Marvel is relaunching X-Men in April, to join the 2 ½ other X-Men titles they’re currently publishing. This one will be notable, though, for featuring an all female X-Men team. The comic will star Jubilee, who’s basically the early 90s in character form (I’m the perfect age to think this is awesome). It will also feature Storm (yay!), Rogue (yay!), Kitty Pride (double yay!), Rachel Grey (sort of Jean Grey’s daughter), and Psylocke (she has one of Jean Grey’s powers. Continuity gets hilarious). That’s the thing – X-Men is a title that already has a deep bench of great female characters, so this all lady team makes a lot of sense – it’s kind of a shame this hasn’t happened already, though it’s cool Marvel’s trying this particular publicity stunt now.
The comic will be written by Brian Wood, with art by Olivier Croipel. Obviously, this would have been a great opportunity to hire a lady writer/lady artist team. But Brian Wood’s shown he knows how to write women who are real, well rounded, and kick ass, staying away from the sad stereotypes of women as boob wracks or victims that fill too many mainstream comics. I’m a fan of Wood’s indie comics – his early books Channel Zero and Jenny One could be described as anarcha-feminist – though I haven’t read his work for Marvel or Dark Horse. Wood’s saying all the things I’d want to hear from the writer of this title, too. From his interview with Wired:
“…It seems like a no-brainer to me, now, or last year, or ten years ago. The female X-Men are amazing characters, they always have been, everyone knows that. They’ve been the best thing about the franchise.”
Wood also had great things to say about the prevalence of sexism packaged as “female empowerment” in mainstream comics, and about writing “strong female characters.”
“There’s too much cheesecake out there that is sold, or at least marketed, as a ‘strong female’ character or book when it’s anything but, it just reinforces the worst opinions of the most sexist fans, and we gain no new ground. We probably lose ground. I’m not approaching this new X-Men as a ‘female book,’ but I’m writing it as a high action X-Men comic, and with some luck that will nullify some of these poisonous critics who go looking for something to feel angry/uncomfortable/threatened by.”
“I approach the page with the belief that as people, we all have universal reactions on a basic level to things and that’s where the truth lies, where primal human emotions can be found. With that as a foundation, you can tweak the details according to character and gender and personality. So what you get here, if done well, is a very relatable character that should transcend gender lines and have mass appeal. When you approach the page with the thought, ‘Okay, so what should this woman do now,’ you start off from a place of stereotype and bad writing, and there’s no fixing it because that is now your foundation. It’s not complicated, but it does require the writer to see the characters as people first and sex later.”
Wood also said the title will feature romance (typical of X-Men stories), but that he wants to avoid the slut shaming that so often targets lady superheroes who get laid, a serious comics double standard.
X-Men is the perfect place in superhero comics for a title that seems to have some feminist intent. The title has always been about a group of marginalized people coming together because of their differences. The metaphor of characters with mutations that are met with fear and prejudice, who find strength through their powers, has been used by writers to talk about racism and homophobia, among other topics. Of course, the plot of this new title involves our lady heroes protecting a baby – I’m hoping Wood plans to use this to talk about gender, rather than replace the whore stereotype of women in comics with the nurturing mother stereotype.
I love the character design work on Olivier Croipel’s cover for issue #1, so I’m excited he’s doing the art. But what is with Storm’s torpedo chest on the cheescake-tastic variant cover by Terry Dodson? I guess Marvel felt they still had to sell this comic to the misogynists who don’t know what bodies look like contingent.
Unsurprisingly, the announcement of the relaunched title has already drawn protest from the sorts of people who think “fake geek girls” are destroying nerdom. But there’s also a lot of excitement for a team that actually makes a ton of sense within the X-Men universe.