The following is a review I wrote for Popmatters on “New Mutants: Dead Souls #1.” Enjoy!
Tag Archives: X-men comics
When it comes to two genres that are often associated with one another, romance and tragedy are the literary equivalent of peanut butter and jelly. When you think of one, it’s not long before you associate it with another. Romance without tragedy is like fries without ketchup. Both are still good on their own, but it’s only when they’re together that they maximize their potential.
In that same spirit that the likes of Shakespeare and “Titanic,” superheroes often follow that narrative, but with more spectacle than old playwrights and even James Cameron could ever imagine. Being such a huge fan of superhero movies and comic books, I’m more familiar with their take on romance and tragedy than most aspiring erotica/romance writers.
As such, when an amazing, uncanny, astonishing, or whatever other adjective that a comic book puts before their title tells a story that truly embodies those ideas, I take notice. Seeing as how I’m also an unapologetic romance fan on top of being a comic book fan, those kinds of stories resonate especially well for me. They don’t come around too often, but when they do, they’re worth appreciating.
This particular story involves the X-men, which should surprise nobody who has followed this blog over the past couple years. It also involves the romance/tragedy of Cyclops and Jean Grey, which should also not surprise anyone. I’ve mentioned them before when talking about balanced romances and insufferable love triangles. This might end up being the most heart-wrenching, albeit for all the right reasons.
The name of the story is called Phoenix Resurrection: The Return of Jean Grey by Matthew Rosenberg. Now, if you don’t want to be spoiled, I strongly encourage everyone to read it. Either buy it at a comic shop or buy the digital version. Even if you’re not a comic book fan, it’s a great story that will still evoke all the right emotions.
That’s because this story does something that’s very rare and very difficult to do. It’s something that everyone form Shakespeare to Tolken to Stan “The Man” Lee struggled with at some point in their creative endeavors. It gets the balance between romance and tragedy right. It gets it so right, in fact, that I intend to judge all future romance/tragedies by this comic. That includes any I write.
To understand how I came to this conclusion, it’s important to understand the context of the story and why it had such a powerful impact. To do that, it’s necessary to point out the circumstances of this story. When it was announced last year, it’s stated goal was to bring Jean Grey back from the dead. Anyone who has even a passing familiarity with comics knows that’s not all that groundbreaking.
Superheroes have been dying and coming back to life for decades. While “The Death of Superman” might have been the most high-profile, the initial death of Jean Grey in the original Phoenix Saga is probably the most iconic. That story established Jean Grey as a character who would be defined by death, rebirth, and everything in between. That’s part of the reason it’s the foundation of the “X-men: Dark Phoenix” movie.
That original story had a lot of romantic elements in it, but it was largely defined by its tragic ending. In that original story, Jean Grey willingly sacrificed herself in front of Cyclops and her friends to stop herself from becoming corrupted by the cosmic power of the Phoenix Force.
It was a truly gut-wrenching moment. It’s because of that moment, though, that it’s often singled out as one of the best X-men stories of all time. It was the culmination of Jean Grey’s struggle to deal with the immense power with which she’d been imbued. Moreover, she reached out to that power in order to do the impossible to protect those she loved, even if it corrupted her.
That’s an important detail to note because that’s a theme that would go onto play out on many occasions for Jean, eventually culminating in her second death in 2004. Her constant struggle to manage the immense power granted by the Phoenix Force and the corruption that often came with it is one of the primary driving forces behind Jean’s character. It’s also a big part of her appeal.
Rosenberg uses those same themes, as well as the immense power afforded by the Phoenix Force, to build the tragedy and romance that plays out in Phoenix Resurrection: The Return of Jean Grey. It’s a story that has more drama going for it than most because, despite the presence of time travelers, Jean Grey has been dead since 2004. Her coming back after such a long absence is a big deal for X-men fans and for her character.
The challenge Rosenberg faced was making that resurrection feel more compelling than overdue in an era where dead characters come back all the time. On top of that, Jean’s association with a cosmic force known for death and resurrection means her character basically has a built-in cheat code for bringing her back. How can that be so compelling, let alone raise the bar for romance and tragedy?
This is where the spoilers come in so again, please take the time to read the comic if you can. That’s because the way Jean comes back in this story has less to do with tragedy and more to do with agency. Way back in the original Phoenix Saga, Jean reached out to Phoenix Force in an act to save her friends. It was a choice of desperation.
Well, since that fateful choice, the Phoenix Force has been like a clingy ex, wanting desperately to stay bonded to her, even thought it often corrupts her. I’ve argued before how the context of that corruption might be more complicated than it seems, but on the basis of history alone, Jean Grey has many reasons to regret that choice.
The Phoenix only gives her another in this series. After having bonded with plenty of other hosts since her death, it goes to great lengths to bond with Jean again. It goes so far as to resurrect both her and everyone she ever cared about, creating this own little world in which Jean never experiences the many tragedies that befell her. It’s like the Matrix, but with a volatile cosmic bird running the show.
