So the big upshot of Avengers Vs X-Men was that the teams decided to integrate more, which has led to some New Mutants in the Avengers, Beast in the New Avengers, and several others in the Uncanny Avengers. But it’s been interesting to see that despite this new “integrated” approach, the two franchises are still chalk and cheese.
Rather than two franchises that work together, there’s this strange feeling like the Avengers are being set up as the parents whilst the X-Men act like unruly kids. Marvel have arranged their universe with the Avengers representing concerned parents who do their best to make sure the X-Men stay in line and remain safe – but all the while the X-Men run off, spray graffiti on walls and break curfew. It’s really strange because it makes the X-Men feel inherently cool, while the Avengers seem stuffy.
It probably doesn’t help that Rick Remender’s choices for the Uncanny Avengers team, the most prominent example of the new Marvel Now arrangement, are really rather terrible. It’s already been noted that it perhaps wasn’t the best idea to have the first villain be a Nazi when three of your six-team members are Aryan, so I’ll ignore that for the moment.
One thing that can’t be ignored, however, is just how conflicted and amoral a message is being sent out by the book at every point. Whilst X-Men titles like X-Men Legacy, Uncanny X-Men or Astonishing X-Men all take the crucial central allegory of mutants as minorities and deal with it in contemporary, progressive ways … Uncanny Avengers almost reads like an active attack on the concept of mutancy.
There’s a quote from an interview Remender gave recently, in which he talked about his approach to Havok:
“To Alex, mutant is the M word. It's divisive and it causes segregation. It makes people see mutants as something different. So he won't be called a mutant. He'll punch you in the nose if you call him a mutant. It's the M word”
Take out the word mutant in that paragraph and replace it with African-American, or gay, or transsexual or even female. Congratulations! Now you’re looking at a massively offensive statement. Remender’s decision in the book hasn’t been to look at a different element of persecution or anything like that – it’s been to criticise the victims for being persecuted. And it happens frequently within the title, mainly from Scarlet Witch. Bizarrely, Remender seems to be trying to paint Wanda as a moral voice who isn’t ashamed of her decision to, y’know, genocide a species. At the same time, he’s trying to make it seem like Rogue – the only character to question the team, and Wanda in particular – is wrong for doing so.
And it comes across as the reverse. Despite his best efforts, Rogue comes across as the voice of reason whilst Scarlet Witch sounds like an awful, awful person. Uncanny Avengers is a terrible, overwrought piece of melodrama, and is by far the least successful of the Marvel Now launches. Not just because John Cassaday’s artwork has been an overdue disaster, but because the writing has been dreadful, and the overall message of the book is dire.
On the other hand, Brian Michael Bendis has been on-point and incredibly sharp during his first few months guiding the X-Titles. His story is not something I find particularly interesting, but his character work is the most incisive and separated that it’s been in years. The characters have different voices, and utilise the patented “Bendis speak” style in separated ways. There’s every hint that All-New X-Men and Uncanny X-Men are heading into a fairly boring future where there’s going to be three different schools, and the schools fight incessantly, but there’s also a lot of characterisation in the books, which helps push that concern firmly to one side.
One thing that’s miraculous is the way in which Bendis has been able to make readers forget the glaring problems with his narrative. Rather than wonder about how the time travelling works, we’re instead so invested in the characters that the plotting gets pushed to one side. He’s also being helped by some exceptional artists in Stuart Immonen, David Marquez and Chris Bachalo – the latter of which is delivering some of his most organised, coherent artwork in a while.
There are some problems with his writing, and All-New has shown some signs of flagging now it’s past the opening arc (which essentially just repeated the pitch Bendis used to get the book in the first place), but Bendis on the X-Men is doing surprisingly well. He has an idea for them, and he’s going through with it rather decently.
The ongoing X-Men story as a whole seems to be leading us to a place where there are three schools, as I said. One of them is Cyclops’ team and the other is Wolverine’s school. The third is Mystique’s school, which is being set up in the Wolverine & The X-Men book. I’ve written about my dislike for Jason Aaron’s title before, which seems to be butchering characters in favour of cheap laughs and supremely iffy romances. But one other thing which has come to my attention is that Aaron is sidelining the mutants who look “different” and putting them all in Mystique’s team. Rather than mix things up, we’re heading towards a fight where we root for all the pretty characters and boo all the ones who look different.
Again, there’s a notable failing in the central message of that, and I’m keeping an eye on that storyline closely.
X-Treme X-Men and Age of Apocalypse are not long for this world, and both Greg Pak and David Lapham are very quickly wrapping up the ongoing stories – with relative success, I might add. They were set in a different dimension, and Marvel has spent the last six years telling readers that only “important” stories matter. It’s impressive the books both lasted as long as they did and a credit to the X-Office.
In the 616, however, that idea of the mutants as unruly kids is repeatedly being played out. Legion refuses to cooperate with anybody over in X-Men Legacy, Cyclops is off causing trouble in Uncanny X-Men, Cable is going on a crime spree, and Psylocke keeps swearing at Captain America. This is becoming a rather entertaining running joke amongst the X-Books, really, with characters lining up to take shots at Iron Man and Hawkeye. It’s establishing an idea that the X-Men are the characters all the rebellious fans should follow, whilst the Avengers represent the conservative establishment, who don’t understand the general public and live in mansion.
The Avengers have always been the higher-class ones with a butler, mansion and robots. The X-Men have always been a struggling working-class school, filled with diverse and challenging students. But now Marvel are trying to push the two classes together, we’re seeing an all-out class war break out with the writers gleefully cheering on both sides. It
’s an exceptionally entertaining sideshow, even if it’s not what Marvel actually wanted us to take from Marvel Now.
I haven’t really talked about which books were good in February – this seemed more interesting to discuss. Hope you enjoyed it!
- Uncanny X-Men
- X-Men Legacy
- Cable & X-Force
- Uncanny X-Force