Is there an X-Men Conspiracy?

Found on Wikipedia

Found on Wikipedia

I’m not sure if “conspiracy” is the best term for it, but it’s catchy, right? The question has been bouncing around, and I really got to reading about it after a link from Cirsova. The question is whether Marvel comics has been suppressing the X-Men and the Fantastic Four, in terms of merchandising and in the comics. The thought on the motivation is mixed, from basic business sense (Marvel isn’t making much on the X-Men and Fantastic Four movies developed by Fox) to far more sinister decisions to undermine these movies and make them fail.

I’m not sure I have the answers, either. Certainly I’m not holding the smoking gun. But for your comics Wednesday enjoyment, I can consider several of the recent series, and what they might mean in terms of the idea of a conspiracy. Sinister motives? Or writing themselves into a corner? The questions I have for you as we consider the X-Men Conspiracy!

The Conspiracy: Merch

I guess I’m not sure which merchandise people are considering, when they talk about there not being any merchandise for non-Marvel-rights-owned characters. Potentially action figures, and I’ve been out of that market a while – though I did see an action figure of Hyperion recently, and that’s one heck of an obscure character, who’s currently an Avenger in the comics.

Funko Pop bobble head Ghost Rider

I bought this guy!

The merchandise we have gotten recently has been Lego: Marvel Superheroes, which was full of characters from throughout Marvel (and the very most powerful ones were Super Skrull, a definite Fantastic Four character, and Phoenix, very much so of the X-Men). That, and we’ve been looking down the dangerous road which is Funko Pop bobble heads, which include a number of Marvel characters (I got Ghost Rider!).

Then again, thinking of the advertising we’ve seen… there’s Disney Infinity, with the Marvel heroes. The only character I have seen for that outside of Marvel Studios movies is Iron Fist. Well, and kind of Nova. But both of those are Marvel Studios-owned as well, I’m pretty sure.

So, what do I think? The merchandising is almost pure money-making business, and you make decisions for that based on where you make the most money. That’s why Disney Infinity (and Skylanders before that) exist in the first place! So are they focusing on their own properties with that. Conspiracy? Or just really obvious business decision-making, being made by sales sorts of people who make business decisions? I say the latter.

The Conspiracy: The Comics

Here’s where it gets much harder. Who knows what’s happening in the writer’s room at Marvel? Well, we all kind of do – well after the fact, when we see the story arcs in their fullness. But the comics about the different teams of heroes, or even about many of the specific heroes, are written by a number of different writers at one time, much less over the course of time!

battle-of-the-atom-1-cover

From my review over on Comparative Geeks.

Here’s some of my thought on this question, from reading the comics. Especially last year’s 50-year anniversary of the X-Men crossover event: “Battle of the Atom.” This crossover included the past – in the form of the All New X-Men, which I’ll get to in a minute – the present X-Men, fractured into two camps, and the future. The future they worked in reminiscent to Days of Future Past, which made sense to me also with the movie on the way…

In this future, there’s some advance for mutant rights. A mutant president is elected! And, at the inauguration, is killed by sentinels.

And really, all I got out of the whole crossover was the thought that, after fifty years of writing, after struggling all that time with rights issues and building the battle between mutants and humans – they never get anywhere. They are still envisioning a future where the mutants are losing.

I guess you look at the news today, and it makes sense for the battle for civil rights to be never ending. It’s hard to pick the day where you look up and say, “it’s over! We’re all equal now!” Still, I would understand how, as a writer, you’d kind of want to go back to the drawing board at that point. Think harder. Approach the issues from new angles.

The event was, overall, depressing and not that great. I wrote more of a review of it here. But even thinking about it through the lens of the conspiracy, I don’t think it’s that. I think it’s 50-year writer’s block.

Alright, that was my focus, let’s do a lightning round of other series and crossover events of the last few years! Then you decide.

