The Comic Book Club: X-Men, Superman and Parker

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This is what happens when Techland goes to the comic book store: we end up talking about what we picked up. This week, Douglas Wolk, Evan Narcisse, Mike Williams, Graeme McMillan and Lev Grossman discuss the second issue of X-Men: Second Coming, Superman #701 and Darwyn Cooke’s one-shot The Man with the Getaway Face.

DOUGLAS: I came to Second Coming after a long time away from the X-Men–every year or so I pick up an issue of something, hoping it’ll be something I can get into, which it usually isn’t. (The only periods of X-Men I’m totally conversant with are #94 to around #200, and the New X-Men era at the start of the last decade.) I bought the “Utopia” collection a few months ago, but it didn’t do a lot for me.

And I have to say: having read #2 (and acknowledging that it’s the final episode of a 14-parter that I haven’t read the rest of)… I can tell that there’s a lot of wrapping-up and setting-up going on, but I do not understand what X-Men is about at this point. Not just the subtext (mutants as “the other” seems to have gone out the window, ditto the “what does it mean to be post-human” idea of New X-Men), but the premise of the franchise itself: why these characters associate with one another, who they fight and why, who wants to harm them and why, what their collective and individual goals are, why they have code-names and costumes. Can one of you who’s more X-Men-literate please explain it to me? Break it down for me like I’m six?

MIKE: I think it comes back to genocide. When the world recognized that the mutant population had gone from millions (they even had an island nation, Genosha) down to just a couple hundred, it saw its chance, more or less. The world and its more militant groups like the Purifiers glimpsed a solution to the mutant problem. Cyclops and the gang have gone from protecting a world that hates and fears them to building an army whose sole purpose is survival. That is what drives Cyclops’ decisions. That is why these mutants both old and new take orders. And it appears he was right all along. With Hope wielding the Phoenix Force now, new mutants are popping up all over the globe for the first time since M-Day.

The question is: now that genocide has been averted, will Cyke’s burned bridges cost him too much?

GRAEME: The problem I have with the X-Men franchise these days is that it’s become so insular. One event kills off the mutant race, another reignites it, and so on. I understand the metaphors at play here, but it still just seems depressingly small-minded for a concept that’s as much about the future as anything else.

(More on Techland: The Comic Book Club: “Batwoman: Elegy” and “Werewolves of Montpellier”)

MIKE: Honestly, “Second Coming” hasn’t been spectacular. They killed Nightcrawler, and Cyclops is a dick. That’s pretty much it.

GRAEME: Hasn’t Cyclops been a dick for awhile now? It feels as if that’s the direction everyone wanted to take the character to show that he wasn’t a wuss.

MIKE: Well, yes,he is a dick, but now the rest of the team knows it. They know that he has green lit the X-Force murder squad and no one is very happy about it.

GRAEME: I’m not the world’s biggest X-Fan – I catch up in trades periodically – but the whole X-Force kill squad thing struck me as impossibly out of character for Cyclops. I remember the creators at the time saying things like “He’s doing it because he’s pushed to the limit and has to protect his race,” but that seemed to ring false… Was there ever any more to it than that?

MIKE: No, not really. After M-Day there were, what, 198 mutants left on Earth? He took it upon himself to protect them all. I guess he felt that Xavier wasn’t getting the job done, etc., etc.

GRAEME: Oh, Cyclops.

I keep wishing the X-Books were better; there are some nice ideas in them, these days – I like the X-Club, I like the idea that “X-Men” is less a team and more a generic term for the characters in the book, all that kind of thing, but the execution is always kind of… ehh.

MIKE: Yeah, I was a trade reader as well, until “Second Coming” rolled along with its wonderful tagline “Many will be injured, several will die!” How could I NOT read it issue by issue.

GRAEME: Have “several” died? I know that Nightcrawler and Cable have both disappeared (with poor Kurt going because no one seemed to know what to do with him for years, more than anything else).

MIKE: Rasputin’s sister Magik was sent to Hell. I think Ariel was blowed up at some point. Vanisher got shot up but I don’t know if he’s dead. Hellion, that little punk, got his hands disintegrated.

GRAEME: Magik was sent to hell? But I thought she was already a demon?

MIKE: There was a three- or four-part series about going to rescue her. I skipped it.

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