Thursday, August 18, 2011

What If...I got to write the X-Men?!?!

So, to recap: I’ve been reading X-Men for most of my life, blah blah blah…first issue bought was #183, blah blah blah…started collecting the entire run, blah blah blah…I’m very bad at recaps, especially when I don’t seem to have a massive audience or a library of material to draw from.

Anyway, not only am I 30 issues away from having a complete run of the 544 issue run of Uncanny X-Men (two issues of which haven’t even been released yet), I’m actually only 10 issues away (again, two of which haven’t even been released yet) from having every issue of Uncanny X-men that feature original material (in case I haven’t mentioned this anywhere: issues #67-93 contained reprinted material from previous issues). And not only do I OWN those 514 issues, I’ve actually read those 514 issues (along with countless issues of X-men vol. 2, X-Men vol.3, X-factor, Astonishing X-Men, New Mutants, etc. etc.). And along the way I’ve found myself thinking about what I would do if I was writing Marvel’s Merry Mutants.

The answer, of course, to *that* question is: tell the best stories I can given the direction that Marvel’s editorial staff wants to go in. However, as of late, I’ve found myself pondering the bigger question: What would I do if I had total creative freedom to plot the X-Men’s course in the books. So, if you’ve ever wondered what I would do if I were the creative voice behind the X-Men, this is the blog entry you’ve been waiting for!

First off, let’s look at the general problem surrounding the X-men. Their mission statement during the book’s heyday was: “Mutants! Sworn to Protect the World that Fears and Hates Them!” They were a super-hero team that was also a family, dealing with the day-to-day prejudice that the normal citizens of the Marvel Universe felt due to the fact that they were Homo-Superior, or mutants. However, along the way, the Mutant population of the Marvel Universe kept growing, as did the X-Men’s cast. A team that started out with 5 members soon became 7, then 14, and so on and so forth until you had about 100 or so mutants claiming membership in the X-Men by some form or another. And of course, given the familial aspect of the ‘team’, you rarely, if ever, had a member leave for any extended period of time.

Then the ‘Decimation’ came, where the total population of the Mutants in the world went from a few million down to roughly 200. Those 200 Mutants then formed their own Super-Powered version of Israel where they live together trying to build a homeland for their slowly going extinct species. This, right here, has lead to almost 5 years worth of shit stories that insist upon themselves for drama. Seriously, even the best X-Men stories for the most part are ridiculously plotted in order to make the reader actually think there’s a conflict when there’s not. Of the 7 of so X-men books right now, only two of them are really any good: X-Men Legacy, by Mike Carey; and Uncanny X-force, by Rick Remender. Those writers seem to understand the concept of focus and narrative. The others simply seem to plod along and rely more on long time reader habits rather than telling kick-ass stories (I’m sorry, but it’s true).

In November, Marvel will try to break this inbred little community up through a Schism, with Cyclops taking one team and Wolverine taking another, and then pitting them against each other in a pissing match over whose team is better. While this MAY work, and we MAY get consistently good X-Men stories across the board, you’re still dealing with stories that will basically insist upon themselves and rely mainly with inner-related tension.

So now we get to the meat of this post: What I’d do to fix this situation (were I in command of the X-Men’s plots):

Simply put: I’d get rid of the X-men.

Start with an issue focusing on Wolverine, returning to his post-Schism home from one of his Avengers related missions, only to find it deserted. There’d be a message from one of his lieutenants (preferably Rogue), letting him know that there was a huge emergency on Utopia (the Mutant Israel type place where Cyclops’ team is residing), and she took the team to help out.

Frustrated and also concerned, Wolverine takes off for Utopia, unable to reach his team or Scott’s. When he gets there, he finds it a ghost town. No one is there at all. He calls for Beast (another X-Man turned Avenger) who has no idea what’s happened. The two of them launch a top to bottom search of the island and find only the Seige Perilous as a clue as to what happened.

(The Seige Perilous is a mystical gateway that was originally entrusted to the X-men back in issue #227. It’s a doorway to another place and time where souls are judged. Those found worthy are elevated to a higher plane of existence. Those found unworthy are remade and sent back into new lives to try it again.)

Activating Cerebra, the X-Men’s mutant finding computer, they find a few contacts that they were expecting to find – Mutants unassociated with the X-men (such as Wolverine’s clone, X-23), and dozens of new ‘Locus Unknown’ contacts around the globe. Now Wolverine and Beast set out to discover these new unidentified Mutants. They would stumble upon Magento, now living with his daughter (Lorna Dane) in a peaceful life, not knowing who they were before. Others would also be ‘found’ (maybe even a wink-wink-nudge-nudge with Rogue working as a waitress in a dive restaurant in New Orleans), but they wouldn’t know who they were ‘supposed’ to be. Maybe even some of the human residents of Utopia (Kavita Rao and David Alleydyne) would have powers, whereas some of the former X-Mutants would be normal humans.

Your X-men would now be Wolverine, Beast, and X-23. You’ve still got Marvel’s main money maker from the franchise, an original member, and a fairly popular member from the newest generation. Also, as an added bonus, the origins/backstories to these characters are fairly straightforward and simple for new readers to understand.

The story would then go from there: Can Wolverine and his makeshift team make the reborn Mutants remember who they’re supposed to be? SHOULD they? People like Rachel Summers who comes from an alternate timeline where she had atrocities heaped upon her can now live like a normal young woman. Magneto was never a terrorist, doesn’t remember being a terrorist, and doesn’t remember the time he spent in a concentration camp. Surely some of these new/old X-Men would still be possessed with a heroic nature and join on their own accord, but which ones? And which former friends would decide to become villains in the new lives?

You also have renewed conflict from villains: The X-men are no more. What would a bad-ass like Mister Sinister do without the X-Men to stop him? And what happens when the general population learns that the mutants they feared when they were living together in one place, wholly identified, are now wearing new identities and amongst them?!? The deadliest of all mutants could be their co-worker, their next door neighbor, or even they themselves!!

It’s a reboot without being a reboot. It allows Marvel to start from scratch and tell fun and meaningful stories without having to retread and retreat all over the place. The X-Men stories that came before still happened and still have meaning, but going forward, writers wouldn’t have to work with being painted into a corner.

(and yes, in my mind, I know EXACTLY why the X-men and everyone else on Utopia went through the Seige Perilous, but the nature of the story to tell means that I probably wouldn’t ever have to tell that story. But if anyone is curious/cares, it involves a pissed off Lady Mastermind, and a Malice infected Danger).

…ahhhh, if only this dream could become a reality…

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