Friday, July 23, 2010

Chronic Review: X-Factor # 207!

X-Factor #207
Marvel Comics
Script: Peter David
Pencils: Sebastian Fiumara
22 pages for $2.99

I think the best thing about X-Factor # 207 is how unthinkable this comic would have been twenty years ago, and how unremarkable it is now. This comic is loaded with gay sex. OK, so nobody gets naked, but there is some serious man-on-man making out.

Remember Alpha Flight # 106, roundabout 1992? Northstar was gay. He was GAY, man!!! And the earth did quake, and back issue prices did rise, and lo there was quite the hullaballoo.

Except when you break it on down, there really wasn't much to it. He announced he was gay, but there was really no reason to believe it, other than the fact that he was French Canadian. That was kind of a dead giveaway. There was, however, no head slapping moment where you went "So THAT'S why he was always trying to feed Puck shots of Bacardi 151!" And there wasn't much after that dealing with it, either. He certainly wasn't making out with other dudes. There was just this hype with no real investigation of his sexuality, and that was enough to create headlines and rancor.

We're in a different place now in 2010. Oh, I suppose that we could look at something like Rucka's Detective Comics and wonder if there maybe wasn't too much excitement over the "lesbian Batwoman." Her sexuality probably gets more attention than it deserves. On the other hand, I would say most of that initial fixation has worn off, and these days we're more worried about how critically acclaimed Rucka's writing was, how fantastic JH Williams' art was, and how sorry we are that it's gone away. And that's a good thing.

And that's the point I was getting to about X-Factor # 207. Rictor and Shatterstar are engaging in the usual soap operatic sexual politics that have been an integral part of this title since it was re-booted. And they're gay. Or bi-sexual. In this issue, it sure as shit looks like they're gay.

And it isn't just a textual announcement with no substance to create histrionics. Of the 22 pages that constitute this issue of X-Factor, 7 of those are devoted to Ric and Shatterstar negotiating their relationship. That, quite frankly, would have been unthinkable in 1992.

The big deal here is that this is no big deal any more. There was no solicitation copy announcing the "hot gay sex" issue, nor should there have been. I don't think we'll see much in the way of picketing from Tea Partyers and that lot.

And to his credit, there's absolutely no hint that Peter David is cackling in the background about how salacious the whole thing is. X-Factor is just loaded with sexual tension as a general course. Jamie and Theresa. Jamie and Layla. Guido and Monet. And now Rictor and Shatterstar. (and next month? Looks like Rictor and Shatterstar AND Rahne!) Same stuff, different manifestation. So maybe editorial will get a few letters, but really, this is what X-Factor is about.

There's plenty of other elements to like about X-Factor, by the way. You never know who is going to walk through Jamie's office door. This time it's Hela in disguise. Lately the X-Factor crew has been in bed with the strangest of fellows. (pun slightly intended) The team is still trying to figure out how to feel about Layla's relationship with Dr. Doom. Monet makes a decision about helping Baron Mordo in this issue as well.

My favorite books tend to be comics steeped in characterization, and X-Factor is near the top of the list. Nothing compares to Secret Six, that book is just magical. Peter David's work is always a cut above in terms of wit, though. He obviously cares about these characters, and that's contagious. That to me is far more important than the hot gay sex, and judging by the non-reaction to this issue, thankfully it appears I'm not alone. Yay progress!

- Ryan


Anonymous said...

So, Rictor threw a length down his "shatter-star", eh? eh? eh?

Chronic Insomnia said...

Chocolate starfish there a better kind?

David Ferguson said...

John Byrne hinted Northstar was gay from the early issues of Alpha Flight.

X-Factor is the best X-book around. Great characters and plots and not impenetrable.

Chronic Insomnia said...

My first inclination was to scream WHEN did JB hint that Northstar was gay???? But then, I'm the guy who didn't twig onto the fact that Boy George was it seems likely that I just wasn't picking up what he was puttin' down. He wasn't making out with dudes, though. I would have remembered that....