So I have been achieving very little outside of work lately. But I have managed to read a great deal of comics. Some of the ones I’ve enjoyed most have been the little digest-sized collections put out by Marvel: X-Men: First Class, Wolverine: First Class and Thor: The Mighty Avenger. They’re low on angst, high on adorability.
X-Men: First Class I find quite interesting because of the ways it deals with the limitations of its source. The series is pitched as untold stories from the original X-Men comics, which is Marvel Girl, Cyclops, Beast, Iceman and Angel. The other character in every issue is Professor Xavier: so you’ve got one female character against five male ones.
And First Class is aware of this, and it finds ways to show f-f relationships anyway. Probably my favourite issue was one where Jean is trying to use her powers to fly: she’s been practicing in secret, and when the boys find out, things get frustrating. (This made me feel very fond of her, because I don’t like people seeing me trying new things either.)
So, Prof X is like, well, it must be tough for Jean, being stuck with all these annoying boys and no female mentors. Let’s send her to go hang out with Sue Storm!
Jean is pretty psyched about this, and she and Sue have some good bonding time, and some ass-kicking time, and the boys are convinced Jean’s going to leave them and go make it the Fantastic Five. It’s totally charming.
There are also these little side-strips, illustrated by Colleen Coover. which they’ve reprinted at the end of the digests. Some of these are making fun of Magneto. Some of them are about the adventures of Marvel Girl and the Scarlet Witch. Together they solve crime!
Wanda, the Scarlet Witch, appears in some of the other issues, and immediately became my favourite. I sadly do not think I will find much else with her and Jean being buddies.
(No crime-fighting, but here is another one of the strips, with Jean and Xavier using their psychic powers for hilarity.)
I love school stories, so these are more satisfying to me than a lot of the other superhero comics I have been reading. Part of it’s the positivity: they are learning to be the most awesome people they can be! There is a story in Wolverine: First Class where Kitty and Logan are investigating a mutant presence: they end up being attacked by the townspeople. “Th-they’re not making any sense …” Kitty says, and Logan says, “Fear does that to people. Whatever mutant presence Charlie sent us to run down has scared the sense right out of ‘em.”
But this is not a story about how it sucks to be a mutant (though obviously peoples’ fear of mutants forms a backdrop). Kitty ends up in the house of the girl they’ve come looking for. There, the evidence is clear that her community has not been driven mad by fear, and that something else is going on.
Which was quite nice after House of M.
Wolverine: First Class is basically all about Kitty saving the day. And also being a teenage girl. The second story has Kitty trying to convince Logan he wants to chauffuer her and her friends to see the amazing *Dazzler*. Begging and cajoling doesn’t work, so she throws him a special surprise party and arranges him a date with his lady friend Mariko. This rather gets spoiled when some guy from Logan’s past turns up. There’s some fighting, then said evil guy then tells Logan he has to choose between saving Kitty and saving Mariko. Hmm.
Logan chooses Mariko, because of course Kitty can get herself out of anything, but as it turns out, by the time the men have finished their scrapping, Kitty has already saved her. See, evil guy, maybe Logan will never transcend your skills in beating people up, but at least he has an awesome student.
After that Logan really has no choice but to play chauffuer.
Kitty is fantastic in this, and the part of me that loved her in the cartoon as a kid feels redeemed against all the other, blander versions of her I’ve seen. She feels realistically young, without being annoyingly so, and the teenage squabbles are countered by the adorableness. Despite Wolverine’s name in the title, Kitty’s the star of the show.
(I still don’t get her crush on Piotr though.)
But the most charming digest of them all is Thor: The Mighty Avenger. A lot of this is to do with the art, I feel – there’s something very appealing about the inking, and the simplicity of the style.There are fights and things, people to be rescued (and sometimes it is Thor that needs to be rescued), but the heart of the comic is the relationship between Thor and Jane, and the ways in which Thor comes to love Earth.
There are two volumes of Thor: The Might Avenger – I’ve read the second one, and I’m waiting for the first. It’s just such a warm-hearted comic. Because it’s an AU from the rest of the Marvel universe, it’s easy to rec to people too; it might crossover with characters from other titles, but it’s still very self-contained.