This column is intended to be the first of many “How To Fix” topics. That said, it is my solemn vow that I will only cover topics that I feel I know enough about to fully grasp (meaning it will mostly be about comics) and can make cohesive arguments on. The first topic in this series will be The X-Men. Though the X-Men are one of the top selling concepts in all of comic book fiction, they have (and have had) many flaws that hinder the concept in reaching its full potential. It is because of this that I have taken the liberty of summarizing the 5 biggest problems in X-Men lore.
5. Time Travel- While I can’t criticize the tendency of X-Men writers to experiment with stories of a mutant future, I do take issue when characters arrive from the future. The concept of a paramilitary group of political activists defending the public from terrorism is strong enough to carry any series forever. Changes of location, specific threat and political relevance are you really need to keep the plot moving. While characters like Cable and Bishop have had interesting storylines over the years (i.e. Soldier X and District X respectively), they seem to do better when pulled out of direct contact with the prime X teams. While I am rarely supportive of removing characters from the ever expanding stories of either major Comic Book universe, I think these characters should be relocated to their own little corners of the Marvel U.
4. Space- Ahhh, the Shi’Ar, never has a race of bird people from outer space tortured a group of genetic freaks more. More so, without the Shi’Ar we would have never known that Cyclops’ father was an intergalactic space pirate. That is reason enough for the Shi’Ar to never have existed. Quite frankly (Frank Quitely), Grant Morrison did the right thing in his New X-Men by taking the time to write a story in which the Shi’Ar could be removed from X-Men stories without removing them from continuity. Out there in space, the Shi’Ar could have fowled it up (get it, fowl, they’re bird people) to their heart’s content with Drax and Nova. That was until Ed Brubaker brought them back, a move I will never understand. As with the time travelers, these aliens can be interesting but ultimately serve little purpose in perfecting the X-Men concept.
3. Storm- I love comic books, and with rare exception, I believe that most characters serve a genuine philosophical role in their stories. Storm is one of those rare exceptions. If Magneto pushes the boundaries on how powerful a mutant can be, Storm smashes and pisses on them. Storm can control all weather. ALL WEATHER. I don’t care if she’s afraid of being trapped in a box, she rarely is and because of that she should be essentially unstoppable. If Storm is on the X-Men, it basically means that no one short of a celestial would ever go near Xavier’s School, eliminating the types of stories that should be found in an X book. It seems that many writers have shared this opinion and have tried to either move Storm a bit outside of the normal stories or even de-power her. I support the prior, but even that has not been too successful.
2. M-Day- The words “No More Mutants” still ring through my ears. In House of M, Brian Bendis decided that there were too many mutants running around the Marvel U., and that removing them would make X-Men comics more interesting. He was completely wrong. The entire concept of X-Men relies on the fact that the births of mutants are on the rise throughout the world. By limiting the amount of living mutants to just under 200, you create a population that would not even be recognized in a world where radio-active spider men and super soldiers run around the streets everyday. It completely undermines all of the political aspects of the book since that few would even bother to persecute them. Even with a few thousand mutants in the world, very few humans would have direct contact with any powered being. Not only that, but some of the de-powered mutants like The Blob and Jubilee were popular and useful characters to the basic storyline. While I often disagree with other readers, I acknowledge that you are constantly playing with sacred material if you are writing a long running comic. Making such a sweeping decision can backfire easily. While the more politicized X-Men was made clear to work in New X-Men, something like this was a sweeping change that simply had no footing in the series history.
1. The X-Men are not Superheroes- Okay, some of you are pissed off now, so let me get this out of the way. The X-Men should not wear spandex or have frequent team ups. The X-Men are a politically motivated, paramilitary group who intimidate their opposition. X-Men stories should always be played off the fact that though we, the readers, know that the X-Men are good and would go to great lengths to save both mutants and humans, the public in the Marvel U. sees them as a group of radicals who have the resources to wage war on society. The fear part of “feared and hated” is justified. Let me remind you who some of the X-Men are. They are led by a psychic who has created a computer to monitor all of his race’s activity. Under him is his greatest disciple who cannot control his ability to blow holes in mountains, an immortal soldier with 12” blades that pop out of his hands, another powerful psychic who occasionally goes insane, a guy who looks like the devil and can disappear at will, a giant ex-terrorist who has metal skin and a girl who can take all of your energy. That’s just 7 of them. I admit that I did like Whedon’s take on this topic, that The X-Men fake being superheroes to gain public support, but I don’t think it’s the best way to go. I am patiently awaiting the day that I look at a cover and see the X-Men once again dressed in black leather jackets on their way to smash some terrorist plot and to never be recognized for it.