Tag Archives: Stan Lee

An X-Men Misfire! My review of X-Men Misfits

28 Jan

As many of you know, I am a big X-Men fan, as evidenced by the first entry in this blog and my contribution to the May To Terra MMF titled From Blackbirds to Battleships, and while Shojo manga hasn’t always been my cup of tea, the idea of taking a primarily masculine action comic and boiling it down to its core emotional human values was incredibly appealing to me. That’s what makes X-Men so great, is the emotional and romantic struggles that the mutants have amongst all this action; they are real relatable people. I’ve always been able to connect with these characters because I know how it feels to be different & shunned for it and I’ve always felt that the comics need a deeper exploration of these character elements and what better way to do it with a genre of manga that’s been known for doing just that?

So did it live up to my expectations? Did X-Men Misfits bring our merry mutants into a new thoughtful light?

Not exactly, X-Men Misfits is a bit of a weird mess. Written by husband and wife writing team, Dave Roman (Astronaut Elementary) and Raina Telgemeier (Baby Sitters Club, SMILE ) weave the tale (or in this case tail) of 15-year-old Kitty Pryde, as she discovers her intangibility or phasing, is sought out by Magneto (looking rather dapper) and is enrolled in the Xavier’s School for Gift Youngsters. The only problem: she’s the only girl at the school, surrounded by a bunch of winged, blue skinned, multiple and “accurate” (I hope someone gets this reference) boys all out to get in with her.

I have mixed feelings about this premise. I mean, is she really the only other female mutant aside from Storm and Jean (who isn’t in this volume mind you) that Xavier and Magneto have found? What I like about it is that it centralizes the readers focus onto the character and her struggles, rather than the school and its issues. It’s nice to have a concise approach to a lead character instead of the focus shifting in the book. What I don’t like about it is the objectification of Kitty. Immediately right when she walks in, Her being the only girl in the school makes her a prize to all the other boys. She gets involved with the overly possessive Pyro and his hellfire club, the manga’s Bishounen group, who treat her more like an exotic pet than anything else.

The worst part of it is that after she realizes this and all the issues that she has with Pyro, she doesn’t stand up for herself, her abilities or her womanhood. She instead runs and finds comfort & protection in the arms of other male mutants (Xavier, Iceman, Cyclops). That was one of my biggest problems with this book, is that Kitty Pryde, a character so synonymous with being a strong, independent female character is reduced a weak lovelorn teenage fool. There isn’t a sense of personal growth within the book. There isn’t a strong sense of female empowerment throughout the book on a whole. After Kitty shares her unique trait with the Hellfire Club, they refer to it as a “pretty girly power”. Another example is when Nightcrawler or Kurt Wagner & Kitty are paired to train together, Kurt refers to his teleportation as wimpy. This book emphasizes that violent & powerful element of X-Men that I’ve always disliked, the idea that mutant abilities (human evolution) are only  to be praised useful if they are destructive, masculine and strong.

In addition to this glaring issue, I found that the story was in need of that old media rule “Show, Don’t Tell”. There are a number of instances: where Kitty talks about Pyro being a good boyfriend to her and helping her come to terms with her special abilities, Magneto mentions what sounds like a really cool use of his abilities etc but we never get to see these played out. It creates this weird pacing issue with the story, where the reader has a fabricate a lot of this world in their head and fill in, what I think, is too many gaps.

I’d also like to bring up is the artwork, which unfortunately, is incredibly inconsistent. There are some magnificent scenes in this manga (when Angel descends down the stairs for the first time, when Pyro and Kitty first kiss) but most of the normal panel artwork isn’t very good. Characters faces change shape constantly, most everyone looks the same and there is a whole lot of super deformity happening. Anzu has a lot of talent, that is not without question. I just wish she could pick a style choice and stick with it; I’d love to see her really buckle down and focus on those minute details that bring her art to life.