As part of that fantasy world, Jean Grey’s long-time love, Cyclops, is alive and well. That’s critical because, at least for the time being, he’s also dead. The Phoenix Force basically gives her everything to be happy, content, and loved. Keep in mind, though, it’s not doing this out of pure altruism. It wants to bond with Jean again. That’s the goal and the fantasy world is just a means to an end.
That makes the tragedy inevitable. As is often the case with fantasy worlds, even those created by a cosmic power, they tend to crumble under the harsh weight of reality. The way in which this happens is best revealed through the story. However, the part of the story that really balances out that tragedy occurs in the final issue.
In that issue, the fantasy world crumbles, thanks largely to the efforts of Jean’s fellow X-men. Naturally, the Phoenix Force fights this and tries to tempt Jean into bonding with it again, saying its power can give her everything she desires. It can even bring back those she loves.
As part of a last-ditch effort, it demonstrates this by bringing Cyclops back to life. He’s not a clone. He’s not a time traveler. He’s not some illusion either. He’s the real, flesh-and-blood Cyclops, complete with the thoughts, feelings, and passions of the man she married.
It’s a dick move on the part of the Phoenix Force, to say the least. It’s also the moment where the romance balances the tragedy in an important way. That’s because in that moment, Jean makes another fateful choice, one every bit as dire as the one she made in the original Phoenix Saga. This time, though, she lays her heart on the line, knowing damn well it’ll be broken.
Rather than just reject this tactic as another attempt by the Phoenix to lure her in, she embraces it for a brief moment. In that moment, she gets to say goodbye to her husband. She and Cyclops even go out of their way to make clear how much they love each other, both in life and in death. Even if you’re not a big romance fan, this is a moment of pure, unadulterated heart.
We still know the tragedy is coming. We know it’s a moment that’s going to end with tears and sorrow. Anyone that ever had to read “Romeo and Juliet” in high school English class knows it’s coming and is might think they’re numb to it, especially if they flunked the test.
That’s why it was so important for the story to reaffirm that sentiment. Rosenberg did something critical when he had Cyclops and Jean Grey remind each other just how deep their love went. He gave even greater weight to the loss.
At least with “Romeo and Juliet,” the characters involved had just met. They barely knew each other. Cyclops and Jean Grey’s love story spans 50 years of X-men comics, complete with weddings, clones, and raising a child together in the future. To know the extent of their love is to know just how much that tragedy hurts.
That, more than anything, is what puts Phoenix Resurrection: The Return of Jean Grey in a league of its own in terms of romance and tragedy. Instead of the tragedy defining the romance, it’s the other way around. It’s the romance that gives that tragedy such immense weight.
In too many stories, both in comics and in other mediums, tragedy relies too heavily on its own weight to make an impact. Making a love story dependent on that tragedy gives the impression that the love needed it in order to have depth. That’s why, when the tragedy eventually occurs, it doesn’t always hit all the emotional chords.
Rosenberg left no emotional chords unstruck with this story. It’s because Jean shared that special moment with the man she loved that her decision to reject the Phoenix Force carries so much weight. That decision comes with so much pain, anguish, and sorrow. It’s one thing to just depict it. It’s quite another to truly convey it.
That’s what truly makes Phoenix Resurrection: The Return of Jean Grey so special. It conveys both the breadth of the romance and the extent of the tragedy. Moreover, it does that in a way where one complements the other. For a romance built heavily around two characters operating as equals, I can’t think of anything more fitting.
Again, if you’re fan of romance, tragedy, or both, check out Phoenix Resurrection: The Return of Jean Grey. Even if you hate comics and the X-men, this one will evoke all the right emotions. You’ll shed tears of sorrow and joy at the same time. It’ll feel so weird, but so right.
In general, I don’t always write these posts with a sense of timing in mind. My brain just doesn’t work that way. Usually, I get an idea, either through inspiration or just something that comes to me in the shower, and I just go with it. I find that to be the most effective means of exploring sexy and non-sexy issues alike on this blog.
Every now and then, I get lucky and fall ass-backwards into a perfectly timed topic. Sometimes, I even get obscenely lucky because that topic can relate to comics, which I love tying into sexy topics on this blog every chance I get. Well, whether by luck or outright fluke, I have a chance to link an issue I’ve been discussing lately directly to a comic book.
Trust me, I didn’t plan it. I didn’t expect it. I’m just going to run with it because it’s so relevant to the recent issues I’ve been exploring. It also involves X-men, which I go out of my way to talk about every chance I get, and a very particular character that I’ve mentioned before named Emma Frost. In case you need a reminder, this is Emma Frost.
I’m assuming I have your attention now, especially if you’re a heterosexual man or a homosexual woman with functioning genitals. I swear that pic isn’t some juvenile fan art, like the ones that drew big tits on Flintstones characters. That’s how Emma Frost actually dresses in the X-men comics. Can you now see why I’m so fond of them?
