More X-Men Stuff

Okay, so I just finished Volume 2 of The Astonishing X-Men, and I’ve got some more questions for you experts…Overall impression: I definitely agree with John that the “Danger” storyline wasn’t quite as interesting as “Gifted,” but it was still a fun, enjoyable read. You’re always going to have that disappointing discrepancy between major story arcs and “Monster of the Week” storylines (as on “Buffy”), but I liked that they still threw in a little bit with Ord so you remembered that the Breakworld storyline was still simmering in the background. There was a lot more cool fighting in this one, and I definitely laughed out loud a few more times. (Joss’s Canadian jokes always crack me up.) That said, I have a ton more questions after reading this one. I realize some of these might not have definite answers though; we may be dealing in the realm of speculation. It’s just that with characters so well known, I can’t help but wonder if other people read the clues differently than I do. So any help or even wild guesses are welcome here…

– I haven’t read any Fantastic Four (or seen the movie, for that matter). Is there anything I might be missing about their brief appearance here? Seems pretty straightforward. But hey, aren’t they “mutants” of a sort? I remember from the trailers that they got blasted with radiation or something. The one bit I didn’t get was the Torch guy asking if they could be evil now. Some reference I don’t know? And – forgive me if I’m attacking a sacred cow here – what the hell does the stretchy guy do? They’re fighting the big huge monster and the chick’s shooting him with a force field, and the Torch is flaming him, and the Rock guy is bashing him… and Stretchy’s just there in the background, all stretched out. Seems a pretty useless superpower.

– Who is the mysterious voice talking to Emma at the end of Volume 1 and while she’s unconscious in book #8? At first I thought it was the Danger-bot, but now I’m pretty sure it was someone else. Do we know or is there some common speculation? Is it the same person she talks to in the shadows on Genosha? Was it one of those Hellfire guys on the last page? Who are they, anyway? Are any of them supposed to be recognizable? I know that they were baddies and she used to be one, so I’m guessing that they’re hinting that she’s really still a villain all along. Is that what the Danger-bot is referring to when she says she knows “the truth”? Is this how she knows that the last Sentinel is designed to use Cyclops’ power against the X-Men?

– Jesus, can Cyclops really take out a Sentinel just by removing his glasses? He’s a *lot* more powerful than I realized. I like that Wolverine gave him some small props there.

– My only knowledge of Professor Xavier is from the movies. This Xavier is a lot younger and stronger looking, and seems to take a lot more violent action. (Hello, semi-truck?!) I’m assuming that the friend he mentions who puts out a magnetic pulse is (the real) Magneto. If he’s helping Xavier, then is he not one of the Hellfire baddies Emma (might) be allied with? Or does this mean Xavier’s evil too? And what’s with that ending, where it comes out that he knew the Danger-bot was sentient all along? That’s way more morally-ambiguous than I thought the movie Xavier would ever get. Is this characterization of Xavier new, or is this how he always was in the books? What does the Danger-bot mean when she says no one really knows who Xavier is? If Jean knew, does this mean he’s some sort of Dark Phoenix-like thing?

– When they’re getting ready to go to Genosha, Hank mentions asking if “the Avengers” have anything lying around. Who are the Avengers?

– So Kitty’s dad was on Genosha; does this mean he was a mutant too? I somehow got the idea that the mutations didn’t necessarily run in families.

– Wow, did Hank go totally “Beast” there at the end when he attacked the Danger-bot? I got chills with that “MINE.” He was worried about completely devolving. Or is it just sort of a battle rage thing?

I think that’s everything for now, except… when does the next one come out??

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  1. Re Avengers:
    Back in the day I used to read a lot of the Avengers as well as X-men. The Avengers are an alliance of super-heroes, like DC comics’ Justice League – made into the 80s cartoon Super Friends.

    The Avengers featured many big names like Iron Man, The Sub-Mariner, Thor, She-Hulk and Captain America. Lesser known members where Vision, Scarlet Witch and one of my old faves, Hawkeye, a bow-and-arrows expert, which admittedly sounds kinda lame. They often fought Dr Doom, though curiously (well, not really) he lead the team for a while. There was also several spin-off titles including West Coast Avengers (kinda like hip-hop gangsta rivalry?) and Solo Avengers (where they would focus on one hero).

    Bear in mind, my facts are very out-of-date – I haven’t read comics in over 10 years, but I still have my stack at home.

  2. The brief team-up with the Fantastic Four didn’t have any wider significance story-wise; because most of the major Marvel characters live in or near New York, it’s quite common for them to meet up like that when something big, ugly and destructive shows up.

    The Fantastic Four were given their powers by an unexpectedly strong burst of cosmic rays, but that doesn’t make them mutants. “Mutants” are born with their powers – though they often don’t manifest themselves until puberty or later – whereas the other superheroes in the Marvel universe got their powers by other means. (e.g. untimely encounters with radiation – the Fantastic Four, the Hulk, Spider-Man; being doused with nasty chemicals like, say, Daredevil; using technology to augment their native abilities, like Iron Man or Doctor Doom or Doc Ock.) This is quite a big issue in the Marvel universe: whilst all the weirdos in skintight costumes are subject to suspicion from the “normal” populace, there’s a tendency for all mutants to be lumped together, so that when one of them turns bad (e.g. Magneto) the reputation of the entire mutant population suffers. (It doesn’t help that half the mutant villains have reformed and worked with the X-Men over the years.)

    Also, superpowered mutants only started appearing in large numbers relatively recently, and there’s a widespread perception – which Grant Morrison harnessed rather nicely in his run on New X-Men – that the mutants (aka homo superior) are set to replace homo sapiens completely rather than coexist alongside them, just as homo sapiens displaced

  3. Oops, it looks as if my comment was truncated. I’ll send you it by email.

  4. Thanks for that, John. I’m glad you didn’t lose it all! I forgot I’d put in a limit on comments. I’ll repost the rest in chunks here for other people.

