Celebrating the Unpopular Arts

Old Man Yells At Cloud #2: ‘X-Men’ #35/700 (or; If that’s all there is, my friend, then let’s keep dancing)

I thought this series would be slightly more semi-regular, but I just can’t bring myself to buy current comics that I suspect I won’t like just for the sake of ranting about them. However! Marvel has decided to bring the FUCKING KRAKOA ERA to an end, and so we get the 35th issue of whatever volume of X-Men this is, which magically – just in time for a big event! – happens to be the “700th” issue of the series. Yay, syzygy! Let’s take a look at this thing – it can’t be that bad, if it ends the abomination that was FUCKING KRAKOA, can it?!?!?

First of all, that is a sweet, SWEET Scott Kolins cover. My only problem with it, honestly, is that there are too many “Marvel Universe” characters on it, but I assume Marvel told Kolins to do that. Even so, it’s still pretty sweet. I asked my retailer to save me a copy because I wasn’t able to make it to the shop early in the day, when they would have more choices, but he forgot, and by the time I got there, the only one left was the stupid Skottie Young Cyclops cover. Luckily, he was able to dig this one out from a secret stash somewhere, and I wanted this one anyway, so score! Be nice to your comics retailers, people – they’ll give you cool stuff!

Ok, so I guess the big shit with FUCKING KRAKOA happened in other issues, and I’m coming into this cold. Fair enough. But that doesn’t mean I can’t figure things out – this is a superhero comic, after all, and superhero comics aren’t the most intellectually challenging things in the world. (I love them, but you know it’s true!) Jonathan Hickman has long ago left his abortion of an idea, so it’s left to writers Gerry Duggan, Al Ewing, and Kieron Gillen – all of whom know what they’re doing – to make sense of this clusterfuck. People drew this, but there are far too many to worry about!

We get a 9-panel “Giffen grid” to begin, because we’re getting caught up. The only interesting panels are the final two, in which we find out that war came to FUCKING KRAKOA, and when it did, Charles Xavier broke … “and like all broken men at war: He did bad things.” Oooooh, scary!

Maybe take that stupid thing off your head and look around a little?

Xavier has turned himself over to “human justice,” and he’s being transported somewhere in a heavily armed convoy, which doesn’t work much against a crazed Wolverine, who attacks the trucks with the intention of killing Xavier. Magneto stops him and zips him away, then takes Xavier away so they can have a chat. Here we go!

We get a two-page credits spread, which catches us up on the FUCKING KRAKOA saga, from its idiotic beginnings to its predictable end. Xavier did what he had to do, humans died, but life in the universe was saved, and the stupid humans don’t see that because they’re stupid, and Xavier needs to face their judgment. Fine and dandy. Boring, but fine and dandy. We rejoin Magneto – who’s now called “Max” for what I only imagine is a stupid reason – and Xavier, debating the same thing they’ve been debating for 40 years, ever since Claremont decided they were best buds in the late 1950s. Magneto bemoans the fact that their paradise needed a “corresponding pit” for the bad mutants, and that killed his dream … whatever that dream was at this particular point in his convoluted evolution. So, he says, he’s back to his old self, with a bit of “justice for oppressed humans, too, why not” thrown in. Xavier laughs, because he thinks Magneto just admitted that he, Charles, was right all these years. Yes, these people are just that childish. Before Xavier can get Magneto to return him to the humans, he realizes that a part of FUCKING KRAKOA that was in the White Hot Room (if you can’t use Claremont’s ideas, use Morrison’s!) has returned to our dimension. Good for it!


