Astonishing X-Men #50

  • Marjorie Liu – writer
    Mike Perkins – artist
    Andy Troy – colorist
    VC’s Joe Caramagna – letterer
    Dustin Weaver & Rachelle Rosenberg – cover
  • Marvel, 2012

As a comics reader for the past mumbledy-teen years, I have to confess I sometimes find it a bit surprising to see LGBT stories told straightforwardly in mainstream super-hero books… and most jarring, perhaps, in X-Men books, where many of us have seen our lives in metaphor since the Stan Lee and Roy Thomas era.

The decades have brought our lives, and mutants’ lives, from the shadows into the light — for better and for worse, but really, thoroughly for the better, and for good. Even gay pride has had is parallels in the mutant pride of the Grant Morrison era (and that’s certainly no coincidence, considering some of Morrison’s other characters).

And now we’ve moved on to a story elements of which are — to put it in LAW AND ORDER terms — ripped from today’s headlines. It’s no secret that ASTONISHING X-MEN #50 brings us the marriage proposal of Northstar to his boyfriend Kyle, in the second-biggest marriage equality press event this month. (I guess the President gets to upstage even Marvel once in a while — though from the leaked coverage of the Marvel news, you’d have thought Joe Biden was on staff there!)

But we know about the news. What we don’t know about is the comic.

Relax — it’s X-Men.

Through the years, the X-Men franchise — no matter which incarnation — has offered a mix of super-heroics and soap-operatics. And when it’s in the hands of a writer who knows how to treat super-humans as super HUMANS, it works, it really works.

Marjorie Liu proved with DAKEN that she could write a character who rang true, whether you liked or hated him. (Or both, as I felt.) Finding the quiet moments and the emotional truth is her strength, but luckily, not at the cost of plot or action.

It takes a talented artist to render those quiet scenes and give them dynamics, changes in volume, without looking like an A-B reverse talking-heads sequence. Thanks to Mike Perkins, this isn’t MY DINNER WITH JEAN-PAUL. The action scenes pop, and the conversations draw on the talents displayed in Perkins’ adaptation (with Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa) of THE STAND, holding our interest and guiding our eyes through the bumpy and all-too-human road to the as-yet-unsaid “I do.”

(If I have any issue with the art, it is that sometimes faces seem too inked and feathered, a little too over-rendered. But that’s a pretty small issue when taken as part of the whole, which is pretty fine.)

Alas, there’s one of the inevitable characteristics of the X-Men epic here: no matter what happens, you’ve walked in in the middle, and need to try to figure out why people are doing what they’re doing, and to whom.

I suspect more than a few people are jumping on here due to the headlines. Are they doing this to tell a story, or to sell more comics? I ask you: if they do it well, isn’t selling more comics part of the point?

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