Axel-In-Charge: Waid & Samnee on "Black Widow" and the Dawn of the All-New, All-Different Era
But really, that’s not enough. Nope.
In my excitement for and about this title and what a long time coming it is – I think I have truly been waiting 20 years for this book – I thought it’d be a good time to talk about the ladies being featured in the title. The X-Men on Wood’s team are some of my favorite characters in all of comics, so I’m pretty excited to see them all here together, kicking ass and taking names.
We’ll start at the top, since Storm is the defacto leader, in general, and in Wood’s book. Here’s the thing about Storm for me, I WANT to love her. Her powerset is great and she’s just primed to be a fantastic character, but I’ll be honest, how most writers approach her leaves me a bit cold. The stilted goddess angle generally doesn’t do much for me, which is probably why I lean toward the leather mohawked interpretations (and is probably part of what I like about her current direction – a little more attitude and a little less benevolence – plus mohawk!) Probably my favorite thing about Wood’s previous X-Men run (with artist David Lopez) was how quickly I was interested in Storm – even sans mohawk. Wood really gave her gravitas as a leader, and her battling of wits with Cyclops, who she was coming to trust and confide in less and less over the course of the arc was incredible. It was some of the simplest, subtlest, and most layered character work I’ve seen anyone do with her in ages. So if Wood can bring that to this title, I’ll be excited to see Storm rise up my “favorite characters” list, something I’ve been waiting for far too long.
In this first issue, Storm is mostly acting as said defacto leader, which can be an unfulfilling role for a character, something that pigeonholes them, but given what I saw from Wood before with Storm, I’m not concerned.
Jubes tends to be one of those love her or hate her characters. I confess that early on in my reading of her (her early days as well – the early to mid-90’s) I found her irritating. I was probably supposed to as she was the “young” character and I was at that tender 15/16/17 age where you want so badly to be awesome (which of course makes you tragically unhip) and as such Jubilee’s enthusiasm/bravado/youth were a bit of a turn off to me. She grew on me over time though and Generation X really solidified her as a character I felt had great potential and generally enjoyed. I haven’t always loved the evolution of Jubilee’s powerset (i.e. with a few glowing exceptions there hasn’t been much evolution at all) and so the loss of her mutant power doesn’t bother me as much as it bothers others. That said, I was firmly on the train that wondered why the hell Jubilee had to be a vampire. Again, something that felt tragically unhip (not to mention a decade too late to be cutting edge in any way). HOWEVER, in the hands of great writers like Kathryn Immonen (Wolverine & Jubilee mini-series with artist Phil Noto) and Marjorie Liu (guest appearance in the X-23 series again with Phil Noto) I came to see how much potential this bizarre evolution actually had. Regardless of how behind the times and eye rollingly annoying Jubilee as a vampire is in concept, it did force the character to evolve. And that is generally good! In Wood’s hands I expect no less, regardless of how vampire-y Jubilee seems or not in his hands.
Based on this first issue, Wood appears very focused on Jubilee’s background as an orphan – drawing great parallels between her own orphan status and her “unofficial adoption” of an infant that’s also been orphaned, as well as Jubilee bringing that orphan home – to the home she built for herself with the X-Men. It’s all really wonderful stuff so far, and I’m excited about it. Especially now that I like her costume so much.
I have very little to say about Rachel Grey. This is traditionally not a character I care for. I suppose my lack of affection for the Scott Summers/Jean Grey pairing (snore!) doesn’t help Rachel’s case any. It also doesn’t help that I have never understood how Rachel was once the Phoenix and seemed to handle it with “no problem” and yet people not being able to “handle” the Phoenix force is literally something a company wide event can be built around. That the force can be split into five piece and given to some ultimate badasses and still drive everyone insane with power and ruin lives/the world, but this one chick was a conduit for it, seemingly with no blowback…I mean, what? And while we’re on this subject, if that was true…then why didn’t the Phoenix force just come knocking for Rachel this last time? I mean, I guesssss the end of AvX justifies the why…sort of. But the whole thing generally makes my head hurt and then I get grouchy, and then I look at Rachel with a suspicious side eye. So all this sounds like I’m not glad this character is on the time. NOT SO, DEAR READER! The opposite in fact! I look at this as my best opportunity to care for the character. Brian Wood does nothing better than gorgeous layered character work, so I look forward to learning to love Rachel. If anyone can do it, Brian Wood can! My only skepticism I guess is why we need two telepaths on the team (and if I have to pick one I’m picking Pyslocke any day of the week and twice on Sundays)!
In this first issue, there’s not been too much time for Rachel to wow me (yet!). Like Storm, she’s coming off as leader/teacher but at home base, while Storm’s doing it in the field. But I am patient. I already said I waited 20 years for this book, right???
