Q & A 34: What current ongoing comics storyline are you really enjoying?

In Q & A, a weekly feature of Fantastic Fangirls, we ask our staff to tackle a simple question — then open the floor to comments.

What current ongoing comics storyline are you really enjoying?


Anika is on vacation this week.


Bring on the dark!

That’s the last thing I thought I’d be saying last fall, when the previews for Marvel’s Dark Reign era started cropping up. As the seemingly endless Secret Invasion plot worked toward its climax, there was a lot of speculation that the aftermath would have Earth under alien domination. I’d seen enough Skrulls by then, and I might have been heard to swear that when this event happened, I was dropping all my Avengers books and getting into Green Lantern or Superman or something.

I was genuinely surprised when Dark Reign turned out to be something else entirely: the ascension of former Green Goblin Norman Osborn to be, essentially, the big boss of all the superheroes. A lot of readers felt this came out of nowhere, but I wasn’t one of them. I’d been following the Norman-centric Thunderbolts series, written by Warren Ellis, and later Christos Gage, and found it to be one of the most consistently fascinating stories to come out of Civil War. Ellis took the old idea of the Thunderbolts team — former villains trying to prove themselves as heroes — and put a cynical spin on it by having the insane but fascinating Osborn as the leader of the team.

When Brian Bendis’s Dark Avengers launched, it turned out to be the core of Norman’s Thunderbolts team — Venom, Bullseye, and Moonstone — with other characters variously conned or persuaded into joining up. Then they (essentially) kicked the real Avengers out and put on their costumes. I know that a lot of longtime Marvel fans find this concept appalling, and I can certainly roll my eyes at the trend of slapping “Dark!” on every title and trying to sell a miniseries. Yet the story that has emerged, in DA and linked books, is curiously compelling, as Norman’s story gets more complex. It’s been surprisingly energizing for the heroes, too. For the first time in a while, Iron Man is up against a foe who could really take him down, the Avengers have a clear human antagonist to rally against, and Spider-Man. . .well, the poor guy’s still fighting the Green Goblin. Some things never change.


Has anyone been reading X-Factor lately? (If you’re reading in trade, you might want to skip this to avoid spoilers.)

Peter David’s noir take on an X-Men splinter group/detective agency has been one of my favorite ongoing comics since issue one, but ever since PAD made a public effort to give the series a renewed burst of creative energy, it’s been better than ever. The characterizations have been strong, the plots consistently intriguing, and the twists and turns gasp-inducing. Every issue leaves me desperate for the next, and that’s the highest praise a comic can receive.

Right now, the series is embroiled in two interconnected plots, joined together by a mysterious villain named “Cortex.” In one plot, Jamie Madrox and a grown-up Layla Miller have found themselves in a dystopian future, interacting with the newest awesome addition to the Summers bloodline: Scott and Emma’s future daughter, Ruby Summers. And in the present, the rest of the team (which now includes Longshot and Darwin, in possibly their most interesting appearances to date) continues to execute their jobs as private detectives, investigating “Cortex” and interacting with each other in consistently interesting and character-illuminating ways.

But I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention my favorite recent part of this comic: the kiss shared between long-suspected lovers Rictor and Shatterstar. To my knowledge, this is the first romantic male/male kiss to be featured on-panel in a mainstream, in-continuity Marvel comic, and I applaud Peter David’s decision to include it. Despite the progress that’s been made in recent months (Batwoman is, after all, the star of Detective Comics!), there are still far too few non-heterosexual characters in mainstream comic books, and even fewer who are allowed to physically express their feelings on the page. Rictor and Shatterstar’s potential relationship may only be the cherry on top of my love for X-Factor, but it’s a very satisfying cherry indeed.


Well, that’s pretty easy. Uncanny X-Men. Whether Greg Land, Terry Dodson, or anybody else is doing the art, I am loving Matt Fraction’s X-Men.

