Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Marvel 52, Part Three: The X-Men

One of the frustrating things about the X-Men titles has always been the over-abundance of them. This is a problem with superhero comics in general. If people really like one series, they'll certainly buy three more series with the same character. And while that's apparently true economically, it's something I'd stay away from in my who-cares-if-they-make-money Marvel 52. There will be no Spider-Man line, no multiple titles for Thor or Captain America just because they have movies coming out this year. That's one of the advantages of not having to worry about things like actual sales.

The X-Men are a little different though.There's certainly enough going on in their corner of the Marvel Universe to warrant ten titles, but even so I tried to be sparing about the number of team books, giving the bulk of my spots to solo titles and a couple of two-character team-ups.

32. X-Statix by Peter Milligan and Mike Allred

I'm ashamed to say that I missed this the first time around, but I can blame that completely on the number of other X-Men series I was buying at the time. This weird, highly critically acclaimed series got lost in the madness for me, but it's exactly the kind of thing I'm looking for now and I'd like another shot at it.

31. Namora and Marrina by Jeff Parker and Aaron Renier

I always loved team-up books as a kid. Marvel Team-Up, Marvel Two-in-OneBrave and the Bold. What I don't think I've ever seen though was an ongoing series featuring the same two characters teamed up every month. I'm not counting two-person teams that were created to go together like Hawk and Dove or Cloak and Dagger. I'm talking about characters who were created independently of each other, but could share a title for thematic reasons. There've been plenty of mini-series like The Vision and the Scarlet Witch or Hawkeye and Mockingbird, but no ongoings and I'm not sure why. I'd love to give it a try.

Namora and Marrina seem like a really cool pairing. Both are underwater characters and outsiders to the Marvel Universe. Namora was missing for 50 or 60 years and is still reacquainting herself with current events. Marrina's been out of action for not quite that long, but her alien nature and tragic history makes her even more remote from other Marvel characters. I'd love to see a series in which these two women rely on each other, with Namora perhaps acting as a mentor for younger Marrina. And since they've both been romantically involved with Sub-Mariner at some point, there's some built-in drama already waiting to be exploited.

Jeff Parker knows Namora better than anyone else and I can think of no one else outside of Fred Van Lente and Greg Pak whom I'd rather see write the modern version of Marrina. If you've read The Unsinkable Walker Bean, you know that Aaron Renier's the perfect guy for an ocean adventure series.

I may need to defend why I'm calling this an X-Men book. Namora's related (genetically and thematically) to Namor, who's Marvel's "first mutant" and whose most recent series was nominally an X-title; Marrina is a member of Alpha Flight, an X-Men spin-off. Which brings me to...

30. Sasquatch and Puck by John Rozum and Jason Copland

These two characters have worked well together since Alpha Flight #1. They're bickering opposites (Sasquatch is the educated strongman; Puck is the rough-edged acrobat) so this would be a fantastic buddy-series. John Rozum (Midnight Mass, Xombi) knows a thing or eighteen about writing banter while keeping the action moving and I need to see Jason Copland (Kill All Monsters) draw some Alpha Flight characters on a regular basis.

29. Alpha Flight by Fred Van Lente, Greg Pak, and John Byrne

Absolutely no offense intended to Dale Eaglesham, who's doing a fine job on the current Alpha Flight, but it was John Byrne and Alpha Flight that pushed me from casual comics reader to bona fide comics nerd. His representations of those characters are definitive and I'd love to see him draw them again.

28. Kitty Pryde by Jen Wang and Kate Beaton

This replaces all the New Mutants and Young X-Men Academy Whatnot books for me. It's a YA series about a young Kitty Pryde in her early days at Xavier's. Because it's for younger readers, damn the continuity and fill Xavier's with other classmates for her to interact with. But it doesn't have to be just high school drama. She could also go on adventures with various X-Men (preferably one-on-one) to keep things interesting.

Jen Wang (Koko Be Good) and Kate Beaton would keep this light and fun.

27. Jean Grey by G Willow Wilson and Ryan Kelly

I'm not a huge fan of Jean Grey, but I could be. She's got a rich history and interesting powers; she just gets killed off and sidelined so much that I've never had a chance to grow as fond of her as I think she probably deserves. So I'd love to bring her back from the dead again (she's still dead, right?), get her away from Scott, and see what makes her tick. Since it's a character study, I'd just turn Wilson (Air, Mystic) loose and see where she went. And Ryan Kelly's incredibly grounded, yet exciting art would be perfect for it.