  • All New X-Men: This series is all about the original X-Men, brought forward through time travel to the present. It feels, to me, like the way to do a reboot without doing a reboot. It’s also a great way to bring in new readers, which is the point of a reboot, right? Point against conspiracy.
  • The Trial of Jean Grey: This was a recent crossover event, based out of All New X-Men. I haven’t read it, but the idea? Young Jean Grey has been brought forward from the past, and can stand trial for the crimes she will have committed, in lieu of her older self. Logical to me, and a good way to re-hash the Dark Phoenix Saga in a new way. That part still sounds like writer’s block to me. But the crossover? It’s with the Guardians of the Galaxy. Sure, logical, they’re in space. However, they also had a movie coming out later in the year. So was it all just a way to get all the X-Men fans to become Guardians fans and go see the movie? Point for the conspiracy.
  • Uncanny Avengers: This team came out of 2012’s Avengers vs. X-Men crossover, itself I suppose a possible candidate for this list. The plot? The X-Men and Avengers just duked it out across the globe, and to get people on their side again and put their differences aside, they form a “Unity Squad” of Avengers and X-Men, to fight super foes. Super foes who of course end up as the perfect ones for their combined efforts. Their first opponent? The Red Skull, or rather a clone of the Skull, straight from 1945. Last thing he remembers, he was a Nazi and hated Jews. Now he wakes up in the present, and the right sort of folks for a Nazi to hate is mutants. So he does that. I follow. The comic went on to deal with issues from Rick Remender’s Uncanny X-Force, which makes sense as Remender is the writer. And then they had a bunch of dead X-Men and Avengers characters show up. Were they drawing in fans? Or was this a logical continuation of long-term plots for the comics faithful? I think it’s just comics for comics, point against the conspiracy!
  • Axis: Right now, there’s a big crossover event happening rolling out of the pages of Uncanny Avengers. I’m not reading it right now, but it’s involving apparently huge reversals, with the good guys becoming bad, and the bad good, so of course lots of Loki. Conspiracy? I guess I’ll have to read it to know; is this the logical result coming from the very first issues of Uncanny Avengers?
  • New Avengers: I love Jonathan Hickman and his current run on Avengers and New Avengers, but I don’t know if I smell conspiracy just because he’s now writing these titles (he wrote a lot of Fantastic Four and FF) and he’s good. You can tell he used to write FF: the New Avengers prominently feature Mr. Fantastic, and some other characters who have featured prominently in the pages of Fantastic Four over the years, like Namor and the Inhumans. Wait, the Inhumans are getting a movie! Conspiracy? Or the characters Hickman knew and wanted to be working with? I go story with this one.
  • Inhumanity: Spinning out of Hickman’s plot, however, was the event Inhumanity. This event created a whole bunch of new Inhumans (including fan favorite Ms. Marvel so who’s complaining?), and people argue that this is Marvel’s way of creating new super-powered people who aren’t mutants. Yeah… that sounds about right. Before Inhumanity, Kamala would have just been a mutant. She even has a Wolverine team-up. Conspiracy? Maybe. But they’re always trying new angles to create new characters; not so easy to do!
  • The Death of Wolverine: And finally, the Death of Wolverine. Did they maybe really do it? For a while, at least? Did they kill the unkillable man? Yeah, maybe. It let them sell a whole bunch of comics, all sorts of aftermath comics, as every adamantium-laced character got to spend some time musing over Wolverine’s passing. But they’ve been building towards it for years, with Wolverine first having to lose his powers, and having to kind of reference this fact in the fifty or so titles he appears in. So maybe it has to do with the fact that he was a character in half their titles: cut him, and you have to think about things differently. So story, or conspiracy, killing the most popular X-Man? I could go either way on this one.

You can see why I don’t feel like I have the answers: lots of the plots lately make some story sense beyond the idea of locking-out the X-Men and Fantastic Four. Who’s to say? Feel free to weigh in in the comments below!