But I would, wouldn’t I? Yeah, I would — not just because I love the X-Men, though. But because, from every interview I’ve heard with Mr. Fraction, he and I love the exact same years and issues of X-Men and for many of the same reasons. He quit when I quit, and for many of the same reasons. And he started again when I did, ditto. For pete’s sake, I heard the man say in a recent interview that the run he most strongly imprinted on was New Mutants 1-50! I love that stuff. It makes sense that, given the ability to make X-title stories, Mr. Fraction writes exactly the stories I want to see. The Red Queen, Magneto, Empath, the Hellfire Cult — all of those are great. But it’s not just the plots, it’s the characters and characterizations that I love. The moments of sitting around drinking coffee, of watching the news on tv together, of waking up with Scott and Emma, of going clubbing with Pixie, of rolling my eyes in sympathetic exasperation at Sam. The sense that this is a world, not just a team, and that the mutants exist down the street and around the corner from the universe I inhabit.

Everybody who sticks with these flagship serial titles for years and years develops a sense of ownership, of these are my whoevers. That’s my Dick Grayson. That’s my Logan. When a writer or creative team comes along who takes a different look at a character than the view you like, it’s hard to stick with a title and wait it out. (That’s fandom’s dark cousin of entitlement, “that’s not my Jean Grey, you SUCK.”) But the constant truth of reading mainstream long-running comics is that things go around. New talent comes in with a blaze of new ideas, some of which you love and some you hate. And, eventually, the new creative team will love the stuff you love and will pay homage to those moments in comics that first took your breath away.

That moment, for me, is right now. And it’s in Matt Fraction’s Uncanny X-Men.

What current ongoing comics storyline are you really enjoying?

  • Wow. All Marvel, eh?

    I am surprised that Dark Reign is so well received. I was very wary of it, but that is cool.

    I have been following Guardians of the Galaxy and enjoying that a lot. I have only read the first trade, since Annihilation (that is all that is out so far), but i enjoy the interactions and the spacey-ness!

  • Yeah, we all mostly read Marvel — though part of my reason for suggesting this post is hoping people will chime in with other publishers.

    Guardians of the Galaxy is definitely another story I could have listed — all of the space stuff in Marvel is exciting me :).

  • I am sooo excited for WoK trade. MORE INHUMANS MOOOOORE.

  • I must say that I am deeply, deeply enjoying Gail Simone’s run on Wonder Woman. Also, Lopresti’s art, especially the line work, is fabulous.

  • Sam

    I’m really enjoying the “Batman: Reborn” stuff happening around the DCU. I think those are the books I’m most interested in now. Most of my pull titles are Gotham-related, and considering I NEVER liked Bat-books before (with the exception of Dark Knight), I think that’s saying something.

    I really hate feeling suckered into buying cross-titles (like I’m about to with Supergirl/Action Comics), but the B:R stuff is pretty engaging in its own right. The only title I’m not enamored with, really, is Batman (go figure). But Detective Comics, Gotham City Sirens, Batman and Robin, Red Robin, and Streets of Gotham (not to mention all the co-features) are all books I love reading and am enjoying as their interwoven stories unfold (and get more interwoven).

    I’m also following Flash: Rebirth, though I’ve got a love-hate relationship with it (what with it bringing back Blah-rry Allen). I’m reserving final judgment until the arc completes, but I definitely have to admit it engages me.

  • I agree with all of your choices! I’m loving Dark Reign, I’m loving Uncany X-Men (OMG, the first issue of the crossover *HEARTS*), I’m loving X-Factor. I’m also loving Amazing Spider-Man which is totally confusing, because I hated BND. But everything with Spider-Man – the American Son plot, JJ as the mayor, Aunt May’s upcoming marriage… yeah, I am loving that.

    Because I am still primarily a DC fangirl, I’ll also point out that I am seriously loving the Superman stuff, and I would like for Thara Ak-Var and Jean Grey to be BFF. Also, Supergirl and her shorts are awesome.

    Comics are so awesome right now.

  • sigrid

    @Sam I am going to get sucked back into some DC because of this Batman stuff. Detective Comics is in my pull list, and I suspect I will be adding Sirens!

    @Talkswithwind I *WISH* I had the money to follow Simone to all of her titles. :whine:

  • Hard to pick just one. There is so much good stuff out there.

    Secret Six and Captain Britain are the little gems that I secretly hop around waiting for every month (though the Captain Britain series is not much longer for this world).

