Marvel. We meet again. Stan Lee and Jack Kirby created some of the best things that the comic book (possibly all of fiction) has ever seen. Marvel Comics wouldn’t be around without those two guys. Hell, comics wouldn’t be around (and maybe Hollywood, too). But it wasn’t Spider-Man, the Hulk, Iron Man, Thor, or the literally thousands of other characters that resonated with me as a little kid. It was Batman. But this column isn’t about Batman.
So that leads me to my Marvel favorites, Magneto and Phoenix. Two should-be good but probably aren’t capable of being good for too long characters that mirror my life philosophies of “survival of the fittest” and “stop screwing with people who are tired of your shit.” Let me tell you a story.
I used to be a huge X-Men fan. In fact, the whole reason I ever stepped into a comic book shop was because my brother watched the X-Men cartoon in the 90s and I followed him into the world of superheroes. His first comic, he proudly remembers, was X-Men #3 (Chris Claremont’s “final” issue and Jim Lee at the height of his Marvel career). Little did he know, that was also my first comic. Lee made the X-Men look cool. Claremont made them sound cool. And I remember, even back then, that Magneto was my favorite and I was going to miss him. Death, I would later learn, is a revolving door in the comic book world. And much like my love-hate relationship with agreeing with, wanting better for, and sometimes being discouraged by the master of magnetism, my second favorite X-Men character, Jean Grey, was defined solely by her deaths and subsequent returns. The Phoenix force is about as science-fiction as you can get (with a little bit of mythology, another love of mine, thrown in for good measure). So when I read X-Men, pretty religiously from the mid-90s all the way until Grant Morrison’s run, it was safe to say that Magneto and Jean (and the rest of the literal hundreds of cast members throughout the decades) went through many surprising yet exciting changes. Then Morrison killed him. And her. And I was simultaneously heartbroken and impressed. (I still stand by the Xorn reveal as literal and the Jean death as an important moment for the status quo of the X-books. Fight me.)
But I digress.
Joss Whedon (and John Cassaday) had a near-perfect run with Astonishing X-Men, which built on the Lee and Kirby idea, incorporating the Claremont mythology and character-centric storytelling techniques, and justifying the over-the-top near-perfect landing of Morrison’s crazy ass run. Then I read Claremont and Sean Chen’s “X-Men: The End” trilogy and I sort of stopped. Ed Brubaker, Craig Kyle, Christopher Yost, and even the great Brian Michael Bendis tried their best to bring me back but usually lost me after a few issues. I was a lapsed fan. Then I was a former fan. And then I started to actually hate the X-Men.
Then Matthew Rosenberg came along. He wrote some indy books which were amazing. He picked up some D-listers over at Marvel and I followed him for a few miniseries, which were equally good. And then he announced that he was bringing Jean back. For real. So I cautiously and optimistically gave him (and by extension, all of Marvel) a chance. For real. And in the last issue of his Phoenix miniseries, he gave me this page, which almost brought me to actual, honest-to-God tears:
Tom Taylor just released X-Men: Red #1. It’s still on the stands. And for some ridiculous reason, it’s not selling out. Please do yourself a huge favor and go buy a copy for yourself, for your friend, and for that lapsed X-fan in your life. It’s everything Lee and Kirby and Morrison and Whedon and Rosenberg could want it to be… and more. Tom Taylor is a wonderful writer who pretty much fixes any title or character he’s thrown into. There’s a scene with Nightcrawler and Jean talking about what it means to be friends. There’s a scene where Jean enters the United Nations building with more confidence than Cyclops ever had, even at his cockiest. And then there’s a cliffhanger that made me so excited to see where things will go next.
Now’s your chance, fans. Now’s your chance, readers. And most importantly, now’s your chance, Marvel. Make good books and I’ll buy them. And I’ll write about them. And with any luck, you’ll capture the excitement that a little kid secretly reading his brother’s comics had back in the 1990s.
Make Mine Marvel… again.