Sadly, I’m not writing this to talk about Emma Frost’s overtly sexy costumes. I’m writing this because recent events in the X-men comics tie directly into what I’ve been discussing with respect to conditioning our brains for love. While it’s an issue we’ll probably have to address once we start hacking our brain’s wiring, it’s something that comic book characters deal with regularly.
I’ve already mentioned how Carol “Captain Marvel” Danvers dealt with it during her early history. I’ve also cited past stories involving mind control, including one infamous story in Action Comics where Superman was brainwashed into making a porno tape with Big Barda. It’s one of those odd, but disturbing kinks that’s unique to worlds filled with psychics, aliens, and talking raccoons with machine guns.
However, this is one instance where a story about the mental manipulation of emotions and/or horniness isn’t quite as disturbing. If anything, it’s tragic in that reveals a lot about what some people are willing to do in the name of love.
To understand that tragedy, it’s necessary to understand the comic in question and the context behind it. The story unfolds in the pages of “X-men Blue #9” by Cullen Bunn, which is one of several ongoing X-men titles. This one focuses on the exploits of the time-displaced original five X-men, who are currently stuck in the future due to some time travel shenanigans that began back in 2012.
I’ll skip the part where I make a bunch of “Back To The Future” jokes and make clear that X-men Blue has much higher stakes compared to other X-men comics. That’s because what happens to these five time-displaced X-men, who also happen to be teenagers, could potentially affect the entire history of the X-men, which has already been subject to the kinds of time travel upheavals that would make Doc Brown’s head explode.
That’s where Emma Frost comes in. She knows, as well as any X-men regular who has encountered time travelers, that influencing these time-displaced teenagers could alter how things play out in their future. That’s important to her because she has a good, albeit tragic, reason to want to change that outcome.
Shortly before the events of this issue, Emma Frost endured a terrible loss. In an ominously-named event called “Death of X,” her former lover, Cyclops, died in her arms. To make matters even worse, it was one of those rare situations where there was nothing she could’ve done to stop it.
This isn’t akin to Spider-Man not stopping the Green Goblin in time or Superman not being able to save Lois Lane. This is basically someone being in the wrong place at the wrong time for the right reasons. In a sense, it’s a lot more realistic than the deaths most superheroes endure. It comes out of nowhere and there’s nothing anyone can do to stop it.
However, Emma Frost isn’t the kind of person to just accept that kind of tragedy and move on. This is a woman who once watched an entire classroom of her students die in an outright mutant genocide. When tragedy hits her, she hits back and looks damn sexy while doing it.
Granted, she does tend hit harder than she needs to or ought to. It has made her a lot of enemies, even alienating some of her former allies. However, Emma Frost isn’t one of those characters who does what she does out of malice. She’s not the Red Skull, Thanos, or even Dr. Doom.
She does see herself as a hero. She carries herself as a hero and has been on the front lines of some major Marvel conflicts. She’s also not a sociopath. She is capable of great love, both for her students and for lovers like Cyclops. So when Cyclops died, it hit her very hard.
When hit with a loss that hard, who wouldn’t jump at the chance to undo it? Even if it means crossing certain lines and hurting others, isn’t that worth getting back the person you love?
That’s a question that a lot of heroes and non-hero’s alike might debate in a philosophy class or a message board. However, there’s no debate for Emma Frost. She sees an opportunity to get her lover back and she takes it. Specifically, she sets her sights on the time-displaced, teenage Cyclops who has yet to grow into the man she fell in love with.
Finally, in X-men Blue #9, she’s in a position to get what she wants. As part of an ongoing event called “Secret Empire,” an event that’s hitting every major Marvel series, she abducts the time-displaced X-men and singles Cyclops out for some special treatment. Trust me, it’s nowhere near as sexy as it sounds.
Emma basically does exactly what I described in my post about managing the future of brain hacking. She tires to twist and contort young Cyclops’ mind into being the man she once loved. She knows it may ruin the timeline. I’m sure Doc Brown would scream at the top of his lungs to get her to stop. It would still do no good.
That’s because Emma wants her lover back. She wants the man who has helped save the mutant race on more than one occasion. She’s willing to risk a time paradox and undermining the free will of someone who made clear in the issue that he doesn’t care for her. She’s just that desperate to get the man she loves back.
I won’t spoil how the book ends. I’d much rather people go out and read X-men Blue #9 because it’s a great comic that’s worth supporting. I’ll just say that the tragedy surrounding Emma Frost and her misguided efforts to subvert that tragedy really strike a chord.
It’s a tragic, but potentially prophetic story that may become more relevant over time. There’s no doubt that Emma Frost’s love for Cyclops in X-men Blue #9 is sincere. It’s not part of an agenda or some elaborate trick. It’s real, honest love that got destroyed through forces nobody could’ve foreseen.
Who’s to say that someone wouldn’t do something similar if they were in her position? I’ve said before in other posts that love is a powerful drug. It’s medically proven that love affects our brains like a drug. Compared to love, crack is watered-down diet soda.