  5. More from John:

    homo neanderthalis.

    It’s not that everyone thinks mutants are a menace, more that when a mutant is involved in something big, noisy and evil it’s easy for unscrupulous politicians to invoke a “mutant menace” and worries of “mutant terrorism” and lump good and bad mutants together. This is a really big issue in the current run of X-Men comics: over this summer we’ve just seen a major storyline called “House of M,” at the end of which most of the world’s mutants were “de-powered” – apparently leaving just 198 mutants with their powers intact. The current storylines in the X-books are exploring the consequences of that change, one of which is that the US government, not knowing what caused the events that closed the House of M storyline, is confining all mutants with their powers within the bounds of the Xavier Institute. There are Sentinels and soldiers patrolling to keep the mutants in, turning the institute into a internment camp. In New York, there are vigilantes going round attacking de-powered mutants and informing the authorities whenever they encounter a mutant so they can be transported under armed guard to the institute.

    The “stretchy guy” is Reed Richards, the world’s most brilliant scientist and the leader of the Fantastic Four. He’s not just stretched out in the background, he’s wrapped his body around the monster’s legs and caused it to trip up, the better for The Thing and Colossus to bash it over the head with a large truck. As for the Human Torch’s “Can we be evil now?” line, he’s responding to Wolverine’s comment that if the press brands the FF a menace for associating with the X-Men, “you’ll get a much more interesting bunch of groupies, kid.”

    We still don’t know who was really talking to Emma: the assumption is that it was the Hellfire Club (some of whose members appeared in that last page reveal), and that she is indeed still a villain and has been all along. However, there’s another theory that Emma’s guilt over her past alliances is causing her to hallucinate, or of course it’s possible that her mind is being tampered with somehow. Basically, we’re going to have to wait for Joss Whedon to tell us. (Starting four weeks from now when Astonishing X-Men #13 is published – though I bet he’ll start another story arc and keep us dangling for a little while before letting on, the bastard!)

    Cyclops didn’t quite take out the Sentinel, but he did knock it down – which takes quite some doing. And yes, Wolverine’s comment was a nice recognition that Scott Summers is a useful man to have at your back in a tight situation.

  6. Still more:

    The film version of Charles Xavier doesn’t have the same depth of backstory as the comic one, so they’ve tended to have Patrick Stewart play him as Martin Luther King to Magneto’s Malcolm X and leave it at that. The comic version is just as committed to his vision of peaceful coexistence between mutantkind and normal humans as Patrick Stewart’s take on the character, but it’s fair to say that comics-Xavier has done some … questionable … things to protect his mutants and keep the dream alive: he definitely has a ruthless streak. (As it happens, there’s an example of this unfolding in a current storyline called ‘Deadly Genesis’, but we’re at the halfway point and so far the comics haven’t spelled out precisely what Xavier did way back before he recruited the team that became the modern version of the X-Men that’s leading to all sorts of nasty consequences for some members of the current generation.) It remains to be seen whether the Danger-bot’s comments about nobody knowing who Xavier is refer to the same deep, dark secret that’s being explored in ‘Deadly Genesis’ or something else entirely.

    Xavier isn’t younger in the comics, it’s just that in this particular storyline Joss decided to turn him into Bruce Willis in a wheelchair. And yes, his “friend” is Magneto, but that’s because at that point in the storyline Magneto is full of remorse at the carnage he’s brought upon mutantkind at Genosha and is working with Xavier to rebuild Genosha.

    The Avengers are another team of costumed superheroes. They’re officially government-approved and always have the neatest technology. (There’s a nice moment in one of the early issues of ‘House of M’ where the X-Men fly to the Avengers’ base and Hank is as giddy as a schoolgirl when he sees the sleek new aircraft the Avengers have.) Although some mutants have been Avengers in the past – Wolverine helped them out recently, for example – they’re primarily a group of non-mutant superheroes.

    Kitty’s father wasn’t a mutant; as far as I know, he just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

    Hank’s strategy of going “totally Beast” was intended to prevent Danger-bot from predicting what he’d do – he’s normally very controlled and a clever strategist. One point about the X-Men which the films have underplayed so far is that the team work a lot on team combat drills and developing strategies to make sure that their attacks complement one another. There’s a wonderfully nostalgic moment at the climax of Joss Whedon’s first story arc for those familiar with the X-Men: just after Ord’s spaceship took off and looked set to recede into the distance, Wolverine turned to Colossus and said, “You feeling rested up, Petey?” When Colossus confirmed that he was, Wolverine said, “Then I got just two words for you, bub.” Whedon didn’t actually use the words – he didn’t need to: that move where Pete picked Wolverine up and threw him (in a lovely double-page spread) was called a “fastball special”, one of the combat moves the X-Men used over the years where they needed to get Wolverine where he could do some damage fast. I guarantee you that about 90% of Whedon’s readers of a certain age had a huge grin on their faces when they turned that page and saw the return of one of the classic moves from countless X-Men battles. Heck, I know I did. Judging by the trailer for X3 there’s a fastball special in there too. (But it’ll take more than that to save the film. After reading a script review recently, one fan summed it up ‘…there might as well be Ewoks in this one.’ (See http://www.barbelith.com/topic/18237/from/315#post539882). It’s just about possible that the finished product will surprise us, but I’m not betting on it.)

    Hank’s worry about devolving is a long-running concern. With his only recently having mutated into his current feline form, he fears that he’s going backwards: from human, to ape, to his current feline form. (Presumably cat owners would argue that becoming feline is a step up the evolutionary tree, but Hank isn’t convinced.)

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