As a final thought, I find it hard to even see the figures on comics sales. But we know the movies are all making bank, and there’s a lot more planned where these came from! Have the comics become the gold mine for producing future movie plots? That one I find it much harder to answer, and that one is a really big, long-term business decision that deserves a reminder that Disney bought Marvel.

So… maybe.

Nightcrawler by Chris Claremont

Nightcrawler #2

Cover to Nightcrawler #2. The cover art has been some of the best part!

This week, I want to look at the new run of Nightcrawler by Chris Claremont. It makes sense that it’s Claremont writing it – he’s put decades into the character. Of course, that also means you might not expect to see something new from the comic – but instead more of the same.

Then again, more of the same took a lot of work. When I got back into comics, I found out that my favorite character – Nightcrawler – had died. I wrote about some of the signs they gave about potentially bringing him back. And finally, as talked about here on Sourcerer, Nightcrawler came back!

It happens all the time in comics – the dead character comes back. Clones, time travel, alternate dimensions, never dead in the first place… but in Nightcrawler’s case, he actually and fully died. And went to Heaven. And that’s where the X-Men found him – and brought him back from. That’s all chronicled in Amazing X-Men.

So he’s back, and has a solo comic – something actually pretty rare for the blue elf – and has his old creator back at the helm. What are they up to? Why bring Nightcrawler back? A few thoughts on that and on the comic Nightcrawler!

You Can Never Go Home Again

Oh. Except that you can.

That’s where things start in Nightcrawler. Kurt Wagner’s been dead. Ten years or so in outside world time (so who knows how long in the comics…). And he’s back. So what do you do? What would you do?

Cover to Nightcrawler #4

Cover to Nightcrawler #4

He goes looking for old connections, of course. He find Amanda Sefton, his lifelong companion and often lover. That leads them away to their old home, the circus that Nightcrawler was so quick to remind everyone of in X-2. There he is: back home again. The people are still there, and he knows them, but they don’t believe he’s back alive, and it’s full of laughs and happy. And action. And lots of teleporting.

From there, back to the X-Men, where Nightcrawler has to find a home back among his brethren, in a landscape that has changed quite a bit. New school, new headmaster (Wolverine?), and lots of new students.

Oh, and more swashbuckling and teleporting. They definitely know their audience!

It’s 7 issues in so far, and honestly, I don’t know what I think. It feels like a nostalgia ride, like a last hurrah, like a pet project and labor of love for Claremont. It’s some pretty obvious sorts of things that Kurt does once he’s back, some pretty normal sorts of adjustments. And by normal, I mean I’ve seen Buffy: the Vampire Slayer season 6. He was in Heaven!…

But can the comic be more than that? The thing I maybe have to compare it to most is the older run of Nightcrawler, a 12-comic run from before Kurt died. In it, he’s not going around fighting at every chance. He’s investigating a mystery – the sort that seems to follow him around. Demons and magic. Sure, there’s been magic in the new comic, but that older comic had some real twists and was a lot of fun. This is just a stroll down memory lane so far… once that’s done, will it become more? Or will it end, like a lot of one-character comics do?

Nightcrawler (2004-2005) #8

Cover to #8 of the 2004-2005 12-issue Nighcrawler

I have a theory (it could be bunnies! oh, no, not Buffy, sorry), and it has to do with the most recent issue. Continue reading

Marvel’s New Captain America

Last week I reviewed the introduction of the new female Thor in the comics. I tried to focus on the comic, but that devolved rather a lot to talking about other comics. So this week, I don’t think I’m going to try again.

Cover to Captain America #25I’m going to review the introduction of the new Captain America, but the way that makes the most sense to me on how to do this is to compare it to the introduction of the new Thor. Both comics came out October 1 – so they meant for both things to be happening and news and exciting and interesting at once, and I think that also means that comparing them makes a lot of sense.

