between Broo and Jean Grey, and then Jean Grey and Cyclops. It is such a strangely formalist idea of what exciting dialogue sounds like, and it largely falls flat in tone or emotion. Morrison wrote with persistent strangeness and a strong sense of ironic distance, yes, but that rarely (if ever) cancelled out affect as much as Hickman’s writing often does.

    I hated this issue, by the way. I was completely struck by the beginning pages and the premise because I’m a sucker for the Acanti, but I finished the issue with a complete sense of dissatisfaction – is this seriously supposed to read as a full issue? It felt like such a procedural sequence of scenes, with so little tying them together emotionally or dramatically if not bare plot necessity…

    (And this after last issue! No idea how this is going to read when collected.)

  18. Chris V says:

    Apparently, Marvel is collecting these “Dawn of X” books based on issue numbers, which seems like an extremely terrible idea.
    So, it’ll be “Dawn of X vol. 1” TPB, collecting X-Men #1, New Mutants #1, Excalibur #1, Marauders #1, and X-Force #1.

    This works out well for Hickman’s X-Men, which mostly features stories that might never be followed up on (minus the current two-part story-arc), but makes little sense when most of the series featured multi-part story-arcs.

  19. YLu says:

    @Chris V
    My understanding is that they plan to collect both ways. It’s just that the multi-title trades are coming out first since the single-title ones have to wait for an entire arc to end first.

  20. David says:

    I think we’re meant to take it that Vulcan never died and was never resurrected, and this is the original Vulcan, who was eventually rescued from the Fault. “It’s the only thing I remember from…” (I’m paraphrasing) probably refers to his time in the Fault.

    A few issues back, we got that data page about Synch and Skin, and how being resurrected with people from your era helps them to recover from the trauma of dying and coming back. I’d guess that’s the deal with Petra and Sway. Vulcan’s trauma is different, but they’ve all come back at the same time, and they’re getting trashed together.

    On the subject of Broo- I actually don’t think non-human mutants are counted as true mutants by Krakoa, hence why Broo doesn’t live on the island. We were told in HoX/PoX that mutants could bring nonmutants to the island and Krakoa would evaluate and potentially permit them to enter. So I think Idie just brought Broo for a visit. I’d guess characters like Longshot and Shatterstar are subject to the same.

    Also, minor note- at the end, you clarify that the Accuser we see isn’t Ronan. But you called him Ronan near the beginning.

  21. David says:

    *being resurrected with people from their era

  22. Col_Fury says:

    re: David
    “Vulcan never died”

    I think Thomas has it right, in that he’s saying what I’m saying. 🙂 Sway, Petra and Vulcan all died at the same time (I think? Been a while). They were all resurrected from the same era. They’re all getting trashed because of the same reason.

    I think (predict) Vulcan (Krakoan clone) will meet Vulcan (original) next issue to prove the rule “don’t-resurrect-mutants-without-proof-of-death” rule.

    I’ve been wrong plenty of times before, I’m sure I’ll be wrong this time. 🙂

  23. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    I wonder when we’ll see Darwin. Not that I particularly want to read Hickman’s take on him (I don’t particularly want to read Hickman’s take on anyone, to be honest), but out of the four members of the ‘lost team’ Darwin has the most on-page history with Vulcan (though even that is basically limited to… a fight scene in Rise and Fall of the Shi’ar Empire?). Also he could help Petra and Sway acclimate to the world, having lived in it for… however long it is in-universe since Deadly Genesis.

    Speaking of Vulcan – while I don’t expect the mind control or pod people theories to be true, Hickman put the ‘reverting back to earlier mind save’ idea on page in HoXPoX, which I guess is meant to foreshadow something. So with that in mind I wonder if the ‘my flame has been doused’ stuff is supposed to point to Vulcan having been reverted – and feeling it subconsciously.

