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Nov 21

X-Men Unlimited Infinity Comic #5-12: “X-Men Green”

Posted on Sunday, November 21, 2021 by Paul in x-axis

“X-Men Green”
by Gerry Duggan, Emilio Laiso and Rachelle Rosenberg

Readers who don’t subscribe to Marvel Unlimited may well wonder if there’s anything going on in the Infinity Comics that they need to know about. The short answer is, not really. Most of them – and there’s a pretty steady stream of them – are essentially fill-in stories. But there are exceptions, mostly with stories that focus on minor characters whose status quo is of no real interest to any of the ongoing titles. One such book has been dutifully exploring the back story of Kushala, a character from Doctor Strange and the Sorcerers Supreme. Another is X-Men Unlimited Infinity Comic, which focusses its second arc on Nature Girl and Curse.

Curse is a background character from the Krakoan era and fair game for this sort of thing. Nature Girl was one of the pupils from Wolverine and the X-Men, and used to be a relatively high profile character – she was used in the last run of Generation X - but she’s fallen badly off the radar. That leaves her free for a story like this, which radically changes her status quo. And to be fair, it’s by the regular writer of X-Men, which is a sign that Marvel want you to take this book reasonably seriously.

As a story, it’s… a mixed affair.

Here’s the thing. Nature Girl has always been set up as a character in tune with the natural world, who thinks animal life is underappreciated by man, and so on. It makes logical sense, then, that she should be alarmed about the state of the world, global warming, pollution, things of that sort. The trouble is that it’s rather hard for the X-Men to do stories about how mankind is destroying the world through its hubris when the very same book is repeatedly telling us that mutants can terraform Mars in an afternoon. If that’s so – and evidently it is – then mitigating global warming seems like it ought to be a pretty trivial piece of work for them. So it’s become a series that can’t easily do eco-catastrophe stories.

Which ought to be a problem for Nature Girl. I suppose you could make part of the angle “why aren’t we mutants stepping in to do something about this”, but that’s not the direction here.

Here’s the story. When a sea turtle washes up on Krakoa having choked on a plastic bag from a grocery store, Nature Girl storms off to the store to confront the manager. When the manager fails to show any sympathy for the sea turtle, she stabs him to death, then decides to go on the run with a police dog called Saoirse, whom she insists has told her it’s fine. (Nobody ever seems to query whether the manager of a store in Las Vegas, over 300 miles inland, should really have anticipated this outcome.)

Since Nature Girl has unequivocally murdered a human, Wolverine is sent to get her back. Curse also decides to tag along with Nature Girl, since Curse is apparently evil and has the power to wish for bad things to happen to people. By all appearances Curse is more just tagging along to revel in the chaos. The two of them show up at an oilfield where Curse also kills a worker (possibly by accident, but she certainly doesn’t seem to care). An increasingly bloodstained Nature Girl declares that she feels alive at last, then physically changes to have a half-blackened face. They show up at an oil refinery where they encounter mercenary guard Black Mamba and Sauron. Of course, Wolverine eventually recaptures Nature Girl and Curse, and the Quiet Council send them to the Hole. But Krakoa doesn’t agree, so the island (and Cypher) set them free and tell them to keep their heads down in future.

It certainly looks good. Laiso has a nice clean look, the Nature Girl redesign is subtle but effective. And it makes quite good use of the Infinity Comics format. It doesn’t labour it as a gimmick; there’s the occasional showpiece panel designed to be read while scrolling through it, and a rather nice fade to black with a fake ending in the final issue. An underexplored aspect of the format – at least in the Infinity Comics so far – is that there’s a limit to how far readers can scroll through them, and so they can be used to force a pause in a way that would be harder to signal on the printed page. At the same time, if you’re actually telling a story, you don’t want to be doing these tricks all the time, and you want panel-to-panel storytelling that reads smoothly. And this largely has it. It’s one of the better examples of the storytelling potential of the format.

As a story… it couldn’t be called subtle. The oil company is called Cynadine, for heaven’s sake. But the main problem is that the story seems to be riding two horses at once. On the one hand, it’s abundantly clear that we’re meant to agree with Nature Girl and see her as an avenger with a just cause, even if we have doubts about her methods. On the other hand, Curse is presented as fundamentally evil, and Nature Girl herself is dismissed by all other regular characters as basically a fanatic, which isn’t how the story itself presents her.

Ideally these would fit together into some kind of discussion about the limits of eco-activism but… that doesn’t really happen. You can do that story with smashing up a morally dodgy oil refinery. But when you’ve already opened by having Nature Girl kill a guy for selling a plastic bag that killed a sea turtle, you’ve positioned her clearly and unambiguously as a lunatic. It’s not stopping anything, it’s not achieving anything in itself… it’s just the behaviour of a homicidal maniac. You can’t really dial that back to “morally ambiguous” in the later chapters, and the effect is just weird.

