Q&A #61: What is a favorite story arc you think is under-appreciated?

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

What is a favorite story arc you think is under-appreciated?


Long, long ago in 2003, there were no New Avengers, Mighty Avengers, Dark Avengers, Young Avengers, Secret Avengers or To-Be-Announced Avengers. There was just (Earth’s Mightiest Heroes) The Avengers. And long, long ago in 2003, I wasn’t reading comics regularly. Or really at all. But Geoff Johns’ Avengers’ arc Red Zone changed that. I do not think I would be here, writing this answer for this blog with these people, if I had not started reading that comic. It made me want to read the next one. And I haven’t stopped. I think I forget to appreciate that sometimes.


The Dark Phoenix Saga, contained in issues 129-138 of Uncanny X-Men is usually considered to be the classic X-Men story, and I’ve always had mixed feelings about that. On the one hand, it’s the story of the rise and fall of Jean Grey, who is my favorite comic book character. Jean is awesome and powerful in this story — she eats a sun! But she also dies at the end of the story, she’s insane for a lot of it, and let’s not forget the part where the insanity is largely induced by an evil plot to psychically rape her.

It’s not that I want to de-canonize Dark Phoenix; it’s a story I love on a lot of levels. I just wish that the definition of this arc could be expanded a little to include the earlier issues 105, and 107-8. Why are those comics so important? They show that Jean is able to control the Phoenix power and use it for good. She saves the whole universe and she does it by holding hands with her best friend and her boyfriend’s dad and thinking about how awesome she is. That’s girl power.


I don’t make any secret of the fact that I’m not a fan of the writing of Craig Kyle and Chris Yost. I find their work to be distastefully brutal and bloody, and their character preferences a bit too far on the Millar-esque side of the scale (i.e. hardcore jerks). But, ultimately, my distaste has less to do with my feelings about their current writing and more to do with my lingering sadness over their abrupt substitution as the writers of one of the first comics I ever read: Nunzio DeFillipis and Christina Weir’s New X-Men.

New X-Men — which, in a demonstration of how shaky the book’s survival chances always were, had once been titled New X-Men: Academy X and before that New Mutants — was about the newest generation of young mutants, some of whom had been introduced during Grant Morrison’s run or earlier and others of whom were created for the book itself. Current young X-Men like Sooraya, Anole, Surge, Mercury, Rockslide, Hellion, and Pixie all came to prominence in this book, as did a whole bunch of other awesome characters, like Laurie Collins (Wallflower), Sofia Mantega (Wind Dancer), and Jay Guthrie, who have mostly faded into obscurity in the years since. The premise of the book was simple, but unprecedented — the first generation of New Mutants returned to the Xavier Institute as adults, prepared to teach the next generation and help them discover their potential. The characterization of the older characters — Rahne Sinclair in particular — was sometimes a bit shaky, but this was the book that taught me to love Dani Moonstar and Xi’an Coy Mahn, and to appreciate the long, multi-generational history of the X-Men franchise. And these NEW New Mutants were fantastic creations, multicultural and multi-dimensional, brimming with life and ready to take on challenges lighthearted and serious alike. They battled addictions, destructive mutant powers, love woes, and the Blob with equal verve, all while surviving the trials and tribulations of life as students at a not-so-usual high school.

Then Kyle and Yost came and weeded out half the characters on M-Day (including almost everyone who could be called cheerful or sweet) and killed off half of the ones who remained. But until that point, the book was a wonderful look at the kind of inter-generational interaction rarely seen in Marvel Comics, and a wonderful look at how the Xavier Institute might actually function as a school. DeFillipis and Weir only managed to complete a handful of arcs before they were replaced, but their overall contribution to the book will always be one of my favorite little-remembered and underappreciated Marvel stories.


When I proposed this question, I was pretty sure we’d be delving into the deep canon of the ongoing superhero titles of Marvel and DC. Not only because that’s largely what we at Fantastic Fangirls read, but because in the last sixty years, there have been a LOT of stories told with those characters. Only a fool, or a fan, knows and remembers them all. I plead guilty to both. I thought for a bit about what I would pick. The original Thunderbolts arc? The Birds of Prey/Nightwing crossover? The Demon Bear story from the original New Mutants? But I had to, ultimately, go with my heart.

