Sunday, February 03, 2008

James at Newsarma (Comment Pull Quote)

[This is sort of a comment pull quote. James, in the free form comments, pointed us to his voice-of-reason response to a review of Messiah Complex over at Newsarama.]

Over at Newsarama Troy Brownfield, reviewing Messiah Complex, wrote:

Cyclops finally acknowledged what the readers have always known: the X-Men don’t stop bank-robbers; the X-Men are fighting for the survival of an entire species. There’s no time left to be nice, and people die in wars. The acceptance of this concept by Cyclops is the first significant advancement in his character in a while, and I think that it makes him a more modern, and believable, leader.

Our own James thankfully replied

Wow, really? Have you been reading Astonishing X-Men? Let's do some recent history.

- Morrison is brought on to give the X-Men a Bold New Direction. Early on in the run, Cyclops bombs a facility in China, and Wolverine comments "So we're allowed to do stuff like this now?" "Let's see who complains" comes Scott's reply. This stance becomes muddied as Morrison's run unravels, but it's a strong moment nonetheless.

- Morrison's run ends, and Editorial decides the X-Men have been moved too far away from their Identity Politics origins, and a Bold New Direction is needed. The mutant minority genie goes back into the bottle with House Of M, and celebrity writer Joss Whedon is given a new title to give Morrison's team an iconic, Claremont-esque re-makeover.

- Whedon ostensibly gives Marvel what they want, while actually writing a more-or-less direct sequel to Morrison's run. As the (much-delayed) run progresses, the focus shifts from a Kitty-centric introduction to the fulfillment of Morrison's rehabilitation of Cyclops. Scott becomes a heroic, decisive leader, has the stick removed from his ass and gains full control of his powers. This fanboy swoons.

- Meanwhile, editorial decides that what the X-Men really need is a mega-epic giant X-over, like from the 90s! And this can include a REALLY Bad-Ass Cyclops, who yells at Professor X and is all about the killing. It reverses most of the character development going on in Whedon's title? Who cares, that late-ass book is nearly over!

Responding to Brownfield's statement that

Wolverine has a new respect for Cyclops, and while I don’t see them becoming best friends, I think that this is important for the family of titles.

James wrote

This is a change in the status quo? Anyone still writing the Wolverine/Cyclops relationship as "You're out of line mister!" "You're a lame square Cyke snikt snikt bub" is some sort of nostalgic throwback maniac. Morrison had them interact like adults, even moving the Scott/Logan/Jean triangle out of the playground. Whedon starts his run with the classic Scott/Logan fight over Jean, but it soon becomes clear that this is to recap/introduce new readers to the relationship, and it's not long before Wolverine says "Sometimes I remember why you're in charge". We didn't need Messiah Complex to reconcile the two, and we certainly didn't need the catalyst to be "Cyclops becomes as bloodthirsty as Early Wolverine".


James said...

What, no Murderclops? I'm completely kidding, thanks Geoff.

I was kind of disappointed Troy Brownfield never really responded. I hope I didn't come off like I was trashing his review; as I said in the free form comments (and the newsarama thread itself), it was as much about arranging my thoughts on the subject as anything.

Jason Powell said...

Since I'm reading/reviewing the relevant Claremont pretty much right now, I must pipe in: The Wolverine/Cyclops stuff was resolved long ago by Claremont, way back in Uncanny X-Men #126. For the next 75 issues, the two respected each other as teammates.

It wasn't until Bob Harras (another "nostalgic throwback maniac," perhaps) wrested control from Claremont in 1991 that the relationship re-set to its very earliest incarnation.

It's the cycle of the X-franchise (if not the entire superhero genre), from what I can see. Any writer with the courage to change things will have his work undone by the very next writer.

But, for the record: Cyclops and Wolverine finding mutual respect. As with pretty much everything else "X," Claremont did that one first too.

James said...

Jason: Oh yeah, I didn't think Morrison would've been the first by any means, just the most recent, persuasive example. That's interesting about Bob Harras, as I was specifically thinking of Claremont's X-Men #1 when I wrote "you're out of line, mister!". Was that an example of Harras's interference, then?

brad said...

Great thread James!

Jason Powell said...

I think so. In "Comics Creators on X-Men," Harras talks about how he and Claremont butted heads because Harras wanted to re-set things to the "classic" mode, and Claremont's response was to more or less say, "I've already done those stories."

I don't think the Cyclops/Wolverine thing is mentioned specifically, but it probably was an example of something that Harras wanted to do but that Claremont was against. In an interview with The Comics Journal, I think, Claremont says that by the time he was writing the scripts for X-Men #1, he already knew he was off the comic. He said something like, "X-Men #'s 1-3 was my severance package." So at that point, he was surely not too heavily invested in the characters anymore, and probably following the lead of Harras and Jim Lee, credited as plotter on the comic.

(Actually, I think a major bone of contention for Claremont back then was Harras wanting to make Magneto back into a villain, after all the years Claremont had spent rehabilitating the character. Ironic then that Claremont's zealous protection of the Noble Magneto would -- years later -- lead him to become the ret-conner who undid Morrison's Xorn stuff.)

James said...

Oh man, yeah, that whole "Magneto's a crazy-evil bastard again!" bit. Jim Lee's art aside, those comics didn't have a hell of a lot going for them, did they?

Brad: Thank you!

Jason Powell said...

James, as Claremont's last issues, they're interesting to me in several ways. I actually do like the comics even though Claremont didn't. Claremont ties Magneto's return to villainy to his Magneto origin in the backup of Classic X-Men #19 (my favorite Magneto story). He brings things full circle in a lot of ways, and -- even though it was not Claremont's intent -- the story of Magneto there becomes a tragedy. He tried to become a hero, but ultimately failed.

Left to his own devices without interference from Harras, Claremont would have had Magneto succeed, I'm certain. But then, if not for editorial interference, Phoenix would not have died in Uncanny X-Men #137 either, and the issue would have been far lesser for it.

Regardless of the behind-the-scenes arguments that led to it, I think X-Men #1-3 works as the tragic conclusion to Claremont's Magneto arc.

I like it for other reasons too, as will be discussed on this very blog sometime in 2010. :) I can see why people don't; I don't deny the comics are flawed. But I've got a place in my heart for 'em, regardless.

Anonymous said...

I pretty much agree with all of this. Marvel currently thinks it best to hurt their characters as some kind of nod to "realism". It really is an out of control misreading of Frank Miller's DK and Alan Moore's Watchmen. They seem so busy trying to find the next literary classic top seller that they forget about the process of writing a good story.

While we are discussing Joss Whedon I disagree that having Willow and Buffy fight is dark and gruesome, but a major foreshadowing of conflict between the characters, a conflict that will be reflected in the evemntual end of the Buffy series.

Matthew J. Brady said...

Wasn't Claremont reduced to basically just filling in the speech balloons on Jim Lee's already-finished artwork on X-Men 1-3? I thought I read that somewhere. It probably explains why there are so damn many of them in those issues; he had to try to string the art together into some sort of story.