    I’m really enjoying Fraction’s run on Invincible Iron Man, but the relentless sadness is getting tiring.

    Also, Dan Slott’s Mighty Avengers is so, so, so much fun. It’s probably going to replace Captain Britain for hop-up-and-down quotient when that book ends.

  • @cirquedamiela

    Mighty Avengers is high up on my list, as well. It’s the most fun, classic Avengers book in YEARS, and I love every issue. Dan Slott is a genius.

  • Menshevik

    Really, really enjoying? Not just enjoying in a half-guarded, “there’s potential, let’s see how this develops” kind of way (which for me would apply to X-Factor, Genext: United and X-Men Forever)? I’d have to say
    The Radioactive Man Event,
    but most of all one that’s not available in English AFAIK, the current Franka(1) adventure, “The White Goddess”, (middle part of the trilogy that began with “The Sword of Iskander” – the white goddess of the title would by Ishtar, by the way).

    (1) For a brief English-language illustrated intro to the series and its creator cf. http://lambiek.net/artists/k/kuijpers_h.htm

  • I am not completely sure, but I think that Wiccan and Hulkling have kissed before. But don’t take my word for it, as I don’t really remember when or where it was…

  • @Matt They haven’t — it’s one of the biggest bones of contention for the fans. They’ve sat on the same bed, they’ve put their arms on each other’s shoulders, but they’ve never actually kissed.

  • As a minor note, the Rictor/Shatterstar isn’t the first boy/boy kiss in Marvel comics. More info here.

  • @david brothers That’s why I had so many qualifiers on my statement — first romantic male/male kiss in a mainstream, in-continuity Marvel comic. The kiss in Pete Milligan’s X-Force/X-Statix was the only thing that came close, but that series was essentially a comedy book and the in-continuity status of the events is questionable — I know there was an Avengers crossover in that series that couldn’t possibly be in-continuity, as it relied on Tony Stark’s heart problems as a plot point, something he no longer had at that point.

    The only other Marvel male/male kisses anyone seems to be able to think of are the Sentry/Void kiss (it’s obviously another thing entirely when you’re kissing yourself) and the joking Beast/Wonder Man kiss in an early 2000s Avengers issue.

    Rictor and Shatterstar’s kiss is important because it CAN’T be written off — not as a joke, not as something outside of continuity. In a world where even Wiccan and Hulkling, who have been together for years at this point, have never gotten to share an on-panel kiss, that’s a big deal. And that’s why I’m so happy about it.

  • For starters, I am also enjoying Dark Reign (a lot more than Secret Invasion) and X-Factor (GAY KISS OMG). I’m also loving the Iron Man World’s Most Wanted storyline,but that’s kind of Dark Reign too, right?

    I would add to that list the current Thor storyline and the Immortal Iron Fist storyline, though it is now finished (as is the ongoing series, apparently.

    And the Walking Dead, which has been consistently awesome :)

  • Menshevik

    The problem is that the more qualifiers you add to a “first”, the less significant it really becomes.(1) So the kiss may be overdue, but it is hardly groundbreaking either within the context of just Marvel or superhero comics in general. And speaking purely personally, since my attitude to Ricstar is at best lukewarm (I like Rictor well enough, but Liefeld-created Shatterstar embodies a lot of what I see as what went wrong in superhero comics in the 1990s) compared to many other fictional gay couples, I think I’ll still wait for Hulkling and Wiccan’s first kiss to cheer.

    (1) This reminds me of a discussion on the net once, where a fan argued that Bishop must be made the leader and central character of the X-Men because he was such an important multi-qualified “first”. Not because he was Marvel’s first black superhero (that would be the Black Panther) or first African-American superhero (the Falcon) or the first black X-Man (Storm) or the first black male team-member in one of the X-books (Sunspot), or the first black (and first African-American) mutant in a leadership position in the X-Men (Storm again) or the first black male mutant as part of the active X-Men (Gateway), but the first male African-American member of the X-Men.

  • Menshevik

    Re. the above: I do not mean to be a party-pooper here – for those who enjoy Ricstar as a relationship and in the context of this relationship (which I may not enjoy it as much as you, but towards which I am favourably inclined in principle), this clearly a kiss to celebrate.

  • Menshevik