Give ‘Em Elle: Fantasy Booking the X-Men [Mutant Week]
Welcome to Give ‘Em Elle, a weekly column that hopes to bridge the gap between old school comics fandom and the progressive edge of comics culture. This is Mutant Week at ComicsAlliance, to mark the release of the movie X-Men: Apocalypse and our upcoming countdown of the top 100 X-Men, and if you know me, you probably know that I spend a lot of my time thinking about the X-Men.
In fact, I solicited X-Men questions on twitter, and I got several about what I think an X-Men book should focus on, how I would revamp an ancillary X-book, or what I would do if put in charge of the X-Men line. So I’ve decided to be a little self-indulgent, and explore where I would take the X-Men line if it were up to me. I think this is worthwhile not because it will ever happen (it won’t), but because it’s a way to get right to the heart of what I think is important about the X-Men. So let’s do this: Let’s fantasy book the X-Men.
A few caveats before I begin: First, I’m not going to name creative teams here. I would end up naming people I know personally, and that wouldn’t feel very appropriate, so I’m just avoiding it altogether. Second, I’m basically ignoring current continuity. Trying to get from what’s happening in the comics now to my ideal X-Men line would quickly become, “Here’s how I’d get rid of the Terrigen Mist problem,” and that’s not something I’m interesting in spending column space on. I will go ahead and say that I like the All-New X-Men concept, so I’d leave that basically as-is (except I’d add Teen Jean Grey back in).
The first book we need is an X-Men-as-superheroes title. Let’s call it Uncanny X-Men (seems almost too obvious, right?). The team will be Storm, Nightcrawler, Colossus, Wolverine (Laura Kinney), Rogue, Cannonball, Monet, and Jubilee. This is a team that ‘s put together specifically to go out into the world and be heroes --- to protect humanity and mutantkind from all threats (and ideally to get some of that good superhero press). S
torm is the leader, obviously. Cannonball’s here because he has those classic superhero ideals, Monet because she’s criminally underused, and Jubilee because I miss her as the X-Men’s wisecracking kid member. As I’ve said before, my ideal would be to revert her status quo to plasma powers/non-vampire/no baby, but I can be flexible on that. Nightcrawler, Colossus, Rogue, and Wolverine are here because it just feels more like a classic X-Men lineup with them around.
The second essential book is one that focuses on the school. You could go different ways with the title, but I like the idea of splitting the difference and calling it X-Men: New Mutants. The Jean Grey School will be run by two co-headmistresses: Emma Frost and Kitty Pryde. They’re two of my favorite characters, and they hate each other, which is always fun.
The other main faculty members featured will be the Beast, Magik, Rachel Grey, Doug Ramsey, and Warlock. Also, there will obviously be a large cast of students, including Idie, Evan, Armor, Broo, Shark Girl, the Stepford Cuckoos, Hellion, Pixie, and Eye Boy. The book will mostly tell stories that take place on the school grounds (with occasional field trips), but between the chaos that comes from having a super-powered teenage student body, and various enemies showing up at the doorstep, there will be no shortage of action.
I think an X-Force book is also a good thing to have. Especially since the Uncanny X-Men book I described above is all about being well-regarded super-heroes, it makes sense to have a less respectable group operating in the shadows to balance that. Cable can be the leader because it feels more like X-Force with him around. The rest of the team would be Domino, Boom Boom, Warpath, Frenzy, Psylocke, Quentin Quire and Dr. Nemesis. I think joining this sort of team is a step that makes sense for Quentin Quire, but that doesn’t mean he’ll get along any better with Cable than he does with any other authority figure. I like the idea of an X-Force that’s not just about being willing to shoot people, but one that exists at the radical edge of mutant politics.
The fourth and final book in my X-Men line is also going to be the controversial one. Let’s call it Amazing X-Men. The members are Iceman, Karma, Northstar, Anole, Bling, and Graymalkin. Yes, this is the all-queer X-Men team. My hook for how the team gets together is that Iceman assembles a squad for some specific purpose, and picks all the queer mutants because he’s trying to gain a greater sense of community, being someone who took so long to come out. The rest of the team basically takes pity on him and stays together in the hopes of helping him become more comfortable with himself. So Iceman’s the leader when it comes to fighting supervillains, but he’s also the one with the most learning to do. The seventh member of the team would have to be a new character, a young transgender mutant who will be introduced in the first storyline, because it’s ridiculous that there haven’t been any so far.
I know some people will think it’s tokenizing or just silly to put a bunch of queer X-Men on one team together, but I really feel it could work. The X-Men have a huge fanbase among the LGBTQ community, and I’m betting that the majority of straight X-Men fans are progressive enough to pick up this book too. And here’s the thing: X-Men comics have been using mutants to metaphorically talk about oppressed identities for decades, and in recent years the metaphor has often been pretty directly related to queer people. So it’s time for the franchise to put its metaphorical money where its mouth is: If you’re going to tell queer X-Men stories, tell some queer X-Men stories.
So that’s my ideal X-Men line: Uncanny X-Men, X-Men: New Mutants, Amazing X-Men, and X-Force. As I said at the outset, I think the All-New X-Men concept totally works, and I wouldn’t object to that book existing as well. And there’s always room for an X-Factor Investigations book, although I haven’t read a lot of those comics, so I’m not going to try to speak about who should be on that team and what it should look like.
If there are going to be multiple X-Men books (and despite the fears of fans, it seems likely that there always will be), they should each come at the concept from a different angle. That’s what I’ve tried to do here: Uncanny is a book about superheroes. New Mutants is a book about a school. Amazing is a book about being different. And of course X-Force is a book about X-Force, because that’s its own thing.
These comics (probably all comics) are stronger when there's an idea at the core: something the book is about besides "please buy this book." But obviously this is just my view as a fan and commentator. I'm sure your ideal X-Men line would be different, and chances are Marvel's is different from either of ours. But just because we enjoy what we have doesn't mean we shouldn't imagine what could be. If nothing else, it's a good way to understand what's important to us, and why.
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