I’m sick of the X-Men. It’s not the first time and I’m sure it won’t be the last. The X-Men, along with Wonder Woman, were what originally made me so passionate about comic books as a child. But occasionally I have to set them aside for a while. STORM explained his reasons for abandoning the mutants and now I will expand upon mine.
First and foremost, I’ve lately learned that I require a good and compelling headquarters when it comes to my favorite superteams. Having said that, I still don’t love Utopia. I do not feel that it has the kind of character or romance of other bases of operation like Avengers Mansion, Avengers Tower, the X-Mansion or even Excalibur’s old lighthouse. In fact, I would say that the entire move to San Francisco has been a huge wasted opportunity on all fronts. For one thing, they didn’t actually move into San Francisco at all, but rather the Marin Headlands and now an island floating off the coast of San Francisco, which was a bit of a bait and switch.
Utopia began as Magneto’s orbiting headquarters Asteroid M, which eventually sank to the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. During a confrontation with the Dark Avengers, the X-Men dredged up the asteroid in order to escape the illegitimate authority of Norman Osborn’s Dark Reign. Right off the bat, that sounds absolutely disgusting. Can you imagine operating out of a moldy old waterlogged space station that spent years rotting away at the bottom of the sea? Gross. It’s no wonder so many of the X-Men have recently fallen ill. That place must be a breeding ground for bacteria and disease.
Considering that Utopia was characterized by Norman Osborn as an island prison for the world’s remaining mutants, I also don’t understand why there was never a triumphant return to the mainland once his Dark Reign was eventually deposed.
Additionally, anchoring Utopia to Namor’s undersea kingdom of Atlantis strikes me as foolish and serves only to double their pool of potential attackers.
I might like Utopia more if it was at least portrayed more consistently. It seems like every time the artificial island is shown it is drawn differently. What I would really like to see is a blueprint by Eliot R Brown, like this wonderful schematic he drew of the X-Mansion.
That is one of the major issues contributing to my dissatisfaction with Utopia, the inconsistent portrayals of the island’s size and scope. Is it the size of a football field or is it as big as San Francisco itself? I honestly have no idea.
Here it resembles an aircraft carrier.
Sometimes it has a dock area for boats.
It is frequently portrayed as an outcropping of high-tech towers and jagged rocky cliffs.
Yet here it is shown to contain an area of tillable soil large enough to sustain an entire farm.
The X-Men’s base of operations which immediately preceded Utopia, Graymalkin Industries located in the Marin Headlands north of San Francisco, was not much better. Lacking the familial warmth of the X-Mansion, it felt more like a sterile billion dollar Silicon Valley compound. Unlike the old mansion, we never really got to see the characters’ personal quarters or get a sense of the place as their home.
I really don’t like the recent suggestion that Emma’s decision to reform and join the X-Men has simply been her way of running away from Sebastian Shaw and his influence. Like the awkward origin issue which clumsily inserted unnecessary themes of domestic violence into Emma’s Hellfire Club history to the detriment of her character and motivation, I feel that this gives Shaw entirely too much power over Emma and undermines her entire decision to reform in the first place. Valerie D’Orazio’s clumsy mishandling of Emma’s origin in that issue completely sabotaged her character, recasting Emma as little more than a weak-willed victim of Sebastian Shaw, and the unfortunate results of that character assassination are currently being played out in the pages of Uncanny X-Men.
I am thoroughly confused by the proposed alternating creative teams and casts for each upcoming issue of Astonishing X-Men. While I do enjoy the way Christos Gage writes superteams in titles like Avengers Academy and Stormwatch PHD, I don’t pretend to understand how switching back and forth between entirely different creators and team rosters every issue is meant to provide any kind of a cohesive narrative structure whatsoever.
Marvel’s Senior Vice President of Publishing Tom Brevoort recently stated that the new leader of the X-Men would be either Cyclops, Professor X, Magneto or Wolverine. I understand the inclusion of Cyclops and Professor X among these potential candidates but I am still entirely unsure why Magneto is even with the X-Men right now in the first place, much less what business he would have leading the team. As for Wolverine, since he is already an active member of pretty much every Marvel superteam currently in operation and co-leads Uncanny X-Force with Warren Worthington III while simultaneously appearing in about eight hundred solo series a week, I can’t imagine how he even finds the time to sleep or eat much less lead the X-Men. There is also the glaring omission of both Storm and Emma Frost’s names from this list. This slight could be interpreted as sexist by some, but I instead choose to characterize it as a function of their sadly diminished station among the X-Men. Ironically enough, since she was married to Black Panther and shipped back to Africa to be his Queen of Wakanda, Storm has seemingly lost her regal commanding presence. Their marriage served to enhance Black Panther’s prestige, but Storm was reduced to his doting wifey. She co-starred in his comic without even the benefit of having her name appear in the title, a comic which has long since been canceled, leaving Storm functionally homeless. Even her recent adventures with the X-Men were portrayed as having been made possible only because Black Panther allowed it.
The recent development in the pages of Uncanny X-Men where everyone who is or ever was a mutant or is even tangentially related to the concept is now considered an X-Man leaves me cold. If everyone is an X-Man then membership on the team is no longer something special, and if there is no such thing as a core team to focus on then the stories can’t help but be a confused and poorly constructed muddled mess. Characters like Emma, Cyclops and Wolverine receive an inordinate amount of attention along with characters not normally associated with the X-Men like Namor and Doctor Nemesis while longtime X-Men mainstays like Colossus and Dazzler are treated as little more than wallpaper and window dressing. Even this undue emphasis on Emma and Cyclops does them both no favors, allowing readers to become fatigued and bored by their omnipresence. Worse still, this overexposure has come in the form of a decidedly bland tepid watered-down version of their previously exciting relationship.
While I thoroughly enjoyed Warren Ellis’s contribution to the X-Men tapestry with his Astonishing X-Men run, and in particular his evolution of Emma Frost and Storm’s relationship from their ancient animosities into a blossoming friendship based on mutual respect, I am disappointed that other writers like Matt Fraction have instead portrayed their interactions as a regression back to those tired old resentments.
To give credit where it is due, I was until recently enjoying Rick Remender’s Uncanny X-Force, where many of my above concerns are addressed. The team’s headquarters, Cavern-X located in beautiful Sedona Arizona, is well-defined and greatly compelling.
The Uncanny X-Force roster is composed of a small core cast rather than a sprawling and ever-growing ensemble and the relationship between Psylocke and Archangel feels fresh and interesting. However, I am no longer in a financial situation where I feel like I can reasonably justify the exorbitant $3.99 an issue price tag.
To be fair, perhaps things will change with the arrival of new writers like Kieron Gillen on Uncanny X-Men and Astonishing X-Men‘s Daniel Way and Christos Gage. But with Marvel’s stubborn insistence on the $3.99 an issue price point, I honestly can no longer afford to find out.
In conclusion, until such time as the X-Men get a better headquarters and a writer like Grant Morrison, Joss Whedon or Warren Ellis comes along to once again do Emma Frost justice and focus on a smaller and more manageable cohesive core team, I am done with the X-Men. It would also help immensely if Marvel abandoned the untenable $3.99 per issue price point or I suddenly become affluent enough to feel like I can afford such an extravagant expenditure. I’m not saying that I will never read an X-Men comic again, but right now I desperately need a break from this misery.