    @David – I’m aware this is a minor detail that could have easily been lost due to nobody paying attention, but if it was the original Vulcan, he should have a cliche badass scar over one eye that he received somewhere along the way. In Rise and Fall or Emperor Vulcan or whenever. He definitely had one whan he was king of the space bird people.

  24. Paul says:

    Darwin was in X-Men #5. He’s currently trapped in the Vault with X-23 and Synch.

  25. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    …obviously. Huh. Turns out I retain much less of this book than I thought.

  26. Thom H. says:

    @YLu: I legitimately love every one of the original New Mutants, but I can’t for the life of me think of a single personality trait that Magma possesses.

    I guess for a while she was the homesick member of the team, and maybe she was kind of snobby? But writers can’t seem to decide whether her home is real or fake, and she spends about half her time mind controlled in one way or another.

    She fills out the original team nicely — I do like seeing that set of nine back together — but I don’t think she has a lot to work with on her own. Does she even have a remarkable relationship with anyone else on the New Mutants?

  27. wwk5d says:

    She and Sunspot kind of had a thing going at one point, no?

  28. Alan L says:

    Yes, in the DnA New Mutants Magma and Sunspot seemed to hook up. Dani makes a comment about them always having been into one another, but I don’t really remember any notable instances of that in the original books.

    Magma joined the team late and left the team pretty early in the original New Mutants. Her character was nowhere near as established as those of the other New Mutants; in fact, every attempt at her character seemed like a fresh start for Claremont. She was out of the book, if I recall, before Louise Simonson came on board.

    Even since then, nothing about her has remained too consistent. The well–adjusted–seeming character we see here in Dawn of X is totally different than she has behaved in any earlier incarnation of the character I know of.

    Karma had a lot of comings and goings in the original book as well, but I think she was much more popular with readers––largely because she was there at the start of the book, and she had a very well–defined personality at first, and she did a lot of notable stuff. Karma has very heroic moments in volume 1 of New Mutants––big, dramatic rises and falls. We feel for her a lot in early issues, as she befriends Dani, becomes at least close comrades with the others, and learns to be less of a loner. Magma didn’t do much of that. She didn’t do much that was memorable.

    There was, if I recall right, one issue where it seemed as if Claremont was trying that thing he did after the Dark Phoenix Saga with Storm, with Binary, and I believe he tried to start it with Magma: he kind of tried to re-litigate the Dark Phoenix story, doing a version where his happy end was born out. So when Storm is imprisoned by Dr. Doom she manifests heretofore untold control over the world’s weather. She loses that control, but ultimately masters it, and Doom decides she isn’t someone to mess around with. Binary has a similar story in the midst of the Brood saga, where she has to reign in her vast new power, and she does so. It seemed like Claremont was starting it with Magma, and then an issue or so later that thread was unceremoniously dropped. So Magma never really had that moment that people have in professional wrestling where the crowd is moved by what the wrestler is doing––that moment when the wrestler is “put over” for the audience. I think that’s a big part of why people are less likely to include her in many New Mutants reunions.

  29. Alan L says:

    I liked Mahmud Asrar on this issue. He gets better and better to me each issue I see him do. It’s a huge improvement over Leinil Yu’s frozen mannequins. But if anything, the somewhat more lively character expressions brings into sharper focus the lack of character writing being done in this book.

  30. Thom H. says:

    @Alan L: Much more eloquent version of what I was trying to say. I agree wholeheartedly and love the Phoenix-redo theory.

    I think Magma’s aristocratic bearing, verging on arrogance, could have been used to better effect in her original run. Not everyone on the team had to like each other or fit in right away.

    Claremont had a habit of establishing new characters as fiercely independent, arrogant, or socially off-putting and then softening them too quickly. It happened, as you mention, with Karma, but also with Sunspot, Mirage, and Magma.

    And now Magik has taken on the role of distant, haughty (and kind of scary) team member, so Magma seems a little redundant. Unless you need a volcano for some reason, I guess.

  31. CJ says:

    My only memory of Magma (having started in the 90s) is an evil version being introduced and killed in AoA Weapon X #1.

