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in which Snick reads the new X-Men

It occurred to me recently via a Tumblr post that perhaps I would like superhero comics more if I read some that were about women. Adventure! Monsters! Ridiculous tropey goodness, with women! I have no idea why this had never occurred to me before, but it hadn't. I wasn't really sure how to start, though.

A little while after, I stumbled across an encouraging article about costume redesigns of female superheroes. As a person concerned with representation of women in fiction, I looked at the before-and-afters, smiled approvingly, and moved on to the next article.

Then I found out that several of those redesigns were part of Marvel's plan to relaunch their X-Men comic with an all-female cast. "OOOH," I said.

Now, further investigation indicates that this is not quite as dramatic as it might sound; Marvel has something like 8-10 monthly X-Men titles right now. Nonetheless. Marvel is dressing a core cast of six lady superheroes in (relatively) sensible costumes, giving them an entire comic to themselves, and not even setting it apart by calling it 'X-Women' or something similar. As far as I can tell, this comic isn't a sop to the women in the audience, the comic book version of Bic for Women. It's just a comic. With women. Who are treated exactly as seriously as the men would be if they were there instead. (In fact, writer Brian Wood had some strong words on Twitter for people who suggested that it shouldn't be called X-Men; hadn't Storm, Rogue, et all always been X-Men, he asked? See second graphic here for screencaps</a>.)

(It turns out this isn't even the only lady-ensemble monthly title Marvel has right now; Fearless Defenders already has an all-female cast. That one doesn't seem to have gotten near as much press, though, presumably because it doesn't have big writer/artist names attached to it, its characters are less known, and it doesn't seem to have gotten the same kind of promotional push. Also, for my money, the covers are not enthusing. Not offensive, just, well, ugly. They definitely do not have "appealing to Snick" stamped on them.)

All of which is to say, I got my hands on issues #1 and #2 of X-Men, and I like them a lot. For starters, they are very pretty. This cover has "appealing to Snick" written all over it:
[Spoiler (click to open)]

But the interior art is very attractive, too (although I gather that this particular artist, Olivier Coipel, is only around for the first three issues, at which point it'll get handed off to someone else). This reader response has some great illustrative scans. As someone who pushed through four volumes of Sandman's dark, harshly contrasting art before giving up and who never wants to see another panel by Georges Jeanty, I really like how easy the pages are to look at, how pretty the colors are, how dynamic the art is and how interesting many of the angles are while still making the action easy to follow.

So far, I am enjoying the story, too. It's possibly a tidge more action-oriented than I'd prefer, with less time for character reflection, but I think part of the reason I feel that way is because an issue is so short; you only have time to do so many things. All of the action in these first two issues takes place over maybe a day. I'm hoping that with more issues, I will get a better sense of what stories we're tell for each of these characters.

I'm also flailing a bit at dropping in the middle of an only vaguely familiar universe. It helps that I've seen the first two X-Men movies, and from them I recognized Storm and Rogue. I've heard a lot about Joss Whedon's X-Men run involving Kitty Pryde, so I knew her name, at least. I took a wild guess that Rachel Grey was Jean Grey's daughter, although I'd not heard of her before. Psylocke and Jubilee I didn't know from Adam. I know there's tons of character backstory there that we're probably playing on to some extent and that I'm missing out on. That's exactly why I usually like to start canons from the beginning, but that's neither feasible nor often desirable when it comes to superhero comics. Probably I should go read the characters' respective wikipedia articles at some point.

Because, yes. I want to keep exploring this female superhero thing, and also I want to support Marvel doing something I highly approve of. I got myself a subscription and everything! And I'm also looking into some other lady-centric comics I've seen mention of, like the Journey Into Mystery run about Sif (Thor's friend). I will keep you all updated.

--

(Incidentally, most of the links in this post are to articles by Kelly Thompson in her comicbookresources.com column She Has No Head, in which she talks regularly and enthusiastically about female characters in comics. Comic fandom as a whole looks pretty intimidating from where I'm sitting, especially given its boys' club reputation, but her column feels like I have an in via someone who's in my corner, and that is so nice. I've been poring over her column the last few days and getting excited about how many lady-centric comics there are out there, even from the mainstream publishers - some of them quite good, apparently!

