Over on Bravo's Watch What Happens Live, James McAvoy — Professor X to you and me — was asked an awkward question: Which X-Man has the lamest power? He named Jubilee.
McAvoy isn't unique in this. If you do a Google search for "worst X-Men" or "lamest X-Men", I can give you a cast-iron guarantee that you'll find a wealth of pages that talk about Jubilee. Take Cracked's explanation of the character:
Because the world needed someone even weaker than Dazzler!
Or what about i09, which made Jubilee the poster child for an article on "The 12 Most Pointless X-Men"? This is their cutting summary:
Jubilee’s mutant power is to shoot fireworks. These can be used as offensive weapons, in the same way regular fireworks can be used as offensive weapons, and that if you light one and throw it at somebody and it hits them it’ll hurt. But when your team is full of dudes with metal claws, guys who can fire concussive blasts from their eyes, or control people’s minds, the girl who’s effectively carrying a bunch of bottle rockets around with her isn’t going to be of much use. That’s probably why Jubilee has gone through more uniform and codename changes than Jean Grey has had resurrections, because 20 years later still nobody has figured out what to do with her.
Worse still, although Jubilee is taking the lead role in the new Generation X series — launching as part of the "ResurrXion" event — series writer Christina Strain explained it like this:
"I mean, she is on 90% of online “most useless mutant” lists. But whatever, I grew up loving her in the ’90s, so I wanted her."
I'm definitely with the "whatever"! But are these guys right? Is Jubilee just a "lame duck"? Here are three reasons why not:
1. Superheroes Are More Than Just Powersets
Here's the mistake Hollywood makes all the time: Writers assume that a superhero is nothing more than a powerset on legs. So a "lame" powerset is somehow equal to a "lame" superhero. But that's not the case; Captain America's character is as important as his powers, as has been proven time and again when the comics stripped him of the super-soldier serum (don't believe me? It's happening right now).
Jubilee is a mall rat who saw her parents killed, and became a teenage runaway. She soon wound up living in a mall, where she stumbled into an X-Men adventure and hitched a ride with them back to their Australian hideaway. From the outset, she showed her strength, first encountering the X-Men when she saved Wolverine's life. She swiftly grew fiercely loyal to the ol' Canucklehead, and the relationship between the two has often been one of the most touching in X-Men comics.
The '90s comics used Jubilee particularly well. In Uncanny X-Men #303, Jubilee was there when the child Illyana — little sister of Colossus — died of the Legacy Virus. It was one of the most haunting issues of all time, and by focusing in upon a teenager's reaction to death, writer Scott Lobdell produced one of the most heart-wrenching X-Men issues of all time. To me, though, her greatest moment was in Generation X #26, where she showed exactly what kind of hero she was.
Jubilee had been captured by Operation: Zero Tolerance, a secret government organization that hunted mutants. She made an escape attempt, and things looked to be going well — until she realized that her powers had seriously injured one of her guards. Her reaction? To give him CPR until he recovered. As the villain of the story, Bastion, reflected:
Jubilee is a hero. Underneath it all, she retains an innate sense of goodness that makes her admirable. She's absorbed the worst the world could throw at her, and hasn't been fazed.
Now, it's true that this kind of superheroism isn't particularly fashionable - after all, DC's movies have turned the 'boy-scout' Superman into a superhero whose actions caused incalculable damage in Man of Steel, for example, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe is building on the consequences of superheroes' actions. But just because that kind of superheroism isn't fashionable, it doesn't mean it's lame.
2. Jubilee Was Used to Introduce a Whole Generation to the X-Men
The X-Men Animated Series was a hit, and is arguably one of the best-loved superhero animated series of all time. The series kicked off with Jubilee being introduced to the X-Men; she soon fell into their world, and her curious questions were used to introduce superhero fans worldwide to Marvel's merry mutants.
This is why Jubilee is always going to be tremendously popular; she's strongly associated with the outstanding success of X-Men: The Animated Series. It's also why, in the X-Men '92 comic book series that recently relived that period of X-Men history, Chad Bowers and Chris Sims knew that Jubilee had to play a central role.
This generation of comic book fans read Jubilee as they grew up, and she was their Kitty Pryde — the mutant teenager they felt great affection for, and, for many, there was a hint of a childhood crush. As the '90s went on, Jubilee began to grow up (both mentally and physically):
By the early 2000s, writers had lost track of what to do with the character; when Marvel decided to decimate the mutant population, removing the powers of the majority of the world's mutants, they knew Jubilee was on their hit list. Simply put, they knew that readers still had an emotional connection with Jubilee, and they could exploit that. From there, Jubilee's been launched in a curveball direction, transformed first into a vampire — and then into a mom. Although the relationship with her adopted baby, Shogo, is cute, most fans are expecting Marvel to try to find a way to backtrack.
3. Jubilee Is Actually Pretty Powerful!
This is Jubilee cutting loose, taking the Mandarin by surprise — and releasing enough energy to literally destroy his house. Not bad for a girl with fireworks, huh? In case you're wondering, that isn't a retcon, an upscaling of her powers to make her 'cool'. That is from all the way back in Uncanny X-Men #258, when Jubilee's creator Chris Claremont was still establishing the character. Sure, she didn't use such power-levels frequently, but Claremont made it pretty clear from the get-go that 'fireworks' were the least of Jubilee's powers.
During the Phalanx Covenant crossover, Scott Lobdell established that Jubilee has the potential to detonate matter on a subatomic level, and that she's simply afraid of her own powers. With good reason; do you know what it means to 'detonate matter on a subatomic level'?
Of course, the potential to generate nuclear explosions is just 'lame', right?
Now, to be fair, we don't actually know whether or not Jubilee currently has that powerset in the comics. She was depowered (and turned into a vampire!) in recent X-books, but those depowering events are now pretty much being ignored. So time will tell!
- Where Was Jubilee In 'X-Men: Apocalypse'?
- Noah Hawley Talks The X-Men TV Series 'Legion'!
- After The Apocalypse: Meet The NeXt X-Men!
Still, there you have it — three reasons why Jubilee is not a lame X-Man. She's a brilliant, well-rounded character who fans have a deep emotional tie with, and with a powerset that's pretty tremendous.