26. Nightcrawler by Paul Tobin and Ted Naifeh

Total, genre-crossing swashbuckler. Let Paul Tobin go nuts. Why this hasn't happened already, I don't know. And Ted Naifeh's perfect for putting a demonic-looking hero into all sorts of thrilling settings.

25. Rogue by Vera Brosgol and Chris Bachalo

Though I'm not at all current on what she's been up to the last couple of years, Rogue's been my favorite X-Man for a long, long time. She's pretty angsty and melancholy, and Brosgol's (Anya's Ghost) good at balancing that with humor so that it doesn't become depressing. And no one draws Rogue like Chris Bachalo.

24. Wolverine by Peter Milligan and Kody Chamberlain

Honestly, there are a few series that made my 52 just because it wouldn't be Marvel Comics without them. I'm so over-exposed on Wolverine that it's hard to think of an approach that would make me excited about him. I bet Milligan could though, if he was turned loose. He's got a strange approach to comics and Wolverine can use something different. Kody's (Shang ChiSweets) got a great, loose style that'll keep the comic interesting and exciting to look at.

23. The X-Men by Rich Koslowski and Art Adams

I always like the X-Men best when there's a thick slather of serious melodrama over the trips into space and evil mutant fights. I'm not being sarcastic; that dark tone is right there in their charter: Sworn to protect a world that hates and fears them. But it also needs to know when to have some fun and that's where Rich Koslowski (Three Fingers, The King, BB Wolf and Three LPs) comes in. All of his work takes fun, goofy concepts (Mickey Mouse's tell-all story about his early career at Disney, an Elvis impersonator who may not be impersonating, a jazz-age retelling of The Three Little Pigs) and throws a dark veil over them that makes you think without weighting the whole thing down. As for Art Adams...well, he's Art Freaking Adams.

If I were really doing this, I'd have some long discussions with Rich about which characters we wanted to include, but since this is fantasy, my dream line-up would be Cyclops, Wolverine, Storm, Rogue, Colossus, Nightcrawler, Beast, and Emma Frost. With frequent appearances by Kitty, because she's totally in love with Colossus.

I'm taking a break from this tomorrow and Thursday to focus on Westerns and cephalopods, but I'll be back to in on Friday with Marvel Knights.


Jason Copland said...

Thanks for the vote, MM! I'd be down for something like that, too. As long as it was played seriously and not some "humour" comic... if you know what I mean.

Michael May said...

Unfortunately, I know exactly what you mean. :)

Erik Johnson Illustrator said...

After I commented on your last entry, I realized that there aren't enough unique titles to make a "Spider-Family" line. From a marketing perspective, naturally you want to ring as many titles out of a money making character as you can, but for me personally, all you probably need for Spidey (not counting Ultimate and Youth Imprint) is the Flagship "Amazing Spider-Man" and a personal favorite of mine "Spider-Man's Tangled Web" (though I'd re-title it "Web of Spider-Man" if only because the word "Tangled" makes me think Spidey and Rapunzel are going to team up)

Anyway, what I liked about "Tangled Web" was how different it was from the main title. There was a new writer artist team each issue and the stories focused on Spidey's supporting cast or people who were affected by Spider-Man's George Bailey style actions. It was a premise very reminiscent of Will Eisner's "The Spirit" and provided a wealth of story possibilities beyond just the little bubble our hero inhabits to provide an uplifting sense of scope, as well as showcase on the rise talents.

Now, back to X-Men. For me, I'd want to make sure Jamie Maddrox still got to play detective in Peter David's "X-Factor", and I can't tell you enough how much loved the fun feeling of the Silver Age flashbacks in Jeff Parker's "X-Men: First Class" title, which included some wonderful Jean Grey solo stories by Colleen Coover.

I'm currently searching for books by Rich Koslowski, because the body of work you describe sounds diverse and unexpected, which is exactly what the main X-Title should be like.

Michael May said...

I loved X-Men: First Class too. Maybe Parker and Coover could do some fill-in issues on the main X-Men series.

Though I've already given Coover an ongoing gig that I haven't gotten to yet. :)

Mitchell Craig said...

I like the idea of a Kitty Pryde series...but not your idea, per se'. My ideal series for Kitty would showcase her as the X-Men's goodwill ambassador (their "public face", as Joss Whedon put it in his run on Astonishing X-Men, dealing with regular people in the Marvel Universe as well as the super-powered folk. Her Shadows and Flame mini-series is a good example for what I have in mind.


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