In fact, I'm feeling a wee bit grumbly about my RL comics friend who, when I asked him for names of good comics about women a couple of years ago, didn't think there were any. )

(Also, X-Men wasn't quite my first recent foray into lady superheroes; I picked up a couple issues of Red She-Hulk last week for a buck a piece, because why not. I didn't like the art so well, and I suspect that they were fundamentally not very good; there was too much action and not enough consequence, and I never got any sense of who Betty Ross/Red She-Hulk was. Still, we spent an issue in an underground civilization peopled by genetic grotesques, looking for an AI that would hopefully tell us where to find the little girl who's now the interface with the 'world computer.' Sometimes, it doesn't take a lot to make me happy.)

Crossposted from Dreamwidth. Comment here or there. (comment count unavailable DW replies)

Comments

( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
shapinglight
Jul. 11th, 2013 09:44 am (UTC)
Ooh, someone to discuss X-Men with. Yay!

I've been reading the X-Men for what feels like centuries now. If you have any questions, ask me.

Not that I'll always know the answer. Rachel Grey, for instance, is sort of, kind of the daughter of Cyclops and Jean Grey but only in an alternate future where mutants are hunted like animals, by other mutants brainwashed for the purpose. That's why she has those marks on her face. She used to be (in this alternate future) a mutant-hunting 'hound.'

Psylocke I'm not so clear on, as a lot of her early story took place in books I haven't read. She's actually British, the sister of a superhero with a really embarrassing name, Captain Britain (it doesn't work the way Captain America does, believe me). At some point I'm very fuzzy on her consciousness got transposed into the body of a Japanese ninja warrior (she's always had the purple hair). Until Marvel's latest X-franchise re-boot, she was mainly to be seen in X-Force, a book about a deep cover team of X-Men who undertake wetworks (ie. they actually kill people) led by Wolverine.
snickfic
Jul. 11th, 2013 03:00 pm (UTC)
Yay! You are one of the two people I was really hoping to hear from (and the other is on vacation and AFK). Do you read all the X-Men titles? Do you read any of Marvel's other titles? Do you read fic of comic books ever?

Not that I'll always know the answer. Rachel Grey, for instance, is sort of, kind of the daughter of Cyclops and Jean Grey but only in an alternate future

Ah. Well. That was the next conclusion I was going to jump to, of course! :D And I'd run across mentions of Psylocke having an unfortunate but problematic history; I just hadn't seen any indication of what it was.
shapinglight
Jul. 11th, 2013 03:30 pm (UTC)
And I'd run across mentions of Psylocke having an unfortunate but problematic history; I just hadn't seen any indication of what it was.

Yes, I understand that a lot of people find the way she became 'Asian' offensive. But it happened an awful long time ago. More than 20 years, I would say. Things were different back then.

I don't read all the X books. I'm not to keen on Wolverine (I think he's been horribly overused), so I don't read any of the myriad Wolverine titles, except for one called Wolverine and the X-Men, which rather improbably has Wolverine as the headmaster of a reconstituted Xavier school for young mutants (called the Jean Grey School). I don't like that title, though. I'm trying to drop it, but they keep doing crossovers, annoyingly.

I don't actually read comic book fic (though I wrote some many years ago), but I know there's lots out there. Xavier/Magneto is a very popular pairing to write about (not necessarily in a 'shippy way), because of the movies.
snickfic
Jul. 12th, 2013 04:07 pm (UTC)
Actually, this new book I started reading is set at the Jean Grey School. Logan gets mentioned a few times, mostly as the guy who has to write checks for damage, which amused me. :)

I have a dumb question: are all these titles assumed to exist in the same continuity unless specified otherwise? Like, I thought I heard Jean Grey was alive (again?). But naming the school after her sounds like a memorial sort of thing (unless they named it and then she came back from the dead, which sounds amusingly awkward).

Oh yes, I knew that there was a lot of movie-related fic. I've read some of it, even, for mpreg or a/b/o reasons. :) But it seems to me like a very different animal from comics fic proper. All I know about that end of it is that people who actually want comicsverse fic have trouble finding it and are forever being giving movieverse fic instead in exchanges.
shapinglight
Jul. 14th, 2013 01:11 pm (UTC)
I'm not surprised there's more movieverse fic than comicsverse. The comics X-verse is so huge and has gone on for so long, it's hard to find an entry to it.

