All-New X-Men: Should They Stay Or Should They Go?
When Marvel announced the concept of All-New X-Men, we were sceptical. A comic book about the original teenage X-Men in the present-day Marvel Universe felt like a crazy idea for a miniseries, much less an ongoing. Yet Brian Michael Bendis and Stuart Immonen won us over; All-New X-Men is solid entertainment, earning a spot in ComicsAlliance's list of the Best Comic Books of 2013.
And yet, 15 months and 24 issues later, Marvel Girl, Beast, Iceman, Cyclops and Angel are still with us, and we're still kind of waiting for the other shoe to drop. Is this really the new status quo? Is it really sustainable to have two different versions of so many major characters rocking around the Marvel Universe?
We think it would be a lot simpler if there weren't two versions of these characters running around. As it stands, the teen heroes can't go back to their own time, because, reasons. At some point that can be fixed by a wizard or a Cosmic Cube, but we don't necessarily want to lose the teen versions. In some cases, we'd rather lose the current versions and keep the teenagers.
Let's take them case by case.
Who he was: The teenage Warren Worthington III was a handsome rich white boy who, horror of horrors, was cursed with be-yoo-tiful wings that allowed him to fly. Oh, but how could any girl ever love a hot rich guy with giant wings!? What a world, what a world.
When Angel first appeared on the scene, flying was a big deal. Iron Man, Johnny Storm, and Wasp could fly, and Thor could pretend to fly if he threw his hammer and forgot to let go. But the air above the Marvel Earth was pretty rarefied. That wouldn't last.
Who he is: Modern Warren Worthington III is a changed man. Changed and changed back, actually. As other, cooler flying heroes took to the air, Angel got a makeover. He lost his wings, "died," and was reinvented as Archangel, a blue-skinned dude with murderous metal wings that could discharge razor-edged feathers. Suddenly he was Wolverwing.
Worthington eventually got his old wings back, and picked up the problematic power to miraculously heal people with his blood. Then he went back and forth between fluffy feathers and psycho blades for a while until he died again and got rebooted.
Who we'd keep: The Angel/Archangel duality has probably been done enough times now, but all it's left us with is a flat amnesiac version of Angel who isn't much different to the teen version -- except the teen version has more personality and stronger relationships. It's time for Modern Angelto make one last heroic sacrifice and clear the stage. Teen Angel can stick around and try to convince us that his powers aren't super-lame, and we can all quietly forget about the healing blood nonsense.
Who he was: Bobby Drake, the youngest member of the X-Men, was a goofball in snowman drag with the power to create ice. Teen Bobby never took anything seriously, so it seemed unlikely he would ever discover his true elemental potential.
Who he is: Iceman has changed the least since his early days. He's never died or turned evil (though he was briefly an accountant); he's had few great romances and fewer tragedies; and he only changed his underpants because he stopped wearing any. This is a guy so resistant to change that he always serves on teams with other original X-Men, even when he's not in the X-Men.
But his powers have developed, mainly because Emma Frost once took a joyride in his body and pushed it to its limits. Nowadays Bobby has a better understanding of his ice-control powers, but he was still shocked to meet a future version of himself that was basically an ice mage. Wizard Iceman was so good, one of his Ice Hulks wandered off and became autonomous. He could probably build another Teen Iceman in his sleep.
Who we'd keep: It's fair to say that even Modern Iceman hasn't quite discovered his full potential. If we replaced him with Teen Iceman we'd just be skipping back to the start of a story when we were already halfway through. Send Teen Bobby back to his own time; let's keep the goofball we've got.
Who he was: A really big and brainy college jock. Hank McCoy was, on paper, the least interesting of the original X-Men, because his powers were the least spectacular. He just looked like a football player with big feet.
Who he is: Beast has been through more changes than anyone. He used weird science to turn himself gray and hairy, then blue and hairy, and then became a cat and now he's... a gorilla, maybe? He sort of re-evolves between comics these days.
But whatever he looks like, Modern Beast is an elder statesman of the Marvel Universe. He's one of the big brains, a respected X-Man and Avenger, and Charles Xavier's replacement in the secretive tree house boy's club the Illuminati. Yet even being smart doesn't stop him doing dumb stuff, like, say, travelling back in time and bringing the original X-Men into the present day. That's one time he really blue it.