Bring on the comments

  1. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    This was all over the place, tonally. Especially with Sauron in full-on ‘I want to turn people into dinosaurs’-meme mode.

    I wonder who’ll write the next story with Deadpool and Juggernaut. It would be nice if Nicieza’s Juggernaut mini was taken into account.

  2. Chris V says:

    I guess, to be fair, the Immortal Hulk comic did have Hulk addressing the subject by saying that Krakoa was producing clean biotech, which he saw as hope for the future.
    It’s not exactly the level of terraforming a planet, granted.

    It’s always been a problem with the X-Men though, since after the introduction of Storm.
    If mutants want acceptance, maybe having Storm do more to control the weather in a hopeful manner might have been a great start.
    Instead of using her powers to call lightning or a blizzard to stop an evil mutant (which is probably going to make humans even more fearful); maybe if she went to where there was going to be a hurricane or other inclement weather and stopped the damage, it would help make humans feel more positive about mutants.

  3. wwk5d says:

    “But Krakoa doesn’t agree, so the island (and Cypher) set them free”

    So being sent to the Hole as a threat is meaningless so long as Krakoa and Cypher really like you?

  4. Ceries says:

    I love this for how absurd and insane it is. Duggan genuinely seems to think he presented budding ecofascist murderer Nature Girl as a sympathetic character.

  5. MasterMahan says:

    It feels like there were two different stories here: a tragedy where a young girl’s powers are driving her insane and a comedy where people laugh at Sauron’s hands and a little girl gives Xavier a leg cramp. They’ve been Frankensteined together and now neither work.

  6. Si says:

    I don’t think Nature Girl is meant to be sympathetic at all. Her cause is sympathetic, but we have multiple characters and her own subconscious repeatedly telling her she’s on the wrong path. And there’s Wolverine, who is very connected to nature himself, as the counterbalance, telling her she smells like a beast. She’s the bad guy. Interestingly, from her point of view she’s talking to animals and they’re offering to help, but from Wolverine’s point of view she’s controlling them. I think it’s deliberately ambiguous whether the bear retreats because she’s out of range, or if it’s because it delayed Wolverine long enough and its job is done. It would certainly be ironic if she was killing enslaved animals in the name of animal rights.

    The infinity comics are almost all absolute rubbish. There’s a couple that are worth reading because they’re there. This is the only one I’ve actually enjoyed and looked forward to reading the next issue. This and the Deadpool/Invisible Woman one (and I don’t like Deadpool). It does feel like an early draft though. It makes me wonder what the contract arrangements are for these. The art is usually nice but the writing is uniformly rough to nonsensical. It would not be a good way to display one’s product, if the writers are told their work doesn’t matter so don’t waste any A material on it.

    As for stopping climate change, in this comic it is stated outright that mutants have Mars now, so why should they care about climate change on Earth. It’s just Nature Girl and Krakoa itself who have no planet B. But there was that one scene in Marauders where Iceman refreezes a section of the Arctic (presumably instantly killing thousands of plants and animals in the area). I actually liked Storm better when she couldn’t end a drought, because any rain she made would be drawn from another area that also needed it. There were problems with that, but it did answer the question nicely enough. Now she apparently creates weather like Thor and could feed the world if she wanted. She just doesn’t.

    This post is probably longer than the comic itself at this point, so I’ll just finish by saying how much I like Curse. She’s enormous fun, and I’d love to see her in a comic that could treat her with more nuance.

  7. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    I’m keeping an eye on the Infinity comics. Jay Edidin’s Captain America story was good and the first Shang-Chi comic was surprisingly decent (great art, too). But now they’re just cutting up the recent Gene Luen Yang Shang-Chi comic and serving it up as an Infinity comic, which I don’t get at all.

    Anyway, It’s Jeff is consistently the best of the bunch.

  8. Si says:

    Oh yeah. I retract my statement about all the Infinity comics being bad. Captain America was okay, kind of heavy-handed but decent enough. It’s Jeff leaves me cold personally, but that’s okay.

  9. Uncanny X-Ben says:

    I still don’t know who thought “You know comics are fine and all, but wouldn’t they be better if you had to read them like a Dead Sea Scroll?”

    Haven’t mutants spent this while time (other than the last six months on Krakoa) polluting just as much as the other humans do? Were all those Danger Room saws and lasers made from recycled materials?


    Si- Storm is a prime example of a powerful hero with interesting limitations who’s had all the limitations removed. And made much less interesting as a result. I’ll never understand the fandoms desire to make everyone uber powerful gods.

    A smart good guy Banner Hulk sucks all the fun out of the Hulk. He becomes any old superhero, just crazy unfun powerful.