Ultimately, I would only recommend this book to series Manga fans (and by that, I mean people who are in or care about the development of the industry and trying things like this again) but not to X-Men fans. I don’t think it really does anything for the franchise. The characters in this don’t complement or work from the original source material; they are only represented in image  & namesake alone. Heck, some of them aren’t even named! Did anyone catch the Gambit reference? I still don’t understand why he was in the story, considering he got one line and it was more or less your welcome. Want to know what I would do? Take this concept but use the First Class cast. It’s all already there: great tension between Warren and Scott for Jean’s affection, Bobby’s insecurity, Hank’s beastly changes. This book bite off way more than it could chew and it is too bad because this could’ve been great.

The X-Men: Marvel Masterworks Vol. 1 Review

29 Sep

The X-men has always been my favorite Marvel Comics property. Iconically, they have always well represented the struggles that people with mental and physical differences undergo in their everyday life. The character have always appeared more human to me than other heroes. For example, unlike the Super Solider Captain America, a man with undying patriotism, the first class of X-men consisted a group of world-weary teenagers; inexperienced with the world around them and dealing with so much more than what normal teenagers go through. And although the X-men’s roster and social nuances have gone through some change throughout the years, I still feel that the first class remains a very important piece of the framework of what X-Men was always meant to be; a human interest piece.

The book that I am reviewing, is the first in a series of Marvel Masterworks for “The X-Men”, which if you are interested in pursuing the collection, consists of seven volumes, compiling all 66 issues of the comics original run. At $25 a book, I would argue that this is a worthwhile purchase. The paper is a high-quality glossy stock, allowing the retouched, colorful masterpieces to stand out; I was initially astounded by how bright the colors were. In addition to collecting the first ten issues of the original run, this book also includes the  individual covers of each issue, special pin-up pages of the characters and a loveable campy introduction by Smiling Stan Lee. This is certainly a book that caters to the collector in me and I think would make a great gift purchase for anyone who has a real deep connection with the property.

Enough about the physical book though! What matters most is whats on the inside, right?! If there is one thing that I had to say about the writing in the original X-men, it’s that it hasn’t aged well. Stan Lee likes to write big and loud, creating sensational story lines and dialogue that just come off as goofy to someone who is more used to more modern, subtle works. While big stories fit the fantastical nature of the characters, the stories really subtract from the potential ethical value of the work. Most of the time, the X-Men, a group of extravagantly dress mutants, come in contact with other ridiculous looking groups (The Avengers, The Brotherhood) and then fight. There isn’t much of the X-Men, dealing with any social issues or interacting with human beings as mutants; when they are out in the world, they are reminded to hide their identities as superheroes which really detracts from the supposed personal struggles for mutants.

Another aspect of personal issues that this book has, is the character writing. While they all have something unique and inherently complex about their personalities (for example, Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch disagree with Magneto’s beliefs but have to serve him out of gratitude for saving their lives), only one of the large cast of twelve grows during the course of the book. Scott Summers goes from being a quiet, uncompromising and almost insensitive jerk to a compassionate leader, who is willing to make personal sacrifices for his teammates. Most of the other characters, especially the X-Men, came across as very flat and repetitive; Beast is always the smart guy, Iceman the jokester and Angel is arrogant.

Moving away from my issues with the writing though, lets talk about the art. Jack Kirby has always been known as the King of Comics (American that is) and the X-Men is a real example of Kirby’s uncommon style. What I find most interesting about this book, is that there is a rigidity to the artwork, especially in the depictions of the people and not just the frost covered Iceman (where it makes sense), but all of them.  From Beast’s feet to those pointy crests in Quicksilver’s hair and even the shading on the X-Men’s costumes, everything is very jagged and rough. It was so, so prevalent that it really made the characters unable to mesh together; I never felt like I was truly watching a group at work. There interactions came off as spiteful, furthering pushing them all into a state of isolation, when they should be helping one another.

After reading this review, you might ask yourself, “Why the hell did he buy this and why should I buy it?” as I’ve really only touched on what I didn’t like about the book. Well, here’s what I like/love about the book: this is a really fun and goofy comic, which is something that you can’t always come across today and this is the past revisited. This is a recreation of  dreams realized, of history being made. The X-Men touched the lives of millions of young comics fans, propelling them to take the characters and tell their own stories. Thats what I love about this book is that it is a genesis to what comics have become today.