Emma Frost is a powerful telepath, one of the most powerful in the Marvel universe, in fact. That means she can manipulate minds, twist thoughts, and conjure emotions in others. It does have limits, but it’s not that different from the kind of brain hacking that is in development as we speak.
What happens in the future when someone loses a loved one and refuses to accept it? What happens when someone just can’t stand the idea that someone they once loved no longer loves them? If there exists technology that could conjure or recapture that feeling, who wouldn’t be tempted to exploit it?
Our desire to love and be loved is a core, emotional need that every non-sociopath human feels. We don’t have the technology of Neuralink or the telepathy of Emma Frost to force it when we can’t have it. However, once it becomes possible, how long will it be before someone tries it?
Emma Frost didn’t need much temptation in X-men Blue #9. She just needed an opportunity and a plan. Again, it’s wrong to call it an evil plan. She was just trying to get back the man she loved and was willing to cross lines to do it. Love makes us do a lot of crazy, stupid things. What Emma Frost does in this comic is as much a lesson as it is a warning, albeit the sexy kind.
As kids, it seems as though everyone is trying to teach us morality lessons that’ll help us grow into functioning adults. Those lessons aren’t always effective, though. Just ask the potheads who sat through the DARE program in school.
As adults, we tend to pay less attention to those kinds of lessons because we arrogantly believe we’ve figured it out. We think we know enough about the human experience to determine what is right and what is wrong. People who think that way tend to be the arrogant assholes who refuse to admit that Dr. Oz is a quack and a fraud.
Truly functional people, be they kids, adults, or adults who still act like kids, never stop learning important life lessons. Life is a constantly changing, obstacle-filled struggle where you never see the finish line and are guaranteed to fall flat on your face at least once a week. That’s why lessons that really deliver a powerful message in a compelling way is a special, precious thing in this chaotic world we live in.
That brings me to comic books, superheroes, and the X-men. Yes, this is going to be another one of those posts. Yes, that means I’m about to extrapolate a major philosophical insight into the human condition from an X-men comic, most likely in a way that applies to love, sex, and everything in between. You’re welcome.
It’s not the first time I’ve gleaned such lessons from an X-men comic. A year ago, I singled out X-men 92 #5 as a testament to just how powerful a romance between equals can be. Chances are, I’ll single out more comics in the future and there’s a high possibility that they’ll involve the X-men, Deadpool, or Wonder Woman.
The comic in question today is Marvel Generations: Phoenix & Jean Grey #1. It’s actually not part of any ongoing X-men series. It’s a single, self-contained story that’s part of an major promotional effort by Marvel called Marvel Generations.
The goal is as simple. Marvel seeks to bridge the gap between its older incarnations of iconic characters with the newer versions. While some of those newer versions have already caused controversy, the goal is always the same. Marvel hopes to appeal to their long-time fans while appealing to newer fans who are just getting into the world of Marvel.
Comic companies do this fairly often, trying to please old fans while creating new ones. Having followed comics for a good chunk of my life, I’ve seen more than my share of efforts. DC Comics, Marvel’s chief rival, did it last year with their DC Rebirth initiative. By most accounts, it was a success. Now, Marvel is attempting to achieve similar success.
There are many challenges to that effort, but for Jean Grey of the X-men, those challenges are more daunting than most. I’m not talking about the kind of daunting that involves dragons, killer robots, and Brett Ratner movies. I’m talking about convoluted complications involving time travel, evil clones, and cosmic forces. Trust me, it’s way more complicated than it sounds.
For this particular issue, though, you don’t need to know the fine print of those complications. You only need to know that Jean Grey’s story, after 50 years of X-men comics, got so crazy that one of her teammates, Beast, traveled back and time and brought her and the rest of the original five X-men to the future.
Now, since 2012, Jean Grey has basically been Marty McFly from “Back To The Future,” minus the incest sub-plot. She knows that her future sucks in that she ends up dead, and multiple times, no less. On top of that, she finds out she’s destined to become corrupted by a cosmic power known as the Phoenix Force, which will go onto cause all sorts of headaches, heartbreaks, and overall frustration.
That destiny is a huge part of the X-men mythos. That’s the part that “X-men: Dark Phoenix,” a movie I’ve talked about extensively, is going to try and capture. In this comic, Jean Grey has already read the spoilers to that story. She knows it doesn’t turn out well.
In fact, she has an ongoing solo series where the primary theme involves her preparing herself to face the Phoenix Force so that she doesn’t become that cute redheaded mutant who constantly dies and ends up on the wrong side of a bad love triangle. That’s entirely understandable and Marvel Generations: Phoenix & Jean Grey #1 gives her the best opportunity she’s had to date to change her fate.
This is where the lesson that Marty McFly learned the hard way comes in. Through elaborate space-time machinations that would give Doc Brown a migraine, Jean Grey is transported to a critical moment in the history of her character. It’s a moment that puts her in a position to change a lot more than just her fate.
