Friday, 15 July 2011

The 100 Greatest X-Men, #5 - #1

5: Jean Grey




Most women in comics are unrealistic and idealised. Wonder Woman was originally conceived to appeal to the fetish market, while Storm literally believes she is a goddess of some kind. Not so Jean Grey. An anti-woman in many respects, Jean’s rise to prominence in the Marvel Universe came despite her refusal to be sexy in any way. An asexual object of lust for characters like Cyclops and Angel to project their sexual worries onto, Jean quickly became a fan favourite through her combination of thick, heavy clothing and realistic dull dialogue. Jean didn’t fly around causing a fuss like so many other characters did – she got on with her life, wore some cute hats, and tried her best to settle down. 

Realising quickly that constant warfare wouldn’t help her out, she did her best to avoid conflict at every turn. This status as the ‘pacifist’ one out of the main X-Men cast didn’t get her too far, however, as her genes quickly turned out to be some kind of mad scientist catnip. The amount of times Jean got kidnapped by people looking to do something vacant with her powers or body are almost as innumerable as the amount of times she and Cyclops found out that one of their alternate-reality children had come back through the timestream to alter reality/hug it out. 

No matter what Jean did, bad things followed her. And her mutant powers aren’t even that massive, really – she has telepathy and telekinesis, but not in particularly massive amounts. She does sometimes get cosmic boosts from intergalactic turkeys, but those times aren’t very interesting. So really, it’s hard to tell what the main appeal of Jean is for all these villains. Perhaps it’s because she’s the most prominent mutant after Charles Xavier – she’s always been there for the team, no matter what they go through (unless she’s dead). Her main trait is not just being passive – it’s being optimistic. 

At a time when the X-Men are glumming about, kicking each other and crying about being hated, Jean is around to make hot chocolate and build a snowman. That’s what’s so important about her – her presence makes the rest of the X-Men happier.


4: Storm


Melodramatic she may be, but Storm has spent a lot of time proving that she is as good as her overblown word. Whether stabbing people through the heart or entering a dubious gladiator battle for no particular reason, Storm’s love of fighting and maiming is matched only by her belief that she is a pacifist. While Jean Grey truly is restrained, however, Ororo Monroe is psychopathic in many regards. She seems to be attracted solely to people with poor moral fibre and a penchant for organising mass-murder, while leading many people to believe that she is an African Goddess – even though she herself knows that this is not the case; she is merely a mutant; and she was born in America anyway. 

At any rate, Storm’s latent sociopathic tendencies are balanced out somewhat by her exceptional skills as a gardener, ensuring that the X-Men’s base of operation’s always looks delightful. There’s more than that, of course. Storm is the second-in-command for the X-Men, looking after the team in a way which no other member can emulate. She exudes authority and power, but isn’t worried about humiliating herself in front of her friends – such as the many occasions when she’s snogged Wolverine despite knowing that other people are watching. 

When Storm decides that she should be leading the X-Men (which doesn’t happen very often anymore, as nobody really seems able to write her anymore) she simply walks in and takes over from Cyclops, and when she grows tired of the X-Men she simply gets in a boat with a ragtag group of characters and goes to live in Spain for a few years. When written well, no character is more unpredictable than Storm, and that tendency to fly in the face of what everyone else is doing is both part of her charm and what’s holding her back from the top spot. 

If given the chance, she does what’s best for herself before she does what’s best for her team. She’s also REALLY useful in splash pages, what with her ability to throw lightning at people. It’s not so interesting when she conjures up light mist, though.


3: Cable





Christ, I have no idea what Cable’s backstory is. That’s probably because a good chunk of that story was written by Fabian Nicenza, and his stories usually whistle right over my head. So let’s boil this down to the simplest statement of fact: Cable is everything that an X-Man should aspire to be. He is not merely a soldier, but an aesthete who can appreciate art. He is not merely a loyal fighter for the cause – he is an independent thinker who can strike out on his own when necessary. Not just a militant, but a devoted father-figure to Hope Summers.

He’s got a bit of everything going on. It probably helps that he’s from the future and appears to know everything that’s going to happen, before it actually happens. Cable is an alt-reality son of Jean and Cyclops, as are roughly two thirds of all X-Men introduced post-1980. He carries a large gun around, is part robot, has grey hair and I swear this one time he had an earring in. I swear. Like Bishop, his main goal is to keep the X-Men cohesive so that they can one day form the World into a massive Utopian landscape, complete with parrots.