    Seemed really important.

  32. Alan L says:

    @Thom H. – For sure, and you could see Claremont trying different approaches to integrate Magma into the team, trying one approach and then another. I think that regal attitude she had sometimes flummoxed Claremont when he tried to do more intimate New Mutants stories like Slumber Party. How to handle the serious character when you want the story to be upbeat and fun? Magma never quite worked in that way. Committing to Magma’s original personality a little more strongly would have made for better stories, potentially, just as you say.

    The redundancy you’re talking about is really interesting, and if anything it points out how much both characters have been underserved by the subsequent writing they’ve been subjected to. Both Magik and Magma have lost a more distinctive personality as a result. But Magik has a cool design and a readymade cliche of a character, plus she’s related to another major X-men character, so she gets all the support of the writers.

    I think that the X-men have really lost a lot of depth over the years because they never get to have any quiet time anymore. They used to get to go and do their own things after most big adventures, and we got a sense of where they were individually at. Nowadays they melt into the background of this enormous mutant army, and I think it’s partly because they don’t have strong enough individual characters left over from the better writing they had, long ago.

  33. David says:

    I agree about Magma. I like her, and I’m happy to see her on Krakoa, but I can’t really point to what it is I like about her. I guess it’s just nostalgia. I did think the Zeb Wells New Mutants series did a great job with all the characters, but even there, Magma was probably the weakest.

  34. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    @Alan L – they do get the quiet time and character development, only it happens in side titles and is later mostly ignored when they reappear in the main books.

  35. Thom H. says:

    @Alan L: I agree a lot of characters have become flattened from the inflated number of mutants in the X-books.

    There really is room in the New Mutants for an aristocratic daughter of a Roman senator and a scary mystic. And they can both be insecure about people not liking them. But that’s a bit nuanced for stories that revolve around big events, ever increasing stakes, and enormous casts.

    Storm is another casualty to this trend, I think. Back in the day, her biggest stories revolved around a) getting a haircut and b) having no powers. There’s no way we would have understood how much she changed without a lot of “day in the life” stories in Uncanny. And mountains of thought balloons, which carried a lot of the weight of that characterization.

    @Krzysiek Ceran: So true. A good recent example (IMO) is Jean Grey. So interesting in X-Men: Red and then mainly acting as window dressing in HoXPoX.

  36. Alan L says:

    I never know who to blame for the gradual hollowing–out of the X-men. Certainly losing the continuity of Claremont and Simonson writing all of the books really disrupted the previous character development as well as the big story plans. I tend to think that Bob Harras is probably the one most responsible for the transformation, as he proved willing to side with every hip young penciller who walked in the door, and essentially gave them a path to take over and railroad the books. Harras consistently misnumbered the issues in his “see issue #___” boxes, and I think in general he wasn’t too concerned with continuity––not realizing that the continuity was what was making the characters so much more vivid than most other superheroes for the readers. Also I think he didn’t imagine how the density of the books would make it hard to find people able to pick them up and just follow the threads in the writing. Harras claimed that the friction between Claremont and Jim Lee was making better comics than had been around in years, and I think that was on occasion a little bit true. The Captain America issue was quite good, and the Savage Land story where Magneto becomes a villain again is I think one of Claremont’s better stories––but I think it was partly because Claremont would work with Harras and Lee in the broad strokes, but he wasn’t willing to make Magneto into a snarling, silver-age villain just because it was nostalgic for Jim Lee. So instead he wrote one of the better justifications to have a character swerve back to villainy, grounding the swerve in Magneto’s building compassion and his mounting despair. Giving Lee the plotting of the books was I think Harras going too far, disrupting the working relationship between the books creative staff and sacrificing the shape of the narrative as a result. It made for the great sales record, but I think X-men has generally suffered in narrative and character terms ever since.