We shift to FUCKING KRAKOA, where Doug Ramsey (with a cool and not-at-all-Sienkiwieczian Warlock arm) greets a dude who’s arrived with the other island. He calls himself Kafka, and I assume he’s one of Angel’s kids from Morrison’s run, as he has antennae and wings. (On another note, I think it would have been much more fun if he had been “Steve” or something banal instead of something kewl like “Kafka.” But I’m weird like that, and I’m an Old Man Yelling At A Cloud!) Kafka introduces their version of FUCKING KRAKOA, which Doug helps communicate with 616’s FUCKING KRAKOA, and later, Jean wonders if the two FUCKING KRAKOAS are, actually, fucking. They’re not, but it’s still weird. Anyway, Kafka tells them that they spent years in the White Hot Room (it’s only been a few weeks for our regular heroes), and they were able to resurrect all the Genoshan dead from, yep, Morrison’s run. Well, good for fucking them.

Kafka says they’re leaving again, because “Earth isn’t ready” for them, and in the very next panel, Exodus proves it by throwing a temper tantrum because he wants them to stay. Before anything else can happen, Apocalypse – who’s calling himself by a stupid-looking symbol now, because I guess Prince is his spirit animal? – shows up and asks, Wassssssup?, basically. Kafka tells him, and Apocalypse lays a smackdown on Exodus and then asks Kafka to impress him with what the White Hot Room FUCKING KRAKOA has been able to accomplish. Kafka tells him the usual crap – hey, we all worked together and made a paradise, and we didn’t need to kill everyone to do it – and Apocalypse, showing that he’s just as childish as Exodus, rejects that and beats the shit out of Kafka. Yes, Apocalypse acts like a bad guy – WHO COULD HAVE FUCKING GUESSED?!?!?!?!? While he’s fighting the X-Men, Doctor Doom shows up in a flying Viking longboat, because why the hell not, and tells his sex slave/killer assassin (I assume), Volta, to get a “seed” from FUCKING KRAKOA, and she does. Good for her!

Has anyone tried shoving a Twinkie in his piehole and telling him to SHUT THE FUCK UP!?!?!?

Fight Fight Fight Fight … hey, it’s Jean Grey, who tells Apocalypse to take a look at how cool the FUCKING KRAKOANS really are, and when he does, he peaces right the hell out. Kafka and his FUCKING KRAKOA make sure everyone who wants to stay stays, and all the marketable X-Men stay behind because you can’t sell comics about a blissful paradise. See ya, FUCKING KRAKOA. Don’t let the boot kick your ass on the way out!

He’s like the Crying Indian!

Before I rant more about this main story, let’s take a look at the quasi-back-up stories (the first few are part of the regular issue, but they’re separated by a page with a quote on it, because Hickman). We get a one-page coda of Apocalypse ending up on Mars (no, I will not call it FUCKING ARRAKO, so don’t ask), where he moans to some dude about how the mutants don’t like him anymore. So sad! Then Dr. Stasis – who’s Mr. Sinister, basically (stupid clones!), but we can’t call people “sinister” anymore, I guess – shows up in a jail cell to break some random chick out of prison, but … a-ha, it’s really Mystique, who’s mad that random chick killed Destiny, so she stabs her in the gut. Yay, Mystique!!! Then we get Xavier in his weirdo jail cell, which was designed by Reed Richards and Tony Stark, I guess, and he’s able to psychically wander around, and he influences some ant-mutant dude to not stab a mutant, and he thinks, “Why, I haven’t learned any lessons at all about mind control because I’m a corporate comic book character,” and that’s fine and dandy. Then, Marvel drags Chris Claremont out of whatever hole they’ve kept him stashed in for two decades (all the while paying him, of course), and he gives us a dull but refreshingly old-school story in which nobody actually fights each other! Ok, that’s not strictly true, as Rogue and Mystique and then Nightcrawler and Mystique sword-fight, but it’s more just practice, not actual fighting. It’s basically a story about Nightcrawler working out his feelings about Mystique while Rogue and Destiny talk about … things, which is why it’s refreshingly old-school, but it’s still pretty dull. Here’s the thing: Why is Destiny young? I assume she’s been resurrected at least once, but why is she young and no one else who gets resurrected young? Unless they are? I don’t necessarily love that she and Mystique are lovers, not because I hate the gays but because I don’t love literally every person in comics who becomes close to someone else eventually boinking them, but whatever – they’re together, groovy. However, is making Irene young some weird kind of ageism? Mystique couldn’t possibly love a woman some decades older than she is? Or when they decided to make them lovers, did they think they had been lovers for a while, and they wanted to avoid a creepy “older woman grooming the younger one” situation? And wait, MYSTIQUE IS NIGHTCRAWLER’S FATHER?!?!?!? What the fucking fuck, Marvel, just because she’s a shapeshifter doesn’t fucking mean she can create workable sperm inside her body!!!!