X-Men: Asgardian Wars.

This story has everything an X-fan could ask for. Scott being a good leader and being emo and uncertain. Logan being gruff and mean yet sensitive. The witticisms of Kurt. Rogue’s attitude. Kitty getting all the really awesome lines as written by Claremont. This was the storyline that cemented the character of Rachel Summers — brash, impulsive, damaged, but attempting with all her might to be as heroic as her mother. This storyline features Madelyne Pryor as a lead in the first half. The second half of the story gives us all the New Mutants, with story arcs for each of them. And the villains . . . Loki pulls the classic trickster ploy of giving people exactly what they want. And the Enchantress, well, what she does to Illyana is creepy as hell.

The Asgardian Wars story is nestled in the richness of Marvel continuity. Thor is away from Asgard, and Odin is, I dunno, dead or something? I never read the Thor titles, ever, but when I first read this I knew the story could only take place because of what was happening in those other books. Scott takes the X-men to Asgard using, I dunno, thunderbolts he got from some guy? It does’t matter that I’ve never heard of the fellow, because everything you need to know to follow this story is explained to you in “As You Know, Bob,”-style captions and monologues.

The whole thing is a delight. The art is stunning, first by Paul Smith and then by Art Adams. The story is one of grand adventure, fate-of-the-world stakes, with the potential for personal tragedy. Lives and worlds are on the line, as well as love, power, personal despair, and the future of the human race. In this story the X-Men save not one, but two worlds. All the while remaining true to the witty, angsty, relationship-centered characters that they are.

What is a favorite story arc you think is under-appreciated?

  • Anika — I have no idea what Red Zone is but I love that double shot of Wanda and Vizh.

    Jen — I never got around to reading that book, but I always really loved the idea of it.

    Sigrid — “Nestled in the richness of Marvel continuity” is one of the best euphemisms I’ve ever read for “kind of incomprehensible in terms of setting or plot.” But I totally know what you mean in terms of the *important* stuff.

  • Anika

    @Caroline — That’s why I let it speak for itself! But in short: Wanda and Vision are aDORable, Carol is a military bad ass, Steve accidentally flirts with practically everyone, She-Hulk loses it, Tony saves Steve’s life, Wanda is amazing and saves the day more than once, character moments abound and it’s very pretty to look at.

    And there’s like, plot. πŸ˜‰

  • Old Justice and Young Justice Sins of Youth. I love teen sidekicks, and the idea of a group of former sidekicks who are all a little bit bitter about what happened to them petitioning to stop underage heroing? And an explanation of what it means to be a hero and of a group of teens truly coming into their own? Yeah, I’m all over that.

    Plus, we got Crybaby Canary and Batboy, and Bart and Cassie got to be awesome. And Cassie should still be wearing Donna’s old outfit. I approve of all these things.

    I love all of your choices. Jen, I should really read Academy X one of these days.

  • Anika

    @Margot — if it was under-appreciated series my answer would be Young Justice for sure. I couldn’t narrow it to one arc!

  • @Anika I had a lot of trouble narrowing it down to one arc. I love all of it. (I almost did the whole Cissie quitting thing. Or the last arc with Secret. But I love Sins of Youth so much.)

  • @Anika You know, it occurs to me that the team in that era is pretty much my dream Avengers roster. Tony and Steve and Wanda and Carol and Jen! With bonus Falcon!

    @Sigrid I really need to read that story, yes I do.

  • Jennifer, I’m a huge fan of that New Mutants series, too. I boycotted New X-Men for a few months after Christina and Nunzio left the book, in fact, even if I did really enjoying parts of the Kyle and Yost run (which I think means we aren’t friends anymore).

  • @Jeff There were definitely PARTS of the Kyle and Yost book I enjoyed, but they just seemed so concerned with promoting the Hellions and discarding or upgrading everyone else (Anole gets a badass arm! Pixie loses her SOUL!) that I got frustrated fast.