That’s because she’s plopped in the middle of the iconic Phoenix Saga, also known by fans as the greatest X-men story ever told. It’s after her older self gains the cosmic power of the Phoenix force, but before it corrupts her in a way that destroys an entire star system and dooms her to a life of death and resurrection. There’s no part of that last sentence that’s exaggerated.
It’s an understandably confusing situation, but it’s one that puts Jean Grey in a position that even Marty McFly never dealt with. She doesn’t just have a chance to change her fate or learn more about her older self, who she’s only really known through the memories of other X-men. She has a chance to learn more about the cosmic power that she knows will doom her.
It makes for a series of colorful interactions between her and her older self that will bring tears of joy to the eyes of X-men fans of any generation. It’s hopeful, sincere, dramatic, and impactful. It fits perfectly within the narrative of Jean’s ongoing story in other X-men comics, as well as the story of her past self.
There’s so much to love about this comic, but I’m not going to spoil the entire thing here. I’d much rather have people go out and buy the issue. It’s money well-spent. Even if you don’t know much about comics or only know the X-men through the movies, this comic will appeal to you.
Beyond that appeal, though, I want to highlight an important theme within this comic. It’s a theme that applies to stories beyond comics and is relevant to life, in general. It especially applies to matters of love, passion, and intimate connections, which are major topic of this blog and the novels I write.
At the heart of Jean Grey’s struggle in Marvel Generations: Phoenix & Jean Grey #1 is a difficult decision that everybody who isn’t a psychotic dictator faces at some point in their lives. It has to do with having the power to effect a situation and choosing whether or not to exercise it.
In the comic, Jean Grey has a chance to tell her older self everything she knows about her fate. She could, in principle, warn her about how the events of the Phoenix Saga play out for her. As a result, she could ensure it turns out differently, preferably in a way that doesn’t leave her dead and subsequently cloned.
On the surface, it seems easy. We saw what Marty McFly chose. We saw what the entire cast of “Hot Tub Time Machine” chose. They chose the easiest, most obvious path. They understandably wanted to improve their situation. In doing so, they created a lot more problems that they had to solve. The stakes for Jean’s problems, though, are much higher.
The problems she could create by changing her fate might be far worse than simply ending up dead. She’s not dealing with incestuous infatuations here. She’s dealing with a cosmic force that eats entire stars just for the fun of it.
She already knows the consequences of not changing anything. That has been hard enough to deal with. However, she has no idea whether she’ll fix anything by choosing otherwise. Given the Phoenix Force’s mixed track record, the odds are not in her favor.
I won’t spoil the choice she makes or what goes into. Again, I’d rather people read this comic to appreciate the full weight of its message. I’ll just say that the decision Jean makes is one that we all indirectly make when we have any kind of power over someone and can affect the course of their life.
Whether you’re a parent, a spouse, or an authority figure of any kind, you have an ability to make choices that affect other peoples’ fate. This is especially true when you’re in a relationship with someone. Your love for them and their love for you effectively links your fate. That makes your ability to make the right choices for the right reasons so critical.
It happens all too often, people using their position of power over others to abuse them. We see it when police harass minorities. We see it in crimes of passion. We see it in cases of spousal abuse and child abuse. When someone else trusts us with authority, we impact their lives in so many ways, often in ways we can’t see.
It can bring out the best and the worst in people, as the Phoenix Saga famously demonstrated. Real life demonstrates it too. Power does corrupt people. Sometimes the hardest choice to make is to not exercise that power to avert the potential consequences it might incur. It’s a choice that a lot of crazy dictators fail to make.
It’s a choice ordinary people fail to make as well. Parents find this out the hard way when they try to make decisions for their children. Sure, it seems like the right thing to do at the time. They may see it as them just protecting their child, as every parent should. However, they don’t realize until it’s too late how much damage that can do.
When you’re in an intimate relationship with someone, it can be just as powerful. If someone loves you implicitly and is willing to trust you so completely, you have the power to guide their lives in profound ways. That guidance, though, can be detrimental to the both of you.
When you have the power to influence a person or a situation, it’s easy and tempting to bend it to what you think will be more beneficial. The problem is that, without the benefit of hindsight, it’s impossible to know whether you’ll actually make things better or much worse.
The hardest decision in that situation is to acknowledge the problems as you understand them, bear the burden of solving them, and focus on the future rather than agonizing over the past. It’s rarely a preferable decision because it means accepting a situation and your role in it. It may feel like a missed opportunity, but it can just as easily be an averted crisis. Hindsight may be painfully clear, but possibilities are painfully vague.
Jean Grey, who is a teenager, mind you, in the story that plays out in Marvel Generations: Phoenix & Jean Grey #1, has to make this decision in the face of impossibly high stakes. What she does is a testament to the kind of character she is and the values we cherish in our heroes.
It’s a short, but powerful story that teaches an important lesson to children, adults, comic fans, and non-comic fans alike. Whether you’re a comic book character, a celebrity, an authority figure, or just someone with the slightest bit of leverage over someone, it’s a lesson worth learning.