The other reason this is an interesting exercise is because the two are so different from one another. Both, as far as the news aspects go, are about a long-standing character being replaced, and at the same time increasing representation in comics. It’s a good goal, but the question exists as to whether it is a publicity stunt, or a long-term change.

So… what’s up with the new Captain America?

Wait, Captain America – Didn’t He Die?

Good catch, and yes, it made the news that a few years back, Steve Rogers, the original Captain America, died in the comics. The mantle of Captain America was taken up by his old friend and comrade, Bucky Barnes, only recently found to be alive. As, you know, the Winter Soldier.

The plot to the next Captain America film? Who knows! I hear new rumors flying.

But it’s hard to keep a dead comic hero down. In that spirit, Steve Rogers came back. Never really dead, he eventually ends up as Captain America again. One thing leading to another, more recently his Super Soldier Serum has been removed. Sure, he’s more than his super powers, but it also makes him age to his chronological age – old.

So he can’t do any supering. Again, not dead, so they could certainly solve this one and get him his powers back some day. That door is open. But what’d they do in the mean time?

General Geriatric! Crickets...

Continue reading

Marvel’s New Thor

Thor #1Last Wednesday, Marvel released the first comic with their new Thor – aptly named Thor #1. The interesting part of the new Thor, the news-worthy part that has been expected and announced in advance, is that the new Thor is a woman.

I don’t want to spend too much time debating the point on whether or not this is a good idea. I can understand the why. There’s been a general call for better representation in comics, and Marvel seems to (slowly perhaps) be responding. And I can also understand, from being a comics reader – introducing a new character, and getting people to like them, is hard.

Like the recent event – Infinity – which spawned a ton of new people with superpowers, as those with Inhuman genes were activated around the planet. How many characters do I expect to have come out of this that are going to last? One. Ms. Marvel.

So I wanted to give this new Thor a look. I want to look at this comic first as to whether it is a good starting point for a reader. Then I want to look at who this new Thor is – and then at what happens with the old Thor. Spoilers below for Thor #1! Also, lots of pictures. Sorry if you have a slow connection…

Was Thor #1 Accessible to a New Reader?

I will definitely say, I am not much of a Thor reader. I read a bit of Thor comics from the 80’s, for my LitFlix on Thor: The Dark World. I’ve also encountered the character in a few Avengers titles I’ve read in recent years – Uncanny Avengers by Rick Remender, and Avengers by Jonathan Hickman. And I do have to say, I have particularly loved Hickman’s Thor:

From Infinity #4

From Infinity #4

From Avengers #24

From Avengers #24

But I haven’t been reading any of the new Thor comics, nor really the older ones, and the question as I was reading was really, would I keep reading? Did I know what was going on?

This comic starts with a problem stemming from the recent Marvel event, Original Sin, and Thor can no longer lift his hammer. The time therefore is ripe for someone else to be worthy, to lift it, and to have the power of Thor. I haven’t read Original Sin, and it doesn’t seem you need to have read it to really get it. It did make me a bit interested in what happened in Original Sin, though…

It then continued on by giving us a couple of villainous problems that could sure use Thor. One was the Frost Giants. The other was Malekith the Accursed. They successfully hit on the two main villains from the two Thor films, and this felt to me very much like they wanted to be accessible to people who have never read a Thor comic, but who probably have seen the movies.

Malekith

Then there’s family issues. Apparently, Odin has been gone from Asgard for a time, and Freya has been in charge. That’s cool. But now, Odin is back, and he seems to have brought a whole lot of desire for power and old-timey misogyny with him. And meanwhile, Freya doesn’t really think that she needs to step down. But Odin just kind of steamrolls past her. So where things have been in the comics with the two of them is set aside, and they’re in to a new dynamic – with characters we know from the movies again, as well.

So if you’ve seen the movies, I do think you can read this and have an idea what’s going on for the most part. However, it also felt like there was a lot tying it back to the comic history of Thor, so it’s not a perfect entry point I feel like. But it could be worse. Continue reading