Fuck me sideways, comics are stupid sometimes. Sigh. Anyway, Salvador Larroca phones in the art, which is depressing. He gives us this really weird panel in which Rogue looks like she’s about to curse at Walter Matthau and get the game-winning hit:

‘You can take your apology and your trophy and shove ’em straight up your ass!’

Finally, we’re back with Xavier, who flits around the globe checking in on the mutants who are still around, all of whom seem to be settling into places that would make a comic book series pretty viable. What could it mean???? Then he goes into a coma (or does he?) and we get a new evil human, a “podcaster” (nothing more evil than a podcaster!) who has ideas about how to wipe out mutants. How nice. How dull. And so the issue ends!

As you might recall from my first post in this series, I am not really interested in being an objective observer here. I’m an Old Man, and I want to Yell at Some Clouds, consarnit, so you’ll just have to deal with that. So, in that spirit, let’s consider the main story of X-Men #35:

What, exactly, the fuck?

Look, I get that I’m jumping on board late. I get that this isn’t the big climax, it’s the denouement, much like that X-Factor issue back in the day that came out AFTER the Shadow King destroyed Muir Island and Henry McCoy walked around quoting Yeats. I get it. But, as I was reading this, I still had that old song in my head, the one that’s the subtitle of this post (I like the PJ Harvey version, and look at this weirdo video!):

Kafka shows up, Exodus acts like a baby, Apocalypse acts like an even bigger baby, Kafka fucks off back to Neverland and the X-Men learn nothing from their experience on FUCKING KRAKOA? How is this any better than my solution, which is to start the next issue with the X-Men sitting around the kitchen table at the X-Mansion reading the comic book version of themselves, in which they set up on FUCKING KRAKOA, and laughing about how stupid it is and boy, they’re glad that was only a fictional story? I mean, sure, that wouldn’t be the best solution, but Marvel refuses to let these characters move forward in any way (I assume Sam is no longer boning his alien wife somewhere out in the galaxy because the New Mutants dragged him back to Earth), as is clear from the fact that no recognizable X-Person leaves for Narnia, so who really cares how they reset? My way at least has the advantage of being goofy, and they could certainly stand to be goofy every once in a while. Plus, for a book called “X-Men,” a lot of this book is Kafka – whom nobody cares about – and Apocalypse, who’s become a fucking joke. Yes, the X-Men fight him, and good for them, but the conflict in the story is between Kafka and Apocalypse, and Jeebus! who cares? It’s frustrating. The only conflict that features characters we marginally care about is when Magneto chats with Xavier, and they tread the same damned ground they always do. Plus, they act like babies, too. Lots of Baby-Men wandering around this comic book!

Man, just fuck ALL the way off

I mean, what is even the point of this? What was even the point of FUCKING KRAKOA? I hated it, sure, but lots of people did like it, I guess, and it seemed like Marvel was allowing Hickman to do … something different, even if it sucked (I mean, really, Xavier – let’s let all the bad guys just hang out on the island? sure, that will work well). I understand the concept of “dynamic stasis” and that nothing can ever change in the Marvel Universe, but by allowing a radical change like FUCKING KRAKOA and then burning it all down, Marvel is highlighting the fact that they can’t change anything. That’s one of my problems with Hickman, actually – the dude has BIG! IDEAS!, and that’s fine, but in a corporate universe, those Big Ideas don’t work, because nobody has any interest in changing the status quo too radically. Marvel can introduce diverse characters, sure, but even then, nothing much changes in terms of stories. That’s fine, if that’s your thing, but I’m not sure why they let Hickman do crazy shit like this and I’m not sure why people keep falling for it. That’s really it – why do readers keep falling for it? Are these really readers who have never read superhero comics before, or are they just Old Men Like Me who feel the need to buy every superhero comic out there “to keep up”? I don’t know. But it’s stupid.