I was going to talk about a more pressing topic today. Then, some news and tidbits about the upcoming “X-men: Dark Phoenix” movie hit the web and I immediately updated my priorities.
For those of you who rely on this blog for sexy thoughts and updates on bionic penises, I ask that you sit tight. Also, I’m not apologizing because I think I’ve made it pretty clear that I’m a huge comic book fan and an ardent X-men fan. When there’s big news about both, it’s going to get my attention and I’m going to talk about it. That’s all there is to it.
At this very moment, “X-men: Dark Phoenix” is beginning production. The first images from the movie set have leaked and James McAvoy, who plays Charles Xavier, has teased the prospect of shaving his head again. As a comic book fan and a Marvel fan, I couldn’t be more excited about this without Jennifer Lawrence begin naked. Then again, with the X-men movies, that may be a moot point.
As excited as I am to see this movie come to life without someone going on a cocaine bender, there has been some recent news that’s worth mentioning and it does have some important implications for “X-men: Dark Phoenix” and the future of the X-men a movie franchise.
I’ll probably end up saying this more than a few times between now and next year, but “X-men: Dark Phoenix” is the most important X-men movie ever made. It’s not just that Fox has to keep making X-men movies in order to keep the movie rights from reverting back to Marvel/Disney, which happened with Daredevil. This movie is both a foundation for the future of the X-men, as well as an act of redemption.
That leads me to the first major bit of news that came out recently. Unlike “X-men: Apocalypse,” Bryan Singer won’t be directing this movie. Instead, “X-men: Dark Phoenix” will be directed by long-time X-men producer, Simon Kinberg.
This move seems amicable. Bryan Singer even went so far as to formally pass the torch on Instagram. The fact it was so amicable in an industry town built on cocaine, blowjobs, and exploiting child stars is a positive sign. It also helps that Kinberg and Singer have been working together since “X-men: First Class.” That means will be a sense of continuity, so to speak.
This is already a big deal for anyone who had their heart, soul, and balls crushed by the massive wet fart that was “X-men: The Last Stand.” That movie was mired in controversy before it even began production because Bryan Singer left the franchise to direct “Superman Returns.” That move left X-men fans with Brett “Rush Hour” Ratner. In hindsight, nobody won that exchange.
There’s another important element to highlight with Simon Kinberg directing this movie. As I pointed out in my instructions on how to not to screw up “X-men: Dark Phoenix,” Kinberg showed a bit of humility that’s rare for Hollywood these days. He apologized for the role he played in “X-men: The Last Stand” and vowed to do better if he got a second chance.
Well, that chance has arrived for Mr. Kinberg. On paper, he’s the best man for the job because he has a huge personal investment in this movie. He understands that he botched the Phoenix Saga when he tried to force it into “X-men: The Last Stand” as half-baked side-plot. He also understands why that was a big problem and a huge taint on his credibility with X-men fans.
As director of “X-men: Dark Phoenix,” he can do more than just get the Phoenix Saga right the second time around. He can be more than the man who not just atoned for the cinematic migraine that was “X-men: The Last Stand.” He can be the man who brought the greatest X-men story of all time to life and made it awesome. That’s a hell of a legacy, one that will surely get him laid by X-men fans for the rest of his life.
He has no excuses and all the resources. Unlike the last craptacular attempt in “X-men: The Last Stand,” this movie has every cast member returning, including Jennifer Lawrence and Michael Fassbender. The younger cast, led by Sophie Turner’s Jean Grey and Tye Sherridan’s Cyclops, is all under contract. None has jumped ship for a DC movie. If you don’t think that’s a big deal, just look up James Mardsen.
Mr. Kinberg may even be getting an extra boost with that cast because another bit of important news dropped recently. According to Deadline, Jessica Chastain is in talks to join the cast of the movie. Other than her inherent sex appeal, her role actually has some vital implications for this movie, as well as some uneasy concerns.
That’s because Ms. Chastain is in line to play a well-known X-men character named Lilandra. In the context of the Phoenix Saga, as well as the X-men as a movie franchise, that’s a big deal because Lilandra isn’t just any ordinary supporting character for the X-men. She’s the empress of a race of warring, bird-like race of aliens called the Shi’ar.
If that sounds like a lot of WTF to inject into a movie franchise that already has problems staying grounded, thanks largely to conflicting timelines, then calm down. There is at least some method to the madness and trust me, there’s still plenty of WTF to go around.
The casting of Lilandra is huge for the X-men franchise and for “X-men: Dark Phoenix” because in the original comics, she plays a critical role. In fact, it’s not unreasonable to say that she’s a big reason why the original Phoenix Saga became the dramatic, heart-wrenching story that still gives X-men fans wet panties to this day.
The Phoenix Force, at least in the comics, has a very cosmic origin. It has roots in an elaborate space mythos that would make the Church of Scientology envious. “X-men: The Last Stand” captured precisely none of that. Instead, it built the Phoenix around the idea of Jean Grey going crazy and Famke Janssen looking deadpanned every other frame. It’s even less exciting than it sounds.
