Hank McCoy (Before the Fur)

I’ve been taking a gander at what’s been going on in the X-universe lately. Endangered species, Messiah Complex, etc… It’s been a while since I saw X-Men comics that truly sated my need for mutant craziness. But I have to say, I’m impressed. For me, the coolest part of the entire X-Men universe was the cast. I really love the idea that Xavier ran a school that mutants of all varying levels of experience in superherodom lived together at. Nowadays, they’ve gone one step beyond and have mutants at all varying levels of just being…well, educated, living there. They don’t all grow up to be superheroes and mutant commandos and what not. Most are just people who want to live normal lives (or as normal a life as a mutant gets, anyway). So it really is an actual SCHOOL now, not just a cover for some clandestine mutant strike team. It’s very Harry Potter and everything. Cute. Right around the time Decimation was happening my interest in the whole X thing was waning. I mean for me, the X-Men cast is so rich and deep, and goes far beyond the simple line-up showed in the movies, that the idea that half of known mutants everywhere were going to suddenly lose their powers really bothered me. Well, okay, let me put it this way- the idea that mutants would suddenly become an endangered species had some appeal, in and of itself. But I didn’t like that half of the characters I used to enjoy reading about were suddenly on the list of “depowered” mutants. I mean, Jubilee? Really? We’re going to write her out of the whole mutant saga now? Really, you think that’s a good idea? This character doesn’t have potential anymore, suddenly? I love almost every character Chris Claremont brought back or introduced through the late eighties into the early nineties, through X-Men, X-factor, and New Mutants. In fact, my favorite time for the whole comic was in the early eighties, when they finally bit the bullet and put almost every X-Man that ever was onto the team or on an X-Men spin off. I admit, the comic lines were oversaturated with X-this and X-that; but I just thought it was cool that there were so many of them, they were all so different, and the writers had finally stopped trying to pretend like only five to six of them were important at any given time and the rest could fall to the wayside, forgotten. Someone figured “Christ, let’s just use all of them, okay!? Psylocke, Havok, Wolfsbane, Cable, Shatterstar, Strong Guy…just, go, whatever!” But then, somewhere along the line, the whole thing fizzled. Don’t know when exactly, but one by one those spinoff titles disappeared. X-force dissolved into a comic that I didn’t even recognize anymore, X-factor (which was hotly under-rated, the run starring Havok, Polaris, Strong Guy, Wolfsbane, and Multiple Man…can’t remember who wrote it) just started getting weirder and weirder…and Generation X? What the hell HAPPENED with Generation X? That was by far the best written and drawn comic Marvel had made in years when it first came out. And it sold. Like hotcakes. And then? I woke up one morning and it was gone. Not only that, but the characters were gone. Or just making casual cameos here and there. But I’m happy to say that I see more and more of the characters that I’ve loved over the years back in the book lately. You ask me, Joss Wheedon did the right thing bringing Kitty Pryde back and, although a bit cliché, bringing Colossus back to life. With the former, although I think Excalibur was (is) an awesome comic book, it never really sat right with me that Kitty and Nightcrawler just took off one day and decided to live in Britain, away from the teammates and friends that they had known for years. With the latter? I think killing Colossus’ little sister (Illyana Rasputin a.k.a. Magik a.k.a. COOLEST X-MAN EVER) and turning him into a depressed, pseudo-villain was terrible. It just went against his nature. That’s why I hate that the guy doesn’t have any lines, or personality, in the movies- because for so long, he was such an important character in that comic! But these two, together, romantically, finally? This felt right to me. But I was particularly stoked to see Dazzler gracing the cover of the latest issue of Secret Invasion: X-Men. In fact, if Dazzler turns out to BE a Skrull? I am going to be truly upset. This is a character that Marvel just hasn’t stuck with enough. There’s a good story in there somewhere, buried beneath all the constant re-write bullshit with Dazzler. To me, the coolest thing about her was how her power worked. It wasn’t just that she could generate light- it was that she turned sound into light. So, in a vacuum, she can’t do anything. But on stage with speakers blasting? Well, it’s no wonder she had a career as a pop star, anyway. Later though, Allison actually learned how to dampen sound too. So in a crowded room, Dazzler could make everyone silent, even if they were screaming at the top of their lungs. It was cool