    In an interview Louise Simonson recounted that Jim Shooter felt Claremont was writing a novel, rather than a traditional comic narrative. That seemed very perceptive to me, and I think it’s the thing Harras misses that ultimately blew up the whole way the X-men was made back then. Since then I’ve liked the Grant Morrison era, I’ve liked the era when Axel Alonso was editing, I liked individual writers like Mike Carey, Peter David, Kieron Gillen, Matt Fraction, Kyle & Yost and Joss Whedon on the books…but characters like Storm seem to have had no worthwhile character development since the Claremont era. Of those writers I liked, each of them took a few characters and concentrated on them. So I think, for instance, Kitty Pryde gets good character development in the Whedon run. Cyclops and Emma Frost get a lot of development when Axel Alonso was editing. But the current approach rejects the wisdom of that previous one, in favor of stuffing the comics with characters and only briefly name-checking them in pursuit of some story that is, by design, bigger than the individual characters and their previous worlds. This issue was full of characters, and none of them get any time to breath. The whole story is just a relay race with the Brood egg. Broo shows up to really just to identify the egg, and then he’s done for the issue. Is that the way they’re treating characters these days? Yes, I’m afraid it is. Poor Idie Okonkwo gets one entirely interchangeable line of dialogue and has no role in the story––nevermind that she’s right there when the Brood attack, and she could freeze them in place or roast them, or have at least an opinion on what they might do…Eh. This gets more aggravating as these stories go on.

  37. CJ says:

    What I don’t understand is why it seems to be so hard to recreate that brand of storytelling from the Claremont era. (Not that I am clamoring for its return.)

    Is it that such a type of storytelling (thought balloons, long-form narration, plots going on for years, maybe 5+) is unpalatable to the modern reader? Or simply that such a situation is impossible these days?

    I didn’t really get into X-Treme X-Men or the UXM #440-#470s during his return, but I think SOME people liked that era? Right?

    I wonder if Marvel would ever consider a HoXPoX-esque event but with Claremont instead of Hickman at the helm.

  38. Thom H. says:

    I’m pretty sure the economics are prohibitive at this point. Back when comics were 60-75 cents (US) a pop, selling a day-in-the-life issue or an all-subplot issue was probably easier (or a fill-in issue, for that matter). Creators were allowed to drag stories out because Marvel was making a profit on the 100,000s of copies sold every month.

    Now that a regular issue of an ongoing series is $4 and special issues/miniseries are routinely $5 a month, I know I feel cheated if I don’t get substantial story progress every issue from creators who have a plan. Dragging out stories for months and years quickly becomes expensive (for me). And if copies aren’t moving because readers are dissatisfied, then Marvel/DC are going to chop the series because they’re losing money. That outcome doesn’t work for anyone.

    There are exceptions, obviously — Immortal Hulk is doing things old-style, but that team has consumer and critical support, as well as a solid plan for any necessary artist breaks. And, most importantly, it’s not nearly as meandering as Claremont at his peak. But Immortal Hulk is definitely keeping subplots moving forward instead of ultra-tight 6-issue arcs ready for the trade. And Ewing is keeping an eye on characterization the whole time.

    The obvious hole in this argument is: what if long-form, old-school storytelling is the thing that brings readers back to comics, making them profitable at a lower cost? And I don’t know the answer to that one.

  39. CJ says:

    @Thom H
    Very insightful, that sounds reasonable.

  40. Thom H. says:

    At the suggestion of many commentors on this site, I picked up the Zeb Wells NEW MUTANTS series, and it was pretty great.

    I wasn’t in love with the art, and I’m not a huge fan of stories set in Limbo, but the characters were really going somewhere which was fun to read.

    Magma’s contribution seemed to be:
    — not reciprocating Sunspot’s affection
    — getting injured a lot

    I got the feeling that she was too powerful, so Wells got rid of her as soon as possible in most story arcs.

    Also, the series made me realize that the team doesn’t have many members who can fly. Two or maybe three? That makes shots of the full team more difficult to draw.

    Anyway, just some random thoughts. I wasn’t sure where else to put them. Thanks for the recommendation, everybody!

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