And yet Cable is far more enigmatic than Bishop, and also less keen on murdering children in order to make sure things go according to The Plan. Cable has a pretty strict moral compass – taken from his dad, before his dad went haywire – and is admirably unwilling to go against it. He will, however, get up to some bizarre things in order to service his needs. I refuse to rephrase that. Cable is infamous for the number of times he pulls off a long-con against his friends for absolutely no reason. He will spend five issues making their lives a living hell and making himself look like a villain before he suddenly reveals that he’s got a second agenda all along and everyone forgives him.

He may be dead at the moment, but he does own a time-travelling device and has some clones running around, so it can’t be long until he returns. He owns a country, too. Two of them, actually! Although one of them got destroyed by an alien parasite. That’s just how it goes.


2: Kitty Pryde




Chris Claremont didn’t spend the best part of twenty years building up Kitty Pryde into the most complex, layered and interesting character in X-Men history just so she could be left out of a random blog’s Top 100 X-Men list, y’know! And with everything that’s happened to Kitty over the years, there’s really little that anyone can say to knock her off her pedestal. Not only was she the first one of the X-Men to be introduced as a perspective character, but she has kept that role throughout the years. 

This means that not only has she been consistently appearing in X-Men stories for almost as long as the X-Men have existed, but it means that during that time we’ve been experiencing everything through her eyes. She is the mutant who got to know the original team, and then the All New, All Different Team, before meeting the New Mutants and attaching herself to the Uncanny X-Men and the X-Treme X-Men and the Astonishing X-Men. But she’s also a character who lives beyond the X-Men. 

Many characters have nothing going for themselves outside the team – without the X-Men, what would Colossus be doing right now? Or Storm? Or Jean? The characters are defined completely by the fact that they are X-Men. Kitty, however, has repeatedly been shown to live in ‘the real world’. She has to wear glasses because she’s short-sighted (AND IT IS OFFENSIVE THAT SHE DOESN’T WEAR THEM ANYMORE). 

And she was one of the few X-Men to actually go out and attempt to get a college degree, instead of having one handed out to them off-panel before their first appearance. Does anyone really believe that Dazzler has a law degree? No. But we’ve seen Kitty go to University, integrate with humans, and work hard to get where she is. She represents everything that the X-Men should be. She is notably – and this is brought up, like, all the time – one of the few X-Men who has a defensive, not offensive, mutant power. Imagine the kind of courage it takes when your powers require you to run through a blunt object, never being sure if they’ll work or not. 

She’s going to be President one day, you guys. She’ll be sat in the White House, with her pet dragon lazing on the Oval Office’s rug, drinking a beer. If the X-Men had any sense, they’d quit the superhero gig, put all their efforts into getting Kitty into office, and then retire in peace.


1: Oneg the Prober




And so it comes down to this, guys. Oneg The Prober, you are THE GREATEST X-MAN OF ALL TIME. But guess what? He never even ever ever joined the X-Men! Who is this character, with an easily mockable name, who thinks he can be ranked as the greatest X-Man of all time? Well, Oneg is the Fourth Celestial. That means only one thing, you guys – he was created by Jack Kirby.

ALL RISE IN SALUTE TO JACK KIRBY.
Oneg was the character who actually created mutation and made it live. If it weren’t for his influence there would be no X-Men, and no list. Humanity would have collapsed years ago due to stagnancy in the evolutionary chain, and the World would be run by hyper-intelligent parrots and dolphins. As one of the Celestials, Oneg owns the power to change Universes – and yet, instead of harnessing these powers to do whatever he wants, he chooses to sit back and allow free will. He could at any moment seize back the capacity for mutation and leave the World floating into a dead future, but instead he allows mankind the opportunity to better itself. More than Cable fights for mutant equality, more than Kitty attempts integration between mutants and humans, Oneg allows for quality to exist. He simply takes the onus from mutants and puts it onto humans. That’s a difficult type of morality to accept, but Oneg is just the kind of immortal hyperdeity to practise it. Oneg’s purpose was defined by Jack Kirby as “the need to experiment and implement”. He makes changes to society which better it, but he also allows the world to run itself. If the X-Men had all the control, then how long do you think it’d be before Storm tried to seize control, or Magneto started blowing up continents? The inbalance between mutants and humans is essential for the survival of the human race. And it also makes for great stories. Oneg’s presence as the creator of mutantkind makes him important and worthy of the list – the way he chose to deliver this to the characters, and to readers, is what makes him The Greatest X-Man of All Time.


….And it’ll also REALLY piss people off. Conspiracy! Investigation! Attack me in the comments section!

3 comments:

treysome said...

Jean, Storm and Kitty in top 5 I love it. Got to go find out who Oneg the Prober was, google don't send me to a nasty site lol

spockfran said...

Kitty over Storm and Jean is an injustice but Oneg really does deserve the #1 spot.

Unknown said...

I wish you would do one for 2014!!