  • DaveCarr

    I may be the only person on the planet who likes Devin Grayson’s Nightwing Run, especially the last arch right before Infinite Crisis

  • sigrid

    @Caroline Yes, I meant incomprehensible. :grins: So glad you understand me!

  • Selena

    S.W.O.R.D. *insert sigh about cancellation again*

    But okay, storyarc in a long running series. I was always told that A Game of You in Sandman wasn’t popular – and the reasons given were that the participation of previously established Sandman regulars was minimal – but I love it. It introduces Thessaly, it offers great female friendships (Barbie and Wanda, most of all), it has a lesbian couple with a happy ending despite difficulties in between, and the whole concept of Barbie’s childhood dream world falling apart resonated for me.

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  • Menshevik

    Ooh, I definitely love the Asgardian Wars, although I am not sure if that arc really is under-appreciated, although I will say that in general the Claremont/Paul Smith and Claremont/Romita, Jr. runs are seriously underrated in comparison to the Claremont/Byrne X-Men.

    And also a lot of love from me for Young Justice – but there are so many under-appreciated stories to choose from (in addition to the ones Margot mentioned I’ll point especially to the first issues “now with added girl power”, with such gems like Cissie telling off the JLA (and then hyperventilating) as an intro to her beautiful friendship with Cassie, and of course the mayhem between their mothers at the first parents-teacher night!

    But to add a less recent example, I think I’ll nominate something from Gerry Conway’s run on The Amazing Spider-Man back in the 1970s. Conway had some misses in that decades and came in for quite a bit of hate for killing off Gwen Stacy, ridicule for introducing the Spider-Mobile (which he was ordered to do by editorial) and because storylines involving clones tend to become unpopular, but I think there is more to that era than a lot of people give him credit for. In particular I’d nominate the first Clone Saga that capped off the romantic subplot that was foreshadowed on the final pages of ASM #122 and began shortly after, taking Mary Jane, who up until then had been a secondary supporting character with only superficial characterization, and, by adding depth to her and gradually bringing her closer to Peter Parker, effecively let her emerge as The One who ultimately prevailed even in the face of Gwen Stacy apparently returned from the dead. (And this in spite of the weaknesses of Conway’s writing at the time, which hardly was surprising given his age – he may still be the youngest person to be head-writer of Spider-Man – and how many other titles he was involved in).

  • Monica

    Red Zone is the only one of the four I’ve read, but I have to agree it’s a fantastic arc. It’s the TBP I lent a friend when I wanted to pull her into Avengers fandom. Warbird being commanding and effective! Scarlet Witch using her power to save hundreds of lives! Falcon and Gyrich going head to head! Tony giving Steve mouth-to-mouth! It’s got something for everyone.

    In an attempt to add something and not just echo other choices – I really, really enjoy the Marvel Adventures: Avengers arc that is collected in the second TPB. Probably any MA arc is under appreciated due to MA’s kid-friendly stories, but while the arc I’m thinking of is light and fluffy compared to 616 Marvel, it also mixes humor, action, and characterization in a great way. Loki starts giving random criminals super powers as a sort of social experiment, and the Avengers must stop these new super villains and figure out who is behind it all. Spider-Man in particular gets some great scenes. Storm and Giant Girl take turns saving each other. In the final showdown Loki turns Cap’s shield into a giant daisy. It’s fantastic stuff, even for someone who enjoys the darker side of the Marvel Universe.

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  • Jo

    Devin Grayson’s run with Titans & Nightwing.

    And the entire “Judas Contract” storyline with the Titans. <3 Terra is awesome as a femme fatale at such a young age.

  • The Emma Frost series that ran about five years ago. If you could ignore the sexy Horn covers, it was actually a story about Emma growing up & first going to college. Which I was in college when it started so that’s probably a reason I loved it.

    Also the Steve Lieber & Byran Hitch run on Sensational She-Hulk. Most people always talk about Byrne, but in many ways Lieber was funnier.

    Finally, Claremont’s run of Excalibur pre-House of M, which is basically all about Magento & Professor X having tea & snarking, while wacky things happen on Genosha.