Wednesday, August 17, 2011

A Tribute to Mike Carey's X-Men

Even if you didn't like his work on X-Men (or more specifically his work with Rogue), you have to admit his work is quality writing.  Let's take a look at what made his 5 1/2-year run astonishing in so many ways and the kind of legacy he'll leave through plots left unresolved.

I hadn't heard of Mike Carey until he started X-Men, but I was wary of the team I'd heard of so many months prior: Rogue, Cannonball, Iceman, Omega Sentinel, and Cable along with Sabretooth, Mystique, and Lady Mastermind.  WTF?  So many could this have worked?  And it did.  It really did.  Carey had something that hadn't been seen since Lobdell's run on Generation X and before that Claremont in the 70s and 80s.  The stories were tight, characterization and stakes were high, and action was explosive.  Rogue wanted to keep her enemies close, but with an unstable team, something could happen at any moment.  And, of course, it did.

Karima Shapandar (Omega Sentinel) fighting Pandemic
Carey wrote characters underused, not in the core cast of those seen in Uncanny or Astonishing.  He didn't even use Wolverine very often, which is essentially unheard of in a main X-book.  Omega Sentinel was last used by Claremont in 2004 for the Genoshan Excalibur, which was amazing as well.  She could have easily fallen off the wayside, but he brought her to the foreground and continued her quest of becoming human again, a major feat considering her transformation into a robotic sentinel by Bastion.  And he reinvigorated Lady Mastermind, who wasn't seen much prior to this.  Iceman was a joke and reduced to one part of a love triangle.  Then Carey took over and built him up to be one of the most powerful X-Men.  Since then, he's been reduced to wallpaper...again.  Cannonball was also brought to the forefront.  Another one of Claremont's favorites had not been really used much since X-Treme X-Men.  But he fit in well with the likes of Iceman and Rogue.  The trio formed a tight trust, all having establish friendships prior to this.

the last page of X-Men Legacy #233...made me giggle
He continued writing underused or misused characters with Husk, Psylocke, Ariel, Indra, Nightcrawler, Trance, Bling! and Loa.  And, oh, how he made me love the ones I didn't already.  Carey had a knack for creating teams previously unseen, and starting with Schism it looks like he might have started a trend.  But we'll see.  After the initial team Rogue, Gambit, Danger, Ariel, and Trance fighting in San Fransisco when Osborn Avengers attacked the X-Men.  Then we saw Rogue, Trance, and Bling! as the center of attention in the Emplate arc.  Following that was the Necrosha arc, in which Nightcrawler led a team comprised of Rogue, Magneto, Psylocke, Colossus, Nightcrawler, Husk, Blindfold, and Trance to Muir Island.  Then came the Second Coming crossover.  The post-major-crossover arc saw Rogue take Loa, Indra, and Anole to India to see Indra's parents, with Magneto tagging along to find out why there were anomalies in the magnetic fields in Mumbai.  Following was the rebuilding crew of Rogue, Magneto, Psylocke, Colossus, Hellion, Hope, Random (Random...seriously), and Omega Sentinel.  Now Rogue's team is comprised of herself, Magneto, Gambit, Frenzy, Legion, and Professor X.  We see multiple generations of X-Men in every team, from the 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, and 00s.  And in every team, there's some sort of internal conflict, as well as an external conflict.

The Children of the Vault
Carey even created new villains.  What?  NEW villains?!  Yes, and they were very threatening: Children of the Vault?  Best creation in at least 15 years.  Pandemic?  Brilliant.  Legion's antibodies?  Pure awesomeness.  Then he used villains unused in years: Emplate and Proteus.  All posed great threats to the X-Men.

Then there's the matter of feminism.  Carey's X-Men have been less male-dominated, unlike the rest of the current titles, save for X-23 and maybe the adjectiveless X-Men at times.  This many females haven't been at the forefront of a title since Claremont's pre-90s run.  As I listed all the teams, the majority of them are female-centric.  And that rocks.  Some say that Carey has been misogynistic by beating Rogue to a pulp every arc, but I disagree.  Every character does.  But Rogue always ends up pulling through and saving the day for everyone.  She goes through hardships, and nothing keeps her down for long.  It's impressive.  It was interesting to see in the Necrosha arc, a team of all women and Magneto after Colossus and Nightcrawler are taken out.  The Emplate arc was not only about Rogue trying to save Bling!, but it turned out to be more about Bling! rising above and refusing to be a victim.  She never gave in, and it was a mighty powerful moment when she knocked Emplate on her butt after Rogue prevents others from interfering, saying, "No.  She needs to do this."  A true female empowerment arc.  His females continually impress with amazing feats: Loa taking down a sentinel herself, Rogue knocking down a sentinel with a bus and without anyone's powers, and Trance developing her powers in ways previously unseen.

That Ariel...such a diva!
He made crossovers readable, as they were always most thrilling: dangerous, emotional, cryptic, and and action-packed.  His exciting Messiah Complex issues were enhanced by previous Claremontian story lines left in mysterious loose ends, such as Destiny's Diaries.  The story was thickened with a labyrinthian plots with Blindfold, Emma, and Kitty and a secondary story of Iceman and Cannonball fleeing and surviving and then overpowering.  Second Coming was awful without his writing.  His writing of Ariel and was brilliant.  And I've raved about his Necrosha arc.  That was clearly the best of the bunch, as the rest felt too quick, unresolved, and forced.  His part seemed to be in its own world.

And then we got the masterpiece Age of X.  A compact, riveting, dark, tense story where we got to see the X-Men's lives warped.  Only Blindfold and Professor X knew what was going on.  And it was up to Rogue to spark the rebellion to figure out what was going on.  Mann's redesigns made the alternate world even better.  The fallout has had a great effect on his book post-Age of X, but we may not see any more until he returns.  Age of X repercussions have great opportunities for plots and characterizations.  The seeds have been sewn for future relationships, transformations, stories, etc.

The Tempo Cadre from Age of X...Pixie/Nightmare's a sluuuut
Farewell, Mr. Carey.  You will be missed!  You left open plots for Pixie's dark side, Omega Sentinel's coma, Iceman's relationship with Psylocke in Age of X (as well as Storm and Namor's), Husk's potential for terrorism, Mystique's twisted way of showing how she cares, Indra's inner conflict with family and with beliefs, Hellion's rage, Chamber's powers and mental state, Ariel's revival, Legion's increasing sanity, Blindfold's family, Luz's position with the Children of the Vault, and Frenzy's new heroism.  These are characters who haven't had good development in years.

Now writers are taking after Carey in team creation, realizing it can create internal conflict.  I look forward to a little shakeup, as I feel most of the books are trite and jaded.  Mike Carey and Pater David have given us consistency in characterization, tight scripts, humor, and action all at the same time.  Here's to hoping we'll see some one-shots and minis from you soon, Professor Carey!


  1. You forgot Random! But other than that, this was a good retrospective look at a great, almost-complete X-Men run. Thanks!

  2. GASP! I did forget Random! To the changing table!