When I wrote my comics fics, many years ago, it was before the vast expansion of the X-verse, and the Marvel universe in general. There was still a kind of overall structure to the 'verse, which has long since fragmented and only becomes more so with the success of the movies. The huge success of Joss Whedon's Avengers, for instance (inexplicable to me, as I was bored rigid by it)has meant that Avengers titles using movie continuity, or movie characterisations, have turned up, and the Avengers is now seen as Marvel's premiere franchise, despite the fact that where the comics are concerned, the X-books at the most popular still.

The Wolverine book you mention does sound like the one I'm trying to drop. I'm not interested in high school stories. As for Jean Grey, the 'present day' version of her is dead, but she is alive again in the present day because Beast (one of the original X-Men) took it into his head (in the wake of the most recent Marvel 'event' crossover, which was called Avengers vs X-Men, and ended with the Avengers decisively winning) to go back in time and persuade the original five X-Men, including his own younger self, to come with him to the present. So the Jean in the books at the moment, principally in the title called All New X-Men, is a 16 year old Jean.

It's basically having your cake and eating it too.
snickfic
Jul. 14th, 2013 04:07 pm (UTC)
Well, by 'this new book I'm reading,' I mean the new X-Men all-women title; it's not a Wolverine book. He hasn't even made an appearance yet.

I have to say, I do find the Marvel universe pretty daunting. As you say, finding an entry is difficult. I figure I'll just jump in and flail around for a while, and either I'll find some things that stick or I'll give up.

Ah, the Jean Grey stuff I've seen mentioned makes much more sense now. Huh, yes, that is awfully convenient all around. Time travel, man. :D
shapinglight
Jul. 14th, 2013 04:19 pm (UTC)
First of all, apologies for all the typos in my comment. That'll teach me not to proof read first.

Sorry, I misunderstood you. I thought maybe reading the new X-Men (the all female one) had prompted you to pick up some more books. The one I'm trying to drop is called Wolverine and the X-Men, and is about Wolverine's adventures are headmaster of the Jean Grey School.

Huh, yes, that is awfully convenient all around. Time travel, man. :D

Yes, it's one way in comics of bringing dead characters back if you want to use them again. Other ways are, to retcon their death so it wasn't them that died but a clone, or a robot version that didn't know it was a robot, or some such.

I accept all this stuff happening in the X-verse because it's been going for donkeys' years and I've seen it over and over again. When the writers of the Buffy comics use the same comic book cliches, though, I can't accept it. It just doesn't work, despite Joss Whedon being such a massive comics nerd.
snickfic
Jul. 14th, 2013 04:26 pm (UTC)
Well, I am trying other things! Just not anything Wolverine-related. :) Fortunately, it turns out my local library stock quite a lot of trades, so I came home yesterday with a bunch of things - a lot of, um, one-shots (miniseries?) about single characters, and then some Fantastic Four stuff, because getting to know an ensemble of four sounded more doable than jumping into the whole X-Men pool at once. I am in the "figuring out what I like" stage right now. :)

If you have recommendations for current/new-ish things, btw, I'd love to hear them!
shapinglight
Jul. 14th, 2013 04:55 pm (UTC)
I'll have to think about that one. My superhero comics reading these days is pretty much confined to the X-books, and many of the classic stories I loved from years back, such as the Dark Phoenix saga and the Age of Apocalypse have stuff in them that would probably strike a different note than they did back then.

Hmmm...
downjune
Jul. 11th, 2013 01:17 pm (UTC)
How cool!

I loved the x-men cartoon when I was a kid, and I've seen all the movies (and hated half of them, though the first two Rocked).

I've never been a comics kid, and x-men is such a HUGE canon to tackle! But that art is GORGEOUS--definitely pushes my buttons!

Keep us posted!
snickfic
Jul. 11th, 2013 03:01 pm (UTC)
I did like the first two movies okay - the second especially - and after that I've only seen the first Wolverine movie, which was just bad. Fortunately my friend and I happened to have the movie theater to ourselves for that one, so we could make fun of it. :)

Man, I know what you mean about it being a huge canon. I think it's one of those things where you jump in someplace and hope for the best.

I will definitely keep you posted!
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