I had a conversation on Twitter the other night highlighting for me that I should never, ever review X-Men comics in public.
This isn’t because I’m overly harsh, or because I’m slavishly adoring. It isn’t because I don’t know what I’m talking about. It’s merely that, after twenty-five years with these characters, I am no longer reading X-Men comics and their ilk as stories created by other people.
I am reading letters from my oldest friends.
I read most of the comics I buy. I read stories about Iron Man, the Avengers, I read comics about Black Canary and Batgirl. I read Terry Moore’s work, I read Ted Naifeh’s. But when I open an X-Men comic I am not really reading it, not like the coherent work of fiction it is. I skim it, looking for the characters I love best, reading up on what’s going on in their lives.
To wit, I forgot about a fight between two characters that takes place in Wolverine and the X-Men approximately six seconds after I closed the book, because I had been catching up with Rachel, and finding out how AvX was affecting her life.
I read and mostly enjoy the majority of Marvel’s Big Crossover Events. I have found that, over the last ten years or so, there has been some effort to balance narrative consequences against the demands of the market in superhero comics, and I appreciate that. But I have no distance, no way of looking at the current crossover, Avengers vs. X-Men, because, well, it involves X-Men. It involves all the characters I first wanted to date. These are my ex-girlfriends we’re discussing, you understand. I don’t really care at all what Thor is doing — and I like Thor, I truly do — as long as the Phoenix is involved.
When it comes to X-Men I’m that person who hears a tornado has unexpectedly struck Los Angeles and who calls her one friend in California to see if she’s okay. Sure, maybe the rest of the city is on fire, that’s really shocking and sad. But how is Rogue doing, is what I want to know.
I have no data on whether AvX is a good event or not. (I will argue that Fear Itself was pretty good in the main title, and variable in the collateral books. Civil War was pretty variable throughout. I really liked Secret Invasion in the main books, and found the extra titles confusing. I do have opinions on these things, if it’s not an X-Men event.) All I am watching in this crossover event is a limited cast of about twenty favorite characters, and how this is going to affect their personal lives and relationships with each other when it’s all over.
All of which leads me to a conclusion. Namely, if I feel that an X-Men comic is written for me all me it’s perfect and it’s mine then … I kinda wonder what audience the title is supposed to have. Surely I am not Marvel’s main X-Men demographic. I know this is not true. Therefore I am pleased and relieved when there are parts of the comics that don’t appeal to me. I am pleased and relieved when a storyline focuses on a character I care less about. I revel in the stories that are about my favorites, of course. But that can’t be all the X-Men ever is.
I can’t decide if this is a rational approach to X-Men fandom, or the internalization of my marginalization.
Either way, it makes me a happier X-Men fan. I read the stories I want to read, I ignore all the rest.
End notes that don’t fit elsewhere into this post:
SPOILERS FOR AVX FOLLOW.
1. Storylines I always ignore and immediately wipe from my brain include ALL super-fast demonic/alien/whatever pregnancies. They are cheap and demeaning to everyone. EXCEPTION: Peter David is making me reconsider my stance on this, over in X-Factor. He seems to actually care how the people involved might feel afterwards.
2. I was trying to figure out how old the New Mutants are supposed to be now. When they were introduced, Sam was eighteen, so was Dani, Berto and Xian were, what, fifteen? And Rahne was thirteen. So there is an unchangeable five year age difference between Rahne and Dani. So, if Rahne is, what, twenty? Dani is twenty-five? But I thought Sam was being written older than that? And that makes Roberto twenty-three, and how old was he when he took over his father’s company? Nineteen? Sheesh.
3. I find the fact that Rachel has not up and slapped some people for the assertion that the Phoenix is uncontrollable to be mysterious. Yet I can make even this characterization consistent. Also, all Logan vs. Rachel duels are colored for me by the fact that he killed her once, a grudge I hold bitterly to this very day.
4. Who thinks giving Illyana some Phoenix power is a good idea? Anyone? Anyone?
That girl has a personal metric for “reasonable” and “a good idea” that I don’t think anyone else will like.
5. Other storylines I tend to ignore are all of these hero-vs.-hero slugfests. They have, historically, been light on consequences since that would make the Marvel U very different. This is, however, why I LOVED The Initiative and Dark Reign to pieces. I will forgive a non-infinite but large number of massive crossover events I don’t care for because I loved The Initiative and Dark Reign so much.