Monday, September 20, 2010

Uncanny X-men Getting New Writer - Kieron Gillen

I meant to post this sooner (like anybody gives a shit), but some big news recently emerged regarding one of the X-men's flagship titles. For the past few years Uncanny X-men has been guided by the wacky and sometimes offbeat pen of Matt Fraction. Uncanny has quickly taken over the role Astonishing once played as THE comic to follow for the biggest X-men events. It's been the comic that introduced the X-men to San Francisco, put them on Utopia, and set the stage for Second Coming. It has also been the comic where the events proceeding Second Coming has unfolded. Now the news has come out that Uncanny will be getting a new co-writer. Fraction isn't leaving, but now he has someone looking over his shoulder and that someone is Kieron Gillen.

CBR: Kieron Gillen joins Fraction on Uncanny X-men

Now for the most part, Matt Fraction has done a damn good job with Uncanny. He has plenty of detractors, but you don't get the Uncanny X-men job without being pretty good at it. He's always been great at telling big plot-driven stories with a lot of action and he's great with witty dialogue (for certain characters anyways). There are also the sales, the life-blood of any comic. Marvel has shown repeatedly that they could give six truckloads of donkey shit how much fans and critics hate a comic, but if the sales are good they'll embrace it like a drunk college girl wearing a black lace thong. Matt Fraction has kept Uncanny a top seller and has gotten his fair share of praise from fans and critics alike. However, he's not without his problems.

One of the most glaring and egregious problems with his writing involves his characterization skills. To be brief, he has none when it comes to the characters he claims are his favorites. Nowhere is this more apparent than Cyclops and Emma Frost. These two characters benefited the most from Joss Whedon's pen during his run on Astonishing. Well that was completely flip-flopped with Matt Fraction. He claims to love Cyclops, Emma, and their relationship. Yet he's done more to make fans hate these characters and their relationship than almost any other writers.

It starts with his clear and almost blatant bias. The man has no subtlety. You can tell in his writing he loves Cyclops and Emma more than the other X-men. He goes out of his way to make them sound like they're inhumanly cool, coming at the expense of who they truly are. He's turned Cyclops into this Gary-Stu douche-bag who is always right, always awesome, and always competent. It's a long ways away from the insecure yet honorable guy from the past. Joss Whedon made it a point to show that Cyclops was a strong leader, but he did have some personal struggles that made him more human and that's what made him great. Fraction has done none of this, only making him seem like the coolest kid on the block and that just doesn't fit Scott Summers.

Then there's Emma Frost. We all love talking about Emma Frost, unless of course she's being written by Fraction. Since the Grant Morrison run, Emma has been one of the most intriguing and interesting characters in X-men. It also helps she's very easy on the eyes. However, a large part of her character is driven by her harsh personality. That personality has been pretty much ass-raped by Matt Fraction. Since he came on board, his love of the Cyclops/Emma relationship has turned it into something completely different compared to what Morrison and Whedon set up. There's none of the unique chemistry they once had. Emma is now essentially Cyclops's arm candy. She's the hot blond who always supports him, always forgives him, and never calls him out. She's basically been domesticated. She shows none of her usual personality or wit. She has none of the mean, cold-heartedness that made her so awesome during Morrison's run. She's just the loving hot blond who spreads her legs for the man in charge.

Even worse, Fraction has set up chances to make the relationship more interesting. He had Emma seemingly betray the X-men during Utopia and he introduced Namor as a potential love interest that cold make for a new classic love triangle. But he's done nothing with this. It turns out Emma never betrayed anyone and even after she found out about the secrets Scott had been keeping, they basically just kissed and made up and that's it. No conflict or growth came of it. Then Namor comes along and despite the fact he still very much wants to bone her and they have had some serious chemistry in the past, pretty much nothing is done with it. Matt Fraction seems allergic to any story that would make Cyclops and Emma less than a perfect couple. This completely ignores the premise that Whedon embraced on his run in that Cyclops and Emma weren't the perfect couple. They were nowhere near as close or loving as Cyclops was with Jean Grey. That's part of the appeal. Fraction, despite claiming to love Cyclops/Emma, has basically turned them into Cyclops/Jean except Jean Grey would never have been so casual about her lover's activities with X-Force.

It seems the longer Fraction writes Uncanny, the more Cyclops and Emma Frost suffer as characters. Well now it seems like there's finally hope for Cyclops and Emma fans. Kieron Gillen is coming on board in a way very similar to which Matt Fraction came aboard. He joined Ed Brubaker after Messiah Complex as a co-writer. Eventually, he got the main job. Kieron Gillen is coming on board while also working on a series called Generation Hope that is spinning right out of the events of Uncanny. It makes sense that he would be involved because his series is tied to Uncanny. So it would make even more sense that if the two series ever came together, he would be the one to do so. This also factors in how Fraction has more on his plate besides Uncanny. He's also working on Iron Man and Thor. So it's not unreasonable to think that when push comes to shove, he'll have to drop a title in order to focus on others. The last thing the X-men series needs at this point is Ultimates style delays.

This is, of course, all speculation. I could be talking out of my ass as I so often do. But the arrival of Kieron Gillen offers some hope that some of Fraction's misgivings will finally be over with. The man has done a great deal for Uncanny, but his take has run it's course. Someone else needs to come on board who can make good use of some of the plots he won't touch like Emma/Namor. There's no indication as to what Kieron Gillen's tastes and proclivities are, but he'll definitely get his chance when he begins his run in December. Then come 2011, he may be the main man on the Uncanny X-men campus. Only time will tell. He's got a familiar looking redhead to use and plenty of loose plots that Fraction won't ever touch. Overall, there's plenty to work with. Nuff said.


  1. My guess is that you're spot on in your speculation. I look back over Fraction's run and I actually do like it a lot, but like you, the Scott/Emma thing drives me bonkers. Maybe I'm too hard on him, but I think Fraction's run his course. (But if it were up to me Uncanny would go back to Brubaker and Shi-ar space. For some reason, I'm dying to see what Havok is up to.)

  2. Thanks for your comment. I hope I'm wrong. I want to like Fraction, but the Scott/Emma thing is just too much. I get he likes them and all, but even bad fanfiction writers like me know how to be subtle in our biases. I don't know who I would rather have on. Anyone who can end Scott/Emma or make it more palatable would be fine with me.

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