The early 90s brought the world many things: grunge rock, heavy metal, abstract color use and violence in comics not previously seen. Usually this was reserved for the move violent of characters like Punisher, but even the more mainstream books had their fair share.
The Marvel crossover X-Men – Fatal Attractions is one such story. As I review the first half of the overall story, though short it is rich in development and interest warranting an expanded view, I am struck by the anger in the characters.
Magneto, making his triumphant and grandiose return to the comic’s stage after having been believed dead spends his first few introductory panels spouting, essentially, scripture in an attempt to lure young mutants to his cause. But, as quickly as a wolf sheds the sheep’s clothing to feast, does Magneto become an agent of vengeance through rage causing untold damage to Cable.
The story shifts as we delve into the psyche of several characters surrounding the recent death of Illyana Rasputin, sister of the Metal Mutant Colossus. Storm and Kitty Pride have a deep conversation about how life moves in various directions. Bishop and Banshee talk about how mourning is part of life and if there is a future where one fails to see that it’s not a future worth having. And Charles Xavier struggles with his own guilt at the loss of Illyana.
It is here, specifically, though in other places throughout the first 140 or so pages of the book that we run into the biggest failure in 90s Marvel comics: continuity. With so many books operating so closely intertwined and with so many crossovers running rampant throughout continuity becomes an issue. But an even bigger issue is trying to read a story, even one supposed to be self-contained within the collected works I am reading, and understanding all the nuance of what characters are saying.
Far too often characters are making statements in response to or about or in regards to events which I am completely unaware of and no context is provided. Once or twice the editor drops in one of those friendly asterisks’ with a note to read some other comic (always helpful and appreciated) but it’s seriously lacking most of the time. The assumption, and it’s an arrogant one, is that the readership of these books (X-Force, X-Men, Uncanny X-Men, X-Factor, Wolverine and Excalibur) are so involved in the Marvel U that no explanation for random comments is needed. No context is required because everyone should totally know what’s going on.
THAT is jackassery of the highest order.
It makes it difficult to appreciate the story I am trying to read when so much subtext and character emotion, reactions, actions, etc. revolve around events I am unfamiliar with. I’m not saying that stories cannot have impact from previous stories without complete explanation, but throw me a bone at least or don’t write it in such a way as to make it completely un-understandable if I haven’t read every other book ever.
Ok, coming off my soapbox and will get back to reading this classic Marvel tale.
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Till next Wednesday…