Monday, August 11, 2008

happy a-X-idents

It’s always great when a comic book comes together. It’s even better when a whole family of comics is firing on all cylinders. One of the things that is really making me a happy fanboy at the moment is the strength of the X-Men and their related titles. In the interests of full disclosure, I’m not reading X-Men: Legacy, Cable, or Young X-Men. But a guy’s gotta have principles, right?

But I am reading a boat load of X-Men at the moment. Far more than I was reading a year ago. X-Factor and Uncanny X-Men have been excellent. And I can’t argue with Warren Ellis if he wants to write Morrison’s New X-Men and call it Astonishing. What’s in a name, right?

The relocation to San Francisco is off to a good start. It’s shaping up in a way that will allow the X-Men to fight the big epic battles of old against their classic foes while also allowing writers to push the stories back into the realm of social and political commentary. I’m as excited to see an updated Hellfire Club storyline as I am to see the X-Men in street clothes examining crimes scenes and hob-nobbing with the mayor of San Francisco. It just feels like a positive set of dynamics for a group of beloved characters.

So my love for the X-Men and of their current direction is no secret. But I can’t help but laugh. Because this all seems to be coming about by accident. The truth is, the big guns at Marvel, the guys who write the big crossovers and dictate much of the creative direction just don’t seem that interested in the X-Men. This has allowed them to avoid the fates of Iron Man and Captain America. Marvel has a stable of talented writers who simply don’t like to be fettered by ongoing continuity. Ed Brubaker had Daredevil on another continent during Civil War. Peter David wrote a few Civil War tie-in issues of X-Factor… but those issues had absolutely nothing to do with Civil War, aside from cover design.

The Bendis-verse, as Earth 616 has become, has little use for the X-Men, other than an occasional Wolverine appearance. And it’s allowed them to get back their roots in some key ways while also paving some interesting new narrative ground. It’s a happy accident that has helped me to reunite with the characters that got me interested in comics in the first place.

So, second printers, I ask you this: What are some other good examples of characters, concepts, or teams that have benefited from being left alone?


Graig said...

I think you touched upon it already, but Daredevil is the shining example. Over the past two months I read the last five Bendis trades (vol 9 - 13) and the first two Brubaker trades and it's a tale purely of one man. Oh, sure there are other characters featured in it and appearances by other superheroes but every issue reprinted moved Matt Murdock's story along beautifully. It would have been horribly tainted had Civil War or House of M interefered in the process. An astounding accomplishment.

Similarly, since the end of Civil War, Brubaker's Captain America has been on a long, uninterrupted journey, and it doesn't look like it's going to be encumbered any time soon.

Although I didn't read it, I'm sure Ellis' Punisher holds up in this regard too.

As for DC, well... erm...

ChrisM said...

oh come now...

Blue Beetle wasn't overly involved with the DCU after the first issues and I think most people agree that Rogers Blue Beetle run was excellent.

Catwoman was left alone for Will Pfeiffer's run..and altho it will be cancelled-he had a solid, entertaining book with only minor intrusion from Amazon's Attack.

Oddly enough, I think that Geoff Johns' Justice Society has been largely left out of major DCU cross-over events.. Sure they show up for things like Final Crisis, but does any of it actually affect what happens in their book? Or vice versa?

Bill D. said...

Immortal Iron Fist seems pretty unfettered by continuity bonds, too. They'll make a passing mention of the post-Civil War atmosphere once in a while, but it's mostly its own thing. And it's another Brubaker book, too... I'm sensing a connection here.

And as ChrisM said, Blue Beetle has been left pretty much alone, too, despite spinning out of Infinite Crisis and crossing into Teen Titans and the Sinestro Corps War. I really appreciate that DC has continued to allow it room to grow despite sales numbers.

Graig said...

I think the Blue Beetle stories "spinning out of Infinite Crisis and crossing into Teen Titans and the Sinestro Corps War" and Catwoman's participation in "Amazons Attack" removes both from the contest. That's editorial interference right there. I had considered both but they're out of spirit with the statement because of their obviously forced involvement in crossovers. Maybe then so too is Captain America because it was slightly waylaid by Civil War.

Johns JSofA also kicked off early with the Lightning Saga x-over with JLofA, and now is utterly steeped in Kingdom Come stuff (I think, I got bored and stopped reading after the first year). Arguably it's of Johns' own impetus that he's doing it and not some editorial edict. But I digress.

But mention of Pfeifer does bring to mind his great HERO series (if you haven't read, go do some bin-diving now, it's an unbelievably solid and circular 22 issues) which was left independant of crossovers.

ChrisM said...

The blog post that stirred this discussion is about books that are largely left to their own devices. With the subject being X-Men, which gets crossed over all the time, even WITH the relative amount of independence its allowed nowadays.

Even the example cited of Daredevil is influenced by editorial imperatives..with Civil War and and so on.

So, I don't think you're being overly fair to Blue Beetle or any of the titles I've considered here.
Especially when you compare them to books like Justice League of America and Supergirl which have literally been overflow comics for plot points from the big cross-over events.

One could say the same for several Marvel comics-Avengers and Secret Invasion...the list goes on.

I can already see the thin veneer of "Marvel comics are better than DC comics" so, go ahead and say that-but honestly there's not much difference.

Graig said...

Whoah, chrism, you got me all wrong, dude... I'm a DC booster 25 years strong. I even gave Marvel the boot for about 6 years in the 1990s. I love DC but the problem with DC is ever since Crisis (the first one), they've been very intent on making it known that they're a shared universe, and therefore crossing over and embedding a character in the universe is mandatory from the get go. It's one of the things I like about DC, really.

I love Blue Beetle, but Sinestro War and Countdown were foisted on the book (to the point that the Eclipso issue caused my wife to stop reading the book). That's my perspective on it at least... staving from my disappointment. I frankly thought that issue was well handled, even though it did interrupt the flow. (Frankly, I would have liked it if Sinestro Corps just stuck to strictly the GL books rather than branching out into "Event" territory).

Of things I've read recently, really the standout untouched was Bendis'-turned-Brubakers' Daredevil run which was a damn impressive feat of keeping its sights on one character story arc and ignoring every outside "Marvel Universe" influence. Post Civil War, Captain America's been doing that too.

You may be right, that the JSofA GOG storyline is going to be a long run that is contained to the title only (although I suspect that it's going to build into an event eventually anyway).

Point being, it's harder for DC to escape into self-contained stories by the nature of how DC likes to define their universe. Stand alone-itude is just something Marvel has set themselves up better to do. Doesn't make them better, just a noticeable distinction.

Oh... Booster Gold, though... there's a book that's doing it's own thing from issue one and on. Of course it's unbearably tied to DCU continuity recent and past, but it's not been forced into anything (yet).

And then there's Waid's Brave and the Bold which just seems like an anachronism right now, out of time and place with everything that's going on to mostly good effect.

See, just took me a while to think of some DC books... but I got there eventually.