Just when I thought I was out, those damned mutants yanked me back in…
While the image at the beginning of this post signifies the era of all things X-MEN I like the most, my X-Fandom actually started with issue 280 of UNCANNY X-MEN. It was the first X-MEN comic I’d ever picked up- one dollar off the spinning rack at Safeway- and while my mom bought me a bunch of books that day- Web of Spider-Man, Punisher, a random Avengers comic- it was the end of the Muir Island Saga that hooked me the most.
I read that thing countless times- it was the end of a crossover between the UNCANNY X-MEN and X-FACTOR books, and right on the cusp of a big franchise shakeup just in time for my emerging fandom status- there would be TWO X-MEN books highlighting the two teams!
I’d fallen di-rectly into the trap.
Marvel got a lot of my money (wait, no… they got a lot of my parents’ money) over the next few years, but eventually, after countless crossovers, deaths that ultimately didn’t mean anything, and the law of diminishing returns in storytelling, I let my comics habit lapse a lot. Due to the advent of girls and my meager attempts at starting to carve a life for myself outside of my own head, I moved on.
It came roaring back with a vengeance a little bit before Grant Morrison started up his NEW X-MEN run. I’d been on the fringes of returning to the comics world, and it didn’t help that I was working at a comic book store at the time either. I’d been giving myself a crash course in all the stuff I missed during my time away, and had mainlined Morrison’s “JLA” run, so when I found out he was going to be tackling my favorite band of not-so-merry mutants, I was ecstatic.
His run was also responsible for me wandering away from comics yet again, as nothing that came after it (save for Joss Whedon’s run on ASTONISHING X-MEN a few years later, but I can always count on Whedon’s work to do that since the BUFFY days) touched that nerve of wonder and whimsy- Morrison’s run was a wonderful pastiche of all things X-MEN, and was capped off by the ultimate “oh no, they’re in a royally fucked future” storyline… and then looped things back around to start fresh as the franchise moved on and settled for more of a soap opera-esque tone… which is fine unless you can’t stand that.
So, I moved on.
I wasn’t interested in that kind of storytelling anymore after such a big shakeup in the status quo- the forced, “stack the decks each and every time” kinds of tales that’d become the X-MEN’s bread and butter. Morrison’s run was a clean break for me, and the attempt to muddle on through after that just felt like things were going through the motions at that point. Heroes suffer, yes, and story has conflict, sure- but I think that it has to be organic. Conflict for conflict’s sake is boring. It’s got to all mean something. The franchise had gone to familiar, yet exciting and new places once before- why was it stuck in the doldrums now?
It wasn’t just the X-MEN, either.
Nothing was working.
After a few years away, I was wandering back towards comic books again, zeroing in on DC Comics’ output at the time, trying to find some sort of thread to grab hold of in order to get back in to that crazy four-color world, and there were a lot of things I liked- Greg Rucka on WONDER WOMAN was an awesome read and a refreshing take on the character… but then BIG EVENT FATIGUE started to happen. There was were Crisises, deaths, big events, more deaths, and a procession of upping a “THIS TIME IT’S REALLY REALLY REALLY REALLY REALLY IMPORTANT, DAMN IT” ante to the point where all storytelling decisions had no weight for me as a reader.
There was no point.
Everything would change in time based on what other people thought.
The organic, fun side of comics had gone by the wayside.
I was ready to move on again.
Funny story, though- I’d never really quit. I just knew what I wanted to read.
I was officially trolling comic book storytelling, swooping in and snatching up what I liked while railing against what I hated. It worked for a time, but the itch was still there even as BIG EVENT CRISIS SYNDROME happened yet again. Cut to the fall of 2011, where I started to feel the itch yet again, but I was completely dismayed by what was happening in both companies. I didn’t know how to start things back up again, and I didn’t want to hop in due to another event where EVERYTHING CHANGED, so all I needed was a hook that I felt comfortable with.
First thing that happened?
I got a Kindle Fire. After working in a comic book shop for a time, the idea of buying things monthly just didn’t appeal to me anymore, plus since my space is limited, I had no problem going digital. Our modern collecting landscape won’t really support anything that’s released these days from a future monetary aspect, so why clutter things up?
The second thing?
I just said “fuck it” and dove back in head first.
Leave it to an X-MEN title to make me completely giddy about comics again. WOLVERINE AND THE X-MEN details Wolverine’s role as Headmaster for the “Jean Grey School For Higher Learning” and all of the trouble that his new position brings, and it makes for an engaging, fun read. The personal parallels aren’t lost on me either- once again, I’m hopping into a landscape that I have an inkling about, and using the damn X-MEN as my gateway back into a medium that I’ve been away from for a damn good while.
And I’m having fun with comics again.
I’m keeping things simple for now- DC Comics’ “New 52” initiative (whether I agree with it or not) helps because with so many clean breaks in storytelling, I can pick up titles I want to read without fear of getting bogged down in continuity woes. UNCANNY X-FORCE has hooked me like nobody’s business, and I’m digging the fresh starts for BATGIRL and WONDER WOMAN. HEART from Dark Horse Comics is also wonderful stuff. Granted, there will come a time where the landscape will shift again, and I’ll get annoyed and wander away from the medium one more time, but I have a feeling about something.
I’ll always be back if there are mutants around.
See? That’s fun right there. How can you not come back to that?