This development with Lilandra is big because it means “X-men: Dark Phoenix” is going to try to follow the comics a bit closer. It also means that the X-men may have a very different enemy to face this time. After over a half-dozen movies of clashing with Magneto, it’s something the X-men movies need.
In fact, when I made my list of ways to not screw up “X-men: Dark Phoenix,” I highlighted the need for better enemies as one of the critical reasons. I cited a character named Mr. Sinister in that article. While he would be a huge draw in any X-men movie, especially if Bryan Cranston played him, he does have one shortcoming. He played no significant role in the Phoenix Saga.
With the casting of Lilandra, “X-men: Dark Phoenix” checks more than a few boxes and I’m not just talking about those involving X-men fans. Lilandra may have been a quasi-villain in the original Phoenix Saga, but she’s no Rita Repulsa. She’s no Disney Princess either.
She’s a tough, driven, hard-nosed ruler who will make hard decisions and not shed a goddamn tear about it. At a time when Wonder Woman has proven that there’s a market for badass female heroes, Lilandra can show that there’s also a market for complex female villains.
That’s a big deal in an era where Hollywood is trying to cater to more than just young men with a functioning penis. Everyone is trying, and failing at times, to create strong female characters. They’ve finally got a major success with “Wonder Woman.” Lilandra can be a success on the other end of that equation, but as a villain.
That’s going to be even more challenging because the margin for error for female characters is much smaller. We’re used to seeing flawed male characters screw up, step up, and everything in between. We’re not as used to seeing female characters do the same because if it’s messed up, people get accused of misogyny and sexism. It’s part of what video game critics have dubbed the “Galbrush Paradox.”
Having a character like Lilandra, along with the star power of Jessica Chastain, can break new ground for the X-men movies and for female characters in movies as a whole. However, with such a small margin for error, there is a distinct possibility that messing up this part will derail the movie.
Keep in mind, this is also a movie that has Sophie “Sansa Stark” Turner front and center. Her profile is rising fast and catching up to Jennifer Lawrence, probably more so than she’d ever admit. As Jean Grey, one of the founding members of the X-men and one of the most powerful female heroes in Marvel, there will be a lot of girl power in “X-men: Dark Phoenix.”
If it works, then it’ll be a boon for female superheroes on par with “Wonder Woman.” If not, we may end up with another “Catwoman” scenario that sets both the X-men franchise and the genre of superhero movies back another decade. As an X-men fan, I don’t want to see neither.
While I’m thrilled that Mr. Kinberg is going out of his way to capture the core elements of the Phoenix Saga for “X-men: Dark Phoenix,” I’m also worried that he’s not giving this movie a lot of flexibility. Just having great female characters and a great female villain just isn’t enough. Just ask “Power Rangers.” The story and drama has to work.
The cost of failure will be even higher this time around and not just for Mr. Kinberg. Failing to do justice on the most iconic X-men story of all time won’t just put him on the same level as Joel Shumacher. He’ll be responsible for failing to do justice to a strong female character in Jean Grey who, until “X-men: Apocalypse,” was nothing more than a pretty face for Wolverine to whine about.
I want to believe that Mr. Kinberg learned his lessons after “X-men: The Last Stand,” but that might not be enough for this movie. The cast is already pretty bloated and will likely juggle a lot of side-plots, which was one of the criticisms of “X-men: Apocalypse.” Adding aliens and cosmic forces to the mix is sure to complicate that.
Even with complications, “X-men: Dark Phoenix” has the potential to lay the foundation for the X-men franchise for the decade. By opening up the X-men’s more cosmic side, which includes space pirates and terrifying alien bugs that would give Ridley Scott nightmares, there could be a whole host of new movies for the X-men to pursue.
Again, a lot of that hinges on the success or non-total failure of “X-men: Dark Phoenix.” One movie can kill a franchise. Just ask the Fantastic Four. Mr. Kinberg was involved in that, which is another major concern, but he was not nearly as much at fault for that bombastic failure as he was “X-men: The Last Stand.” Despite this, I’m sure he’d like to make “X-men: Dark Phoenix” a high point for his career.
For now, these are my primary concerns and while some may end up being alleviated, others might emerge. Whatever the case, expect me to keep a close eye on developments involving “X-men: Dark Phoenix.” Between the stakes for X-men fans and the future of female characters, this movie is a huge deal in more ways than even Mr. Kinberg probably thinks.
In the meantime, I’ll keep myself busy with sexy stories and news about sex robots. For other X-men fans, here’s a fan trailer of the Dark Phoenix Saga using clips from the classic X-men 90s cartoon. It’s not much, but it should tide X-men fans over until the first trailer comes out.
In addition to being an aspiring erotica/romance writer, I have a fairly diverse set of interests. I talk about many of them on this blog. I love superhero comics, superhero movies, futuristic technology, and activities that involve nudity. I like to explore these topics because the world is a diverse and sexy place. I want this blog to reflect that, as well as entertain/titillate.