just because it was different than the standard “I’m a mutant and I shoot lasers” routine. And mostly I liked her because she was fairly normal, as women on the X-Men go. Her would-be husband, Longshot, was not so normal. Longshot wasn’t a mutant, exactly. He was from the Mojoverse. The Mojoverse is just one of those crazy, weird, interesting ideas Claremont and the staff dreamed up in the eighties. See, X-Men during the eighties had a lot to do with racism and prejudice and all that jazz- but it also had to do with general WEIRDNESS. Demons, aliens, interdimensional portals…it was kind of like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in that whatever the X-Men were dealing with, it was bound to be bizarre (I made a loose comparison here, I know, but I think it pans out). Among the X-Men cast of villains is an amorphous, spineless (literally and figuratively), disgusting Jabba the Hut-esque T.V. Network executive producer/absolute ruler name Mojo. The history of the Mojoverse is particularly bizarre, but it mostly revolves around an entire civilization becoming entirely addicted to television and barely moving. Mojo rules the population by broadcasting images of ridiculous television shows he creates by putting slaves (and occasionally the X-Men) through gladiatorial combat with gimmicky, action movie twists. Longshot was created, genetically, in the Mojoverse to be a “star” of Mojo’s “shows”. He was given an inborn power, not unlike mutants, that made him unnaturally lucky. Consequently, things always seemed to “work out” for Longshot, in uncanny and unexpected ways. I remember one issue in which the X-Men literally woke Longshot up while he was lying unconscious and asked him to toss a rock at an enemy’s forcefield, knowing full well that Longshot’s natural luck would cause him to hit the exact point that the field was weakest. They proceeded to pour everything they had onto that one point. It was weird. But it was cool. Eventually he escaped the Mojoverse and became an X-man. Even though he wasn’t exactly a mutant. While the guy hasn’t appeared in an X-comic for a while, I know he was back recently- only to be revealed to be a Skrull. Actually, I know at one point, (I think during Eve of Destruction), Allison mentioned something about Longshot being dead. This Skrull-revelation might seal the deal on her husband’s demise. Only time will tell. I’ve become a big fan of X-treme X-Men too. Originally, the idea that Storm, Rogue, Bishop, Gambit, and a few other X-Men would have a big falling out and run off to do their own thing didn’t sit well with me. But I really love that the story brings back Irene Adler, a.k.a. Destiny. Destiny was a member of the Brotherhood, an elderly, almost frail woman who could tell the future. She and Mystique were close though- even as villains, their friendship always seemed very real and genuine. It stuck out. Actually, I’ve heard told that years later, Claremont revealed that he had always intended for Destiny to be Mystique’s lover, but the fans just weren’t ready for a lesbian couple in comic books yet. Well, Destiny met her end unfortunately. But most of X-treme X-Men is about collecting journals she’s left behind, detailing elements of the future. This has been a nice way to reintroduce was I’ve always thought of as part of the fundamental mythology behind X-Men: that they are trying to not just improve human-mutant relations, but prevent the coming of a chain of events that will evolve into a time line in which Sentinels go haywire and enslave the entire human race. Little elements of the future and time travel have long been a staple of X-Men, and Irene’s diaries have little bits and pieces that make you think. That’s always what made the Sentinels scary to me, really. They seemed empty, hollow- but this idea that they were going to one day start evolving into something resembling human consciousness and “decide” that the best way to “protect” humanity from mutants is to start regulating everything, from breeding to daily activities, was really freaky. It had this sort of biblical apocalyptic overtone- like, instead of accepting the natural order, humanity had brought this totally un-natural thing, the sentinels, to life. They had “played God” and this was the price they paid. It was scary. The point is, I’m just happy to SEE some of these characters. I always love Jean Grey, but for a long time, the very word X-Men conjured the following characters to me: Storm, Wolverine, Nightcrawler, Colossus, and Kitty Pryde. THAT was the team I grew up with and how I always picture the team in my minds eyes. To see so many old names walking around is satisfying- not to mention a few new characters who have begun to hold my interest. OH, one last thing, off the record. If you’re really, really hardcore into Marvel (even I’m not hardcore enough to catch all the names dropped in this article), you might appreciate this link. Read it through- it’s freaky!