I know I beat the drum for Claremont (not 2024 Claremont, but 1970s/1980s Claremont), but it’s not because he was ever that good a writer (he was fine, but not great). He understood the idea of “dynamic stasis” pretty well, and the fact that he wrote the series for so long made the changes he made feel organic. Yes, the characters evolved, but it felt like the evolution that happens to everyone, and it worked very well. The biggest tragedy of Claremont’s run, perhaps, is that he made Magneto a villain again, something that felt editorially-mandated, after doing so much work to make him, if not exactly a hero, then a complex and tragic anti-hero. But, you know, he’s much cooler sitting on a throne on Asteroid M, so fuck that Claremont guy, right? These days, as I’ve noted, comics are all about PLOT CHURN, so there’s not much room for small changes to characters that turn into big changes down the road. If a writer wants to change the characters, they change RIGHT AWAY, and it feels dumb and inorganic and gets reset quickly. And then they have to reinforce the reset by having the characters rehash their old arguments with nothing new added, like Magneto and Charles do or even Apocalypse does. It’s just fucking dull. Gillen, Ewing, and Duggan are all better than this, but because they’re working for a company where PLOT CHURN is everything, they have to get through the “character stuff” quickly, and they take the path of least resistance. Marvel doesn’t care, the readers clearly don’t care, so why should the writers? I can’t wait for Gillen’s new superhero book, The Power Fantasy, because you know that will contain better character development in the background of the main scenes than this comic does with the primary heroes. Man, remember that X-Men issue where Kitty … tells Illyana a freaking bedtime story? Sure, it wasn’t all that great, but still … she told her a bedtime story, and that was the issue! Can you imagine a writer submitting that to an editor at Marvel today? C.B. Cebulski would have him/her defenestrated!!!! (After, you know, pretending to be Japanese.)

‘By making you read X-Men #35!!!!’

I don’t have much to say about the art, but it’s kind of a mess. None of it is bad, and we get a nice Walt Simonson pin-up showing up in the middle of it (it’s part of the fight with Apocalypse, but it’s one page, and it’s one image, so it’s kind of cool), but it’s just wildly inconsistent. I get that Marvel wanted to have a bunch of artists that, I guess, worked on the FUCKING KRAKOA ERA back for the last round-up, but it means the book feels very herky-jerky. It’s a pain, but whatever.

X-Men #35 depresses me, mostly. I’d like to be angrier at it, and I’m still plenty angry, but it’s more sadness. I still love the X-Men and I still want to like them, and I always have hope whenever they reset, but it feels like they’ve drifted too far from the things I liked about them and I don’t know if they’ll ever come back. I still think the metastasizing of the titles is a huge mistake (that’s not unique to the X-Men, of course), as nobody can keep track of what’s going on and what characters have changed, so when a writer wants to use them, they don’t know everything about the character. I read some of these comics, and I get that I don’t keep track of what’s going on, but even so – as annoying as Claremont could be with his stupid catch phrases, his characters generally had unique voices, and sometimes I read these characters and they “sound” like everyone else, because the writers are simply moving the plot along and they don’t care which character delivers the dialogue that moves the plot along. That, or they speak in dull platitudes that literally anyone could say. I mean, who cares? They’re all the same anymore.

I will, as I noted, check out the “new direction,” at least for a bit. I don’t have high hopes for it, but we’ll see. As an Old Man Yelling at a Cloud, I should just be grumpy all the time about new comics. But I live in hope! Yes, my hopes will most likely be crushed, but I still have them!!!!