Speaking of Psylocke…PSYLOCKE! I know she’s a character with a super complicated and problematic history (and to be honest, I have this whole massive post I wrote about it that I hope will someday be published but…well, it’s a long story). Anyway, because of that unpublished piece I’m not going to delve deeply into the problems. She’s a problematic character. Full stop. I still like her. Whether that’s simply because I read her first as the version we generally see these days, or just because I’m an insensitive asshole is a thing to be decided at a later date (probably). Regardless, I’m really really really (did I say really yet?) excited to see what Brian Wood can do with her. I haven’t loved the interpretation of her over in the new post-Remender Uncanny X-Force (it started okay, but hasn’t really gone anywhere) but I really liked Wood’s take on her in his X-Men run, so I look forward to seeing more of that. And she’s got a great new costume now, so that’s not a bad thing either.
In this first issue Wood seems to be going with a “salty” Psylocke, i.e. she’s the least approachable and loveable of the leads thus far, and that’s on track for how I think of her/the interpretation I enjoy. Better yet it’ll be nice to see a take on her that allows her to be salty and “unlovable” without it being a lazy stereotype but rather something layered that can be explored over time. And her powerset? Already in a single issue Wood (and Coipel) are doing something cool, by having her turn her “psychic knife” into something more flexible and interesting – and it’s high time we saw some of that!
Kitty Pryde is a character that I more recently came to have an affection for. I think it was Joss Whedon’s use of her in Astonishing X-Men that first made me want to find out more about her. I loved her in Astonishing, but didn’t know if that was a one time deal. However, since Whedon’s run (and the piece linked to above) I’ve been pretty universally “pro-Kitty” which is good because there’s been a lot of focus on her in the last two years after she was rescued from that giant Breakworld bullet. She’s an intriguing mix in this team, because though she’s taken a leadership like role in Wolverine & The X-Men and All New X-Men as a teacher and she also did in the short-lived Generation Hope, she’s definitely not the leader in this title. But Kitty has a nice calming presence, rational, and warm-hearted, with tons of brains and one of the coolest powersets around. Wood’s been doing fascinating things with the alternate reality/Ultimate version of Kitty in Ultimate Comics X-Men, where she is absolutely both a leader and a rebel, so it will be interesting to see how his take differs here in the “real” world.
In this first issue we got a “field Kitty,” which I appreciate as her powerset is awesomely flexible and when drawn well is utterly cool.
Saving the best for last, yo! Rogue is one of my all time favorite superheroes…ALL TIME. And there’s nothing I like more as a comics reader than seeing her handled well on a writing and drawing front – this is both tied together so beautifully I almost can’t stand it! Rogue was, as I’ve discussed before, really my entrance to superheroes (via the X-Men Animated series from the 90’s), and eventually to comic books, so I have a lot to thank her for. Unfortunately, like any character you love that’s popular and handed from creator to creator over the years, there have been A LOT of missteps with Rogue. She got back on track and was evolved very nicely under Mike Carey’s pen in X-Men Legacy however, and after being left in a good place by Carey, she’s been getting picked up by a lot of interesting writers the last year from Remender’s take on Uncanny Avengers to awesome one-off’s like Chris Bachalo’s Black Widow & Rogue A+X short (which if you haven’t read it, get on that – they even kiss – omg!). But I confess to being most excited about her appearance here in Wood’s book. Both because I trust Wood implicitly with the character, and because I really like what I’m seeing already, especially the return to Rogue’s brawler roots. I also truly appreciate a writer that’s not afraid to let her “regional accent/dialect” nonsense fall to the wayside. There’s nothing wrong with accents in comics in theory, but it gets old really fast, and when not handled well, quickly becomes cartoonish and laughable. Rogue’s “sugah” long ago hit that mark, and while I’m not opposed to small bits of it (like “sugah”) showing up from time to time, I much prefer the voice that Wood is working towards in this first issue – i.e. one that’s free of the cliched accent but that doesn’t ignore her character’s established voice. Both can be done — it takes a good writer, but I have no doubt Wood is that writer.
In this first issue Rogue gets a TON of panel time, operating as the aforementioned brawler and heavy-hitter on the team, derailing a train, saving passengers, in other words, doing what she does best!
So, who else would I like to see stop by for a chat? Well, it’s always tricky because different writers have dibs on certain characters, and my first pick is definitely a lady already spoken for, but I would love to see Brian Wood get his hands on Emma Frost…if only for a few issues. I’d like to see what he could do with her, and she’s not great pals with any of the core team, so she would be a nice vinegar to their oil. Good times!
A tragically underused character, and one I know Wood is fond of is Hisako Ichiki aka Armor. I’d love to see her show up – she’s a great character in every way, perhaps especially in her amazing power set – and this team could use a “strong guy” even if Rogue is taking on the roll of brawler (which I love as stated above).
Lastly, a character that I suspect Wood must be interested in bringing into the fold, since she’s already shown up in a few panels of the first issue – Pixie! Wood got a chance to write Pixie in his previous run on X-Men and I think his affection for the character is evident. I like what I’ve seen from Pixie thus far and would never turn down an opportunity to see a great writer like Wood explore her character further.
What about you? What did you think of the new issue? How do you feel about the core team? What other ladies would you like to see show up in future issues?
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