Hi… wow, this is harder than I thought it would be… I’ve been meaning to do this for a while now. It gets hard to wake up every morning, read your comics, write on your blog… when you know you’ve been hiding something like this. Okay, here goes… My name is Big Mike, and I’m an X-Men fan.
I often tell people that my first comic was a Batman comic from the Lonely Place of Dying arc. And that is 100% true. What I often leave out is that the next several hundred comics I owned had ‘X’ in the title. Force, Factor, Cutioner’s Song… if it was an X-Men related title from 80’s or 90’s, you can be damn sure little Big Mike had at least one copy. I had all those issues of ‘Classic X-Men’ that were glorified reprintings of Claremont’s Big Stories from when I was too small to collect comics. Dark Phoenix, Days of Future Past… it goes on and on. My first comic book crush: Kitty Pride. Yeah, I know. For all my DC-centrism, deep down inside I am a fraud because all I need is a reason… just one little reason to read the X-Men, and I will start filling up my long box with ‘snikt’ and ‘bamf’.
So now that my true self is out there for the world to see, I want to ask one simple question: What the hell is up with the X-Men these days? I’m not going to turn this into another one of those ‘Morrison’s New X-Men was the best, Bub!’ posts, but I do feel that the overall X-Franchise has taken some weird twists and turns since his departure to DC. Everything leading up to the House of M was more or less forgettable, and part of me can’t help but believe that some of the editorial motive behind House of M was to scale back the role of mutants on 616 in order to keep them from being involved in Civil War. So then the X-Men sit out Civil War… granted, Civil War represents the very threat the X-Men have been trying to mitigate for, oh I don’t know, four decades now, but in a list of things wrong with Civil War, that doesn’t even crack the top 10.
So we have the post-M Day, post-Civil War X-Men. And it’s pretty much terrible. Even talented writers like Mike Carey and Ed Brubaker can’t seem to find good footing for their stories, so they churn out passable work but nothing worth buying in hardcover. X-Factor is great, but that’s due in large part to the separation Peter David creates between that book and the rest of the X-Mess.
Then the weirdest thing happens… Messiah Complex comes along and it’s pretty damn good. For the first time in a long while, people are excited about the X-Men. I am excited about the X-Men. Okay, so Wolverine puts together the world’s worst Heroclix team and tries to kill Cable without even asking him why he stole the baby, but the X-Men do rash and irrational stuff like that all the time, so it actually rings true. The powers that be at Marvel manage to tell a really good story that perks everyone’s interesting in the X-Books again… it has us all hoping that the X-Men franchise will recalibrate and once again be the thinly veiled civil rights metaphor it was meant to be… hoping against hope… wishing upon a star…
Oh man… Did Bishop just…? For real, dude?
And here we are. Emma and Scott are having the summer of love; Logan, Nightcrawler, and Colossus are on a Russian bar fight tour; a few of them are still out there in space doing… something; Cable is a post-apocalyptic baby mama and… well, you get the picture.
Marvel events seem to fall into two categories: X-Events and events for everybody else, and more often than not, the recent X-Events seem to be concerned with getting the X-Men out of the way so the main events can take shape without a bunch of mutants spoiling the party. It is the height of irony that the main argument for mutant rights has more to do with their treatment by a publisher than with giant Sentinels stomping the mansion for the third time in a month.
I’m still reading a few X-Books after Messiah Complex, and I’m willing to give the powers that be the benefit of the doubt that maybe this is all going somewhere and that we’re not just biding our time until Secret Invasion changes everything that we knew about everything all over again for the umpteenth time. Look, in my heart of hearts, I’m just a fanboy who came of age reading the X-Men, and I want to read good stories about characters that I love. Maybe this would all be easier if Messiah Complex hadn’t given me hope for a better X-Tomorrow. But it did… it reminded me of why I loved the X-Men as a kid. It wasn’t all about angsty victimization by those mean old homo-sapiens. No, the X-Men sacrificed their personal happiness, their personal need for quiet and normalcy, to fight for a better tomorrow. And now that dream has come apart, and, with Divided We Stand, we see in a personal way how that struggle has taken its toll on characters new and old.
But I have hope. As I continue to order Uncanny X-Men each month, I continue to hope that we’re headed for a recalibration of sorts. That we’re headed for the moment when being an X-Man is again about the dream and less about simply surviving. I hope that we’re headed for a time when the X-Men can teach another generation about the wrongs of persecution and the importance of diversity and acceptance. Mostly, I hope that the unraveling we’re seeing now isn’t just another way to get the X-Men out of the spotlight so that Secret Invasion can shine. I hope. Because I’m Big Mike. And I’m an X-Men fan.