  10. Uncanny X-Ben says:

    Well now I’m reading It’s Jeff and I absolutely love it.

    That art is gorgeous cartooning.

    I wish it was an actual comic I could buy for my nephew, he’d love it.

  11. K says:

    Actually, we know exactly who thought comics would “be better if you had to read them like a Dead Sea Scroll”:

    It was Scott McCloud, in Reinventing Comics, over 20 years ago.

    (The bad thing about ideas before their time is you don’t get credit for them; the good thing about ideas before their time is you don’t get blamed for them either.)

  12. Omar Karindu says:

    As for stopping climate change, in this comic it is stated outright that mutants have Mars now, so why should they care about climate change on Earth.

    “The X-Men adopt Elon Musk’s response to global warming” was not a direction I would have predicted for the line.

  13. Rodrax says:

    We as fans need to raise our voices and bring our displeasure to the writers who are telling bad stories, today with Duggan. Tomorrow with Jason Aaron and his terrible Avengers. We fans have shown before that we can stop bad ideas, before or during their creative process

  14. CitizenBane says:

    Guggenheim’s X-Men had a story where a guy whose mutant powers suddenly manifested and killed a bunch of people in his neighborhood was accosted in the hospital by Kitty Pryde, who gave him this speech demanding that he sign up for her mutant paramilitary, and all the while the poor bastard is having the normal reaction of hyperventilating about the innocent people he killed. Kitty doesn’t care; dead humans are just background fluff in the magical act of a mutant blossoming into his true self.

    For a long time now, the central problem of the “oppressed minority” metaphor vis-a-vis mutants is that everything the enemies of mutantkind say about them is true – they’re a bunch of murderous sociopaths who believe they have a destiny to rule over the cattle and treat them as they see fit.

  15. Chris V says:

    I remember that issue. It was such horrible writing.
    Kitty was portraying the doctor as a bigot because he felt it was unsafe to treat the mutant patient in the hospital when his uncontrollable powers could have killed everyone else in the hospital.
    I wanted the surprise ending to be that the mutant did end up killing everyone in the hospital, including Kitty.

    Guggenheim’s run read as a slyly subversive inversion of the typical mutant metaphor.
    I think I am giving it far too much credit though and that was never Guggenheim’s intent.

    Which is maybe something Hickman noticed in the concept which led to his decision of jettisoning that aspect of the mutant franchise and playing up other aspects from the Lee/Kirby days, by positioning mutants as a separate species rather than a ponderous metaphor.
    Something then pushed against by most of the other creators working on the X-books who wanted to drag the characters back to representing “oppressed minorities”.

  16. Si says:

    Just once I’d like to see a story of a happy, loved kid having an uncontrolled first manifestation of their powers, which gives their whole block an overwhelming feeling of peace, or it heals everyone’s ailments or something. Their parents are thrust into financial security.

  17. Evilgus says:

    “Their parents are thrust into financial security.” Haha!! I like this story idea 🙂

    Re:Storm. How incredibly dull she is as the unbeatable Queen of Mars. Again appears to be panel filler, constantly beating down all challengers. Where’s the actual development, or jeopardy? She should be as front and centre as Jean or Emma. It’s such a shame.

    Re:Nature Girl, I also like the idea that she thinks she’s talking to animals, when in fact she’s controlling them. The synopsis of this plot with Curse could have been interesting in a main book; all the young mutants getting up in arms that one of their own being sent to the pit. The fact Nature Girl got rescued suddenly massively reduces the threat too and undercuts the concept.

    Next out, Sabertooth, and all other story opportunities. Throw more beloved characters in the pit, dammit!!

  18. Suzene says:

    Honestly, Nature Girl controlling animals when she thinks she’s just talking to them would make the character the most palatable she’s ever been, imo. I really dislike when writers create nature-oriented characters who don’t even seem to entertain the notion that the best thing they can do for nature is leave it alone – especially the wildlife, as running errands for random humans actively takes away from reserves they need for their own survival. Having a sheltered teenage nature-character actually having a shallow, Disney princess understanding of nature (as opposed to that being depicted a positive, logical endpoint of a connection to nature) would be refreshing. Though, somehow, I suspect we’re not going to get that.

  19. […] O’Brien reviews the odd morals of Gerry Duggan, Emilio Laiso, et al’s X-Men Unlimited Infinity Comics #5-12; and the superfluous plot of Rob Liefeld, Chad Bowers, Bryan Valenza, et al’s X-Force: […]

  20. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    Oh, cool, the new Unlimited story is by Nicieza and it starts as a direct follow-up to his Juggernaut mini.

    And considering Juggs and Deadpool are both on the Destiny of X teaser, it might being them both to Krakoa. Or not, we’ll see. I’m just glad Cain’s new deal isn’t forgotten just yet.

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