Axel-In-Charge: Waid & Samnee on "Black Widow" and the Dawn of the All-New, All-Different Era
As the wordwide protests continue, Occupy Wall Street becomes more and more a part of our popular culture. Whether you’re holding a sign, reading about people holding signs or complaining about those signs, protests of this intensity are weighing in our thoughts. There’s a lot to ponder by questioning the establishment, finding a personal connection with hot-button social issues, and the division and unity in all of us.
See, now you just know I’m going to talk about the X-Men!
How can you not, when they are the go-to comic book metaphor to play and experiment with all sorts of social issues. Fear of the future, minority oppression, youth activism, why there’s even this MAJOR SCHISM that divides their public on how to achieve their goals. In the blue states- I mean, Wolverine’s camp, we have a return to the foundation of education and the protection of the next generation. In the red visor camp, we have a more aggressive approach, the idea that war is inevitable and the way to meet a world that hates and fears you is with heavy hitters, young and old. They even have a handy chart to know whose side you’re on (ooh, deja vu).
If you take a look at Cyclops and his Extinction Team (Really? What a terrible name), Dani Moonstar and her friends are listed as “Clean-up,” which one would think means some kind of X-Force-like hit squad (X-Force being mysteriously absent from these breakdowns). It’s a strange sort of listing, and once you read New Mutants #33 and understand what exactly these characters want to do, you’ll see how this might just be the answer for an entire out-of-place generation.
WARNING: We’ll be talking about New Mutants #33, so spoilers and nostalgia to follow. Grab a copy and read along!
It’s weird how a very generic term has, in my mind at least, come to represent a very specific era in time: the original New Mutants were the first all-youth team that followed the older X-Men. The X-Men weren’t always the Fab Five, but they didn’t really set about creating that same sort of team again until Sam, Dani, Rahne, Xi’an and Roberto. While possibly not the most exciting bunch of teens ever to hit the four-color page, they were thrown into adventures and teenage angst that could easily become a cipher for ’80s teens as the generation grew older and bolder. Heck, they even got a character named Cypher. While Kitty Pryde called them X-Babies and they feuded with a rival school, got new members, lost their faith in the school & mentors and tried to force a new look and an extreme point of view, the characters from that first second class changed with the times and always rolled with the punches. They split off and took a new direction plenty of times, returning to the school, moving out west, going on road trips, all in search of that elusive answer to what they want out of life. Dani Moonstar alone has been a student, a Valkyrie, a SHIELD agent, a member of the Mutant Liberation Front and not just on a whim. These characters have been allowed to adapt and grow through the ’80s and ’90s and they really do feel like different people. Like all these characters are friends and have an amount of experience equal to their back issues. I’m not saying all of it was great, but it certainly feels like a lifetime.
All that experience allowed into continuity makes for some fine adults who can now come to these big Schism-y decisions with more than a personality trait and a list drawn up in editorial. New Mutants #33 sees some some people leave (Sam & Xi’an want to head back to the school for personal rather than ideological reasons) and some have nowhere to go, but all of them seem to have that alienated feeling. Heck, one of them is an alien.
Which brings us to now and New Mutants #33. In one issue, they move forward into a new direction, avoid the military feel of the powers-that-be, let some friends go, understand who they are and take up residence in what looks like the old Real World house in San Francisco proper. They have moved out into their community to make a stand and a difference in a way that understands that past attempts have not worked.
Dani Moonstar brings it all home by not just having a belief in the powers that be, but an understanding that the old guard isn’t working. That you can’t promote mutant equality by falling back to old tactics. “I believe in the struggle for mutant rights,” she says, “but I also believe that part of that fight is interacting with that world so you can change it.”
Heaven forbid I compare X-Men Schism to the political divide or class warfare or anything of the sort; however steeped in metaphor, it’s also entertainment. However, this idea that one could agree with a point of view and not live in that encampment, that the New Mutants-era guys continue to grow and have their own unique perspective because of how they grew up, that a diverse group of characters who could never be considered the poster children of the mutant cause are taking to the streets to make a difference on behalf of tolerance, well… it makes for good storytelling.