  1. I bailed on the X-Men around the time Paul Smith left the book and have mostly avoided it, though I have caught occasional rumblings about various arcs and runs that sounded either interesting or terrible. Krakoa sounded like the latter, and I’m glad it’s finally over. The only thing in all of this that sounds remotely interesting is that Gail Simone will be writing one of the new books. That’s probably the only one I’ll pick up.

      1. Call Me Carlos the Dwarf

        The main thing with Gail is that she understands the assignment.

        Her WHEELHOUSE is sexy, soapy, funny team books about spandex-clad found families, with a sprinkle of social commentary and righteous anger, that carefully thread the needle of having character develop to feel like they matter, while avoiding any changes so drastic that they’ll immediately be memory-holed or outright reversed by the next team.

        It’s a balancing act many writers with more talent and less skill have failed, but I trust Simone!

    1. Jeff Nettleton

      That was the exact point I bailed on it and never came back, other than picking up a couple of the Jim Lee issues, before that marketing quagmire of a new book they gave him, while giving Claremont a middle finger and a push out the door. I was tired of Claremont’s repetitive cycle then (and obsession with Alien) and nothing after ever convinced my to come back. Romita Jr’s art sure didn’t and I had trouble believing it was the same guy who drew my favorite Iron Man run. I did flip through Astonishing and saw that Cyclops was schtupping White Queen and just put it back. Not much of a Whedon fan, anyway.

      1. Call Me Carlos the Dwarf

        In fairness, the last panel of Morrison’s run is them getting together!

        Whedon’s choices were to throw it out or explore what would happen next…and I’m glad he chose the latter option!

        I’d put Morrison~>Whedon->Ellis->Fraction->Gillen writing the Cyclops-Team up there with Bendis through Waid on Daredevil, as modern cape comics go.

  2. conrad1970

    I stuck with the run up to X of Swords and then gave it up.
    I’m going to give the reboot a fair shot but I’m not holding out much hope that I’ll stick with it for long, I can always console myself and read Claremont’s original run again.

  3. Eric van Schaik

    If you get angry and/or sad about the quality of the book why still give it a try?
    Just buy stuff you like. Then you don’t have to cuss all the time 😉
    The perfect ending for me was Inferno, but I know I’m a minority.

    1. Greg Burgas

      Who are you?!?!?!? 🙂

      Well, I didn’t know this was going to suck, did I? I suspected it, but I hoped. Hope is good, sir!

      I like cursing! It clears my sinuses!!!! 🙂

  4. In recent years, I have enjoyed buying anniversary issues of Marvel series I don’t normally follow, but I did not buy this one. I had picked up (digitally) the first Hickman trade of this era (House of X/Powers of X), but never managed to finish reading it. I appreciate its existence as the first real post-Morrison X-Men run (in that it progresses past where Morrison left off, rather than regressing or sticking with the same premise), but I couldn’t stick with it. And the main reason is that I’m just not an X-Men guy. I’m old enough and secure enough in my convictions to admit it!

    The next run again appears to be a ‘regression,’ akin to what we saw immediately following Morrison’s run. I’m not particularly interested, but Marvel found a way to get to me– I’ll pick up X-Factor as long as Mark Russell is on the book. Not even Ewing could get me to buy all these X-Comics, but Russell has the hustle!

    Anyway, weren’t Mystique and Destiny always a couple? And the bit with Mystique fathering Nightcrawler was Claremont’s original plan which they’ve finally made canon.

  5. square

    I enjoyed the earliest part of Krakoa, but tapped out when I realized it was just eight books a month filling a schedule until they pull the plug. But I liked House of X/Powers of X. It had a story to tell.

    I think that will be my canon X-ending. I don’t need to follow anymore continuity at this point, and the changes were so dramatic that you can’t come back from them anyway

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