So when news emerges that involves superhero comics and a potential for entertainment/titillation, expect me to mention it at some point. When that news involves someone like Deadpool, a character who has built his entire appeal on that and dick jokes, you can pretty much set your watch to it.
I’ve talked about Deadpool many times before. I’m not the only one either. Deadpool is the new golden boy for Fox, Marvel, and the entire superhero genre. He was once a niche character with an especially loyal set of fans and cos-players. Then, former sexiest man alive, Ryan Reynolds, made Deadpool the hottest thing in spandex not named Jennifer Lawrence.
The Deadpool movie wasn’t just a game-changer. It dropped a metric ton of napalm on the game, blew it up with C4, and roasted marshmallows over the entrails while strippers danced in the background. If that sounds crazy, then congratulations. You now have some insight into why Deadpool is so appealing.
The first Deadpool movie completely shocked the established superhero genre, grossing $783 million on a $58 million budget. At a time when many superhero movies need budgets of at least $250 million to be taken seriously, that’s not just impressive. That’s downright jarring.
The fact that Deadpool did this while being rated R, complete with exposed breasts and Ryan Reynold’s jerking off with a stuffed unicorn, makes it all the more astonishing. It proved that superhero movies could be mature, sexy, and appealing. It also proved they can be extremely profitable and nothing speaks louder in the entertainment industry than money. Why else would Disney have made five “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies?
The impact is still being felt, but it’s already starting to show. Just this year, Fox proved that Deadpool’s success was not a fluke. The R-rated “Logan” movie made $606 million on a $97 million budget while generated critical acclaim. Once can be an anomaly. Twice is the beginning of a trend.
In an effort to continue that trend, Fox and Marvel announced this past week that they will be making a Deadpool animated series for the FXX network. That’s the same network that hosts such kid-unfriendly shows like “Archer” and “It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia.” There couldn’t be a more appropriate home is what I’m saying.
Now, this news might not seem like a big deal to non-comic fans. Deadpool had a successful movie, making Fox and Marvel a boatload of money. With a sequel already in the works, why not capitalize on his popularity with a cartoon? It sounds like a normal money grab by big corporate media giants who are never satisfied with merely having a few pools of money to swim in.
There’s no doubt that’s part of the dynamic here, but there are far larger implications, some of which might have an impact on erotica/romance. Bear with me, here, because this is where I try to gaze into a crystal ball and not throw up. Since I haven’t won the lottery or predicted the Super Bowl yet, assume my ability for foresight is limited.
Earlier this year, I talked about the success of the “Fifty Shades of Grey” movie, as well as the challenges associated with creating quality erotica/romance. Some of these challenges aren’t insurmountable, but they are daunting. The success of “Game of Thrones” might be nudging public attitudes to some extent, but only to a point.
Since Hollywood is too damn impatient when it comes to exploiting a market, I speculated that animation might actually be the key to future erotica/romance. It effectively circumvents many of those daunting challenges I mentioned. Cartoon characters don’t get too testy when you ask them to take their clothes off.
With a Deadpool cartoon being on FXX, there’s a lot more potential for raunchy sexiness. We already see it in shows like “Archer,” which doesn’t shy away from the kind of crude humor that is usually reserved for “South Park.” Unlike “Archer,” though, Deadpool has more brand recognition. He generates far more attention and not just because he’s been known to cross dress every now and then.
Deadpool will be entering a market that’s ripe for growth. Adult-themed animation has been around for years, but has never been more than a niche market. That might be changing just in time for Deadpool.
In recent years, shows like “Archer” have inspired other shows like “Rick and Morty,” gaining more than just a cult following. These shows get away with plots and humor that would never make it past the network executives who are routinely terrified of getting a call from the FCC. By being animated, they can push the proverbial envelope in ways that go far beyond an exposed nipple.
Deadpool doesn’t stop at nipples, though. He’s a character who married a succubus and flirted with Spider-Man. He does things that made the kid-friendly executives at Disney faint. With a cartoon, they can even do things that Ryan Reynolds would never agree to and he’s the guy who agreed to do “R.I.P.D.”
The potential that a Deadpool cartoon has cannot be understated. He can do more than just create another hit cartoon for a network that already has a few under their belt. He can foster a new audience that’s hungry for more mature animation.
Between the success of movies like “Fifty Shades of Grey” and TV shows like “Rick and Morty,” Deadpool is coming along at the best possible time. By creating a larger audience, it’ll let the big wigs at major media studios that audiences do want sexier content. They want media that’s fun, sexy, and not afraid of showing a few nipples every now and then.
There will always be a place for kid-friendly cartoons, but animation need not be a medium that appeals to one segment of the population. There are many more people out there who want sexier material and they don’t need to whine to their parents for money to buy it.
A Deadpool cartoon definitely has plenty of appeal, especially to those who enjoyed the sex and violence of the movie. It has everything it needs to be success. However, it’s the implications of that success that may have far sexier implications.