Who we'd keep: Beast is used to having another version of himself running around and apparently it doesn't bother him much. Dark Beast, his evil doppelgänger from another timeline, has been hanging about and blackening his name for almost 20 years now.
So it wouldn't be a surprise if both Beasts stuck around, one a young superhero and the other an elder scientist. But three Beasts feels like two too many, so if we were going to whittle it down, let's keep the one with the blue fur. He's an important figurehead in a world without Charles Xavier. He's also fun to draw.
Who he was: A young idealist who just wanted to make a difference, gosh darn it -- and I'm sorry for the blue language there, ma'am -- Scott Summers was a good old-fashioned boy scout who was the first in his squad to earn both his "suck-up" badge and his "shooting concussive force beams out of his eyes" badge. He was the son that Charles Xavier never had (Charles was too busy trying to bang his housekeeper and all his female students to start a family) and the man most likely to pursue Xavier's dream of peaceful harmony between man and mutant if ol' Charlie ever died. Or, you know, ever stayed dead.
Who he is: A terrorist. Hey, watch your head, heavy load of dramatic irony coming through. Cyclops, the perennial goody-two-shoes, tried to reinvent himself as a rebel rock star when the mutant race was pushed to the verge of extinction. And what do you get when a goody-two-shoes tries to become a rock star? A sanctimonious evangelical. Hooray? After a brief stint as a murderous god, Cyclops is now fully committed to a path of guerrilla extremism.
Who we'd keep: The recent announcement of an ongoing series starring the younger Cyclops, by Greg Rucka and Russell Dauterman, suggests that the kid version is here to stay. That's fine with us. The modern version is damaged goods, and it's time he followed his beloved Jean into the statue garden at the Xavier School.
Now, sure, it wasn't Cyclops's fault that he killed Charles Xavier while under the influence of the Dark Phoenix. But he's still the creep who abandoned his wife and child to get back with his ex, cheated on her with her former tormentor, and now recruited the teenage version of her to serve under his current girlfriend.
Teen Cyclops doesn't have all that baggage. He can learn from his older self's mistakes and take a different, less gross path, and maybe become the cool version of the character that Cyclops's fans are always telling me he can be. To me, that's the most interesting story that could come out of this time travel kerfuffle.
So, let's kill Cyclops.
Who she was: Xavier's favourite student (the old perv), Jean Grey had the power to move objects with her mind - like, say, a book. She was the weakest of the original X-Men. But her potential was extraordinary.
Who she is: A dead person.
Jean Grey died in Jamaica Bay, was reborn as the incredibly-powerful Phoenix (sorta), went evil and destroyed some planets, died again, came back again, and after several years of not dying, died again at the hands of a Magneto impersonator. (Like a Cher impersonator, but deadly.) Now Jean is dead-dead. Not just superhero dead, but properly dead. Never-coming-back-dead. You know; Bucky dead.
And just to double down on that, the future version of the teen version of Jean is also dead. She's all kinds of dead!
Who we'd keep: Let's keep Alive Jean! Let's see how long she can stay not-dead. It's an experiment.
Teen Jean has a similar story to Cyclops, in that she has a clear fate that she needs to try to avoid, but her fate is tied to her powers and her affinity to the Phoenix Force, so she has a tougher challenge. He needs to avoid being gross and preachy; she needs to avoid destroying the universe.
Having Teen Jean stick around is a tidy way to reintroduce the character without bringing her back from the dead again. It also allows both her and Teen Cyclops to reset the clock on their romance and explore other options. With X-23 around, Bendis is already re-exploring the classic Jean-Scott-Logan love triangle with a twist.
Was this the plan from the start, to bring back Jean without undoing another death? We don't know what Marvel intended, or even if they actually had a long-term plan for these characters. We could probably ask, but it's actually Marvel's job to not tell us what's going to happen. That's what the stories on the page are for.
If Jean was indeed the endgame, the opportunity to replace the worn-out versions of Cyclops and Angel would hopefully be an irresistible bonus -- but Beast and Iceman are fine just as they are. Is it actually possible to send some of these characters back and keep the others without irreparably screwing up the Marvel timestream?
Sure. Get a wizard to do it. Or a Cosmic Cube.