Hello World! I’ve pinged up, networked some social SEO, and trackbacked more than you could ever believe. I have, perhaps, 20% understanding of what any of those things mean. But this should now be heading off onto Twitter and Tumblr and all sorts of other places, making me unavoidable! Just like in your dreams.
Those lucid, lovely dreams you have.
Brian Michael Bendis is currently writing the main X-Men book for Marvel, called All-New X-Men. It’s received good reviews so far, but is only on the first arc at the moment. First arcs are easy to do. You make all the changes you outlined in your initial pitch, you stir up trouble, you get things moving. Keeping that momentum up is another thing, and we’ll have to see how Bendis handles that over the next few weeks.
But assuming he does, All-New X-Men will be a praised run. The thing is, when you’re writing for Marvel, there something as important as creating a good story, and that’s creating a good contribution. Which, I’m sure I should’ve thought up a better term for. Anyway, making a good contribution basically means that you leave the franchise with stories to tell once you leave, and ideally that you give them scope and options for how they can do so. Matt Fraction did this when he wrote the main X-Men book.
In his run on Uncanny X-Men, Fraction brought Magneto back into the limelight (he’s now a mainstay of the X-Men), along with Psylocke and Kitty Pryde, both of whom are important parts of big Marvel titles right now. Namor joined. He moved the X-Men to San Francisco, where they can have stories far removed from the cluttered world of New York (home to Spider-Man, the Avengers, the Fantastic Four, Daredevil…) Finally, Fraction reintroduced long-dormant characters like Fantomex, Dr Nemesis and Dazzler into the contemporary world of the X-Men, and they’ve all now gone on to be important parts of the Marvel Universe.
The thing is that barely any of this happened in a good story. The move to San Francisco lasted 12 issues before Fraction moved the X-Men to an island called Utopia, in what appeared to be a poorly-referenced take on the current Israel-Palestine conflict. Psylocke’s return was barely comprehensible, plot-hole-laden gibberish, whilst Dazzler and Fantomex were both written with barely any attention paid to them at all. There’s a reason nobody cites Fraction’s X-Men run when they talk about his best work: it was overthought, underwritten, and consistently awful.
But then again – he gave future writers things to work with. You can contribute something positive to a shared universe in a terrible story, but at the same time a good story can destroy the chances for future storylines. This is the worry I’m already having about Bendis’ take on the X-Men. In his short time he’s taken away Emma Frost’s telepathy, in the process splitting up her long-term relationship with Cyclops which has defined the books for the past ten years. As a result, her purpose is completely gone, and we have no idea why she’s continuing around the team anymore. Bendis has also done this to Beast:
Making the character patently ridiculous, with a Stuart Immonen design which is awful – and other writers struggle to do anything with:
Where do you go from here with the character? It’s a regression which is afraid to admit that it’s a regression. Which is how you can also define the decision Bendis made to bring time travel into the equation, and bring characters from the past into the present. Five X-Men from the 60s have been ostensibly brought to the present day by Beast, and they have now decided to stay, and chat with the present-day selves. How does that go forward? If Bendis leaves the X-Men unexpectedly, is this a storyline other people can use?
It’s very early on in the run (I believe only six issues have been released so far), but the fresh relaunch offers us a chance to look at this. When Bendis finished a ten year run on the Avengers, his last storyline essentially reversed everything he’d ever done and put things back where he found them. Where will he take the X-Men, and will it help or hinder the franchise as a whole?