A fascinating thing occurred to me in anticipation of next week’s debut of Uncanny X-Men by Brian Michael Bendis and Chris Bachalo (CBR has a preview of the issue here). Brian Michael Bendis gained a great deal of notoriety for his changes to the Avengers franchise, but I always found the change theory to be a bit overblown. I mean, the one constant that the Avengers as a book seemed to have was change. I mean, for crying out loud, there was a point in time when the Avengers’ roster was seriously as follows: Black Widow, a powered-down Hercules who dressed like he was working out at the gym, Quicksilver, Crystal, Vision and Deathcry. That was the Avengers. So the notion that that team was somehow the “real” Avengers and Bendis’ team was not “real” because he had Wolverine and Spider-Man on the team (the latter, of course, had previously joined the team during the 1990s) always seemed silly to me.
With his work on the X-Men so far, though, I have to say that he is actually surprising me with just how much of a change it all is. It is debatable whether it is a change for the GOOD, but I am still impressed with the fact that he’s willing to dare to change the main franchise so much.
First off, the whole “bringing the original five members of the X-Men to the present and leaving them here” thing is interesting. I don’t think we’ve ever seen something on this scale before. The closest comparison I can think of is the Legion clones from Keith Giffen’s Legion. That was fairly similar, I suppose. But as far as the Marvel Universe goes, this stands out. It doesn’t necessarily make sense, and I sort of love that about it. It embraces the idea that this is a comic book to the extreme. There are all these rules about time travel and Bendis basically is saying, “Eh, whatever. I am not going to worry about that stuff. This is fun.” And it HAS been fun so far to see the young X-Men living in the future, particularly what it does to young Scott and young Jean, who basically see their whole worlds blown up in front of them (one by learning of all the things his future self has done and the other by seeing that she’s, you know, DEAD).
Moreover, though, the concept behind Uncanny X-Men is absolutely fascinating. For years, fans have clamored for a return of the X-Men to being outcasts. I can recall more than a few comic book runs that opened with the notion of the team becoming outcasts but it sort of died on the vine (Zero Tolerance for one). The status quo returned quickly. However, when you look back at the famed “outcasts” era, the X-Men rarely really WERE outcasts. Basically God Loves, Man Kills and I guess kind of sort of when everyone thought that they were dead. Otherwise, the X-Men worked pretty much as normal superheroes. Yes, mutants as a WHOLE were treated like shit, but the X-Men themselves rarely found themselves hunted down or anything like that. Heck, the Avengers even had a storyline where the government hunted them down during the mid-80s, so the X-Men were practically even with the Avengers! What Chris Claremont DID do is have the X-Men go on the run a lot. However, these were things where they were on the run from villains, not society as a whole (the post-Magneto/Savage Land journey where Jean thinks that the X-Men are dead, the Brood epic, the post Mutant Massacre era where the X-Men’s home is attacked, the Australia era and the post-Siege Perilous era). Now, though, for perhaps the very first time, we have an X-Men team that is legitimately on the run from society as a whole. Cyclops’ new team are legit outcasts with no easy way to get back to the status quo.
I can certainly understand taking issue with the direction Bendis is taking the X-Men, but at the very least, he is definitely trying new things with the Marvel Universe as we know it.