No, this is not another review or article about HOUSE OF M or Scarlet Witch. Instead, hopefully, what will be attributed to this article is the question, “Aren’t there enough mutants in X-Men comics already?”
While I’m happy the era of zero mutant births and manifestations has come to a close, and I’m happy the next stage of human evolution is occurring within the diegesis of the Marvel Universe, what I’m unhappy about is the creation of so many new X-Men and mutants that I am left screaming “no more mutants” with all the fury I can muster.
Why are they too many? Because Marvel has failed to flesh out and deepen the inner lives of so many characters created before. I admit that I was weary of the second wave of new mutants consisting of Dust, Hellion, Surge, X-23, Anole, Rockslide, Mercury, and others (and by the way, where are they now?), but ever since the invention of Eva (::cough cough::) and Goldballs, I have no option but to enter into discourse about how I was right to be weary in the first place.
Say what you will about Chris Claremont’s wordy writing and penchant for appealing to younger audiences, but the man has a way with character in the same way Brian Michael Bendis, X-Men’s current writer, does. Unfortunately, Bendis has failed to live up to his potential or follow in the footsteps of Chris Claremont and create and/or flesh out previously created characters in a new way. While the X-Men book containing the original five characters was enormously unpopular, I have little doubt some fans thought, “and where did they come up with this Storm lady?” That being said, I also have little doubt it took long for those fans to warm up to Storm, Wolverine, Colossus, Nightcrawler, Thunderbird, Banshee, and Sunfire. Why? Because they had substance. Because their very invention was a way to get us to look deeper at ourselves and our own lives and this was accomplished by creating and including international characters with whom the United States of America had previously (or currently) had conflict with. At the time of the creation of Sunfire, Colossus, and Nightcrawler, this meant Japan, U.S.S.R., and Germany respectively. I’m unsure how radical of an idea it was at the time, but it certainly was, at the very least, provocative. Imagine being a young adult in rural America and only hearing about the negative aspect of certain cultures and countries only to be confronted with your favorite character not only being from there, but sympathetic, empathetic, and a hero. This had to shake up some people’s ideas and stereotypes. As it did, they learned.
"It isn’t a matter of the right characters not being invented yet to snag new readers, but it’s a matter of the level of character that is created not living up to the past standards of such character."
Confronting people with countries the United States of America formerly had conflict with isn’t the only reason the all-new aforementioned team of X-Men were so successful. Couldn’t you imagine sitting in a chair next to the gentle giant Colossus? Don’t you understand Thunderbird’s rage given the fact that he and his people have been mistreated since Post-Columbian Colonialism? Isn’t Storm so much more human and relatable because she’s claustrophobic?
Whether you are religious or not, isn’t there undying respect for Nightcrawler’s devotion to his God? It’s likely your answer to these questions is “yes”, and if it isn’t, I’m sure we simply see things differently. My point is that, like Colossus, any of these characters, including Gambit, Rogue, Psylocke, and Magneto, can be imagined in a chair next to you right now. You probably might be able to figure out how they’d act and what they might say. Now take a character like Hellion (Julien Keller) and imagine doing the same thing.
Sure, you might be able to after thinking about it a while, but isn’t it much more difficult? Aren’t the original characters simply there easier for you in your imagination? This can be attributed to great writing and characterization and the writing of Chris Claremont. He provided his characters with tragic flaws, public personas they try to convince the outside world they have, and finally, deep intrinsic needs that they probably aren’t even aware of that are requisite for them to survive as human beings. The simple fact that so many great characters were developed properly with needs, tragic flaws, and public personas is the reason why those characters should be used more often and built upon in the way that Wolverine has been built upon. Joss Whedon did this in ASTONISHING X-MEN, why can’t Bendis do this with ALL-NEW X-MEN and UNCANNY X-MEN? I think he can, and I think he should. Instead of creating characters like Eva and Goldballs and putting them in the forefront, I think the more intelligent option would have been to snag a wider audience with characters we were already introduced with by deepening their personas and fleshing out their character’s constitutions.
It isn’t a matter of the right characters not being invented yet to snag new readers, but it’s a matter of the level of character that is created not living up to the past standards of such character. To put it simply, if you must use a team of X-Men, use characters that are fleshed out. If you must have more X-Men, flesh out some of the previously created characters (and there are tons!) If you must create new X-Men, do it in a way that is respectful to art and character and the human condition and make them real people that are written with all the depth we all hold as human beings. There are some notable exceptions. X-23 was wonderfully fleshed out by Craig Kyle and Chris Yost in X-23: INNOCENCE LOST and X-23: TARGET X. Dust has serious potential to live up to those characters I mentioned that Claremont helped create in the 1970’s. Great characterization isn’t a lost art in X-Men comics. It can happen, and Brian Michael Bendis possesses more talent at that than many of us realize. We can only hope the deepening of character mentioned in this article can someday become a priority again in flagship X-Men titles.