Q & A 30: What storyline do you never want to see used again?

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 storyline do you never want to see used again?


I love the X-Men. The concept of “mutation” opens up so many interesting questions and their ongoing struggles for acceptance, understanding, and equality can be strong metaphors for minority groups in the “real world” (as Ian McKellen said in an interview, “the demographic of the readers of the X-Men is young blacks, young Jews and young gays – those made to feel that society is against them, that they’re a little bit like the mutants of the comic books.”). That’s a gold mine for storytelling.

So, why, Marvel, WHY, do you insist on shuttling them off into space? I like things to be realistically fantastic (fantastically realistic?) . The X-Men already fall under the genre of “Science Fiction” without adding aliens and space pirates and star wars and, while we’re at it, the Savage Land (dinosaurs? Really?). I love space opera, I’m a huge Star Trek and Battlestar Galactica and Macross fan. But in my X-Men stories it just makes me sigh.

There are a lot of popular and acclaimed X-Men storylines that take place in space. Many of them I can even enjoy on an impersonal level. I just don’t like them.


And I say there shall be no more Phoenix fakeouts! As I type this I laugh, knowing the futility of my plea, since Uncanny X-Men 511 is coming out next week with this Greg Land-tastic cover:

Jean Grey has been dead for what, five years? And Marvel keeps using her picture to sell comics she’s not in.* Seriously, Marvel. Stop.

This isn’t me bitching about the current Uncanny storyline, since (a) it’s written by Matt Fraction; (b) it revolves in part around Wolverine keeping a lock of Jeannie’s hair. It is mathematically impossible for me not to love these things. But — big picture time. The first arc of Astonishing X-Men, which came out shortly after Jean’s death in Morrison’s Planet X, pulled an ingenious switcheroo, leaving Jean dead but bringing back the long-dead Colossus. Phoenix: Endsong, the Greg Pak/Greg Land mini in which Jean’s body is possessed by the Phoenix force and Wolverine stabs her like 80 times on the same page, and then Scott and Emma have sex in an egg and at the end Jean’s spirit flies off and everybody stands around and cries a single perfect tear? Significantly less awesome.

This isn’t just a Jean Grey thing, of course. It’s threatening to become a Steve Rogers thing, it will inevitably become a Bruce Wayne thing before he comes back for good. Marvel and DC both have franchise characters who have shuffled off the mortal coil. At this point, nobody expects comic book death to last forever, but fake the audience out enough and we’ll stop caring. (Yes, Mark Waid’s Return of Barry Allen story that turned out to be nothing of the kind was awesome. Because Waid genuinely didn’t believe Barry would or should ever come back. Also, that’s the kind of thing a company should only try to pull off once).

*Take note that I am refusing to entertain the idea that the Uncanny 511 cover is NOT a fakeout.


Two words: Snap. Wilson.

Way back in the 1970s, Steve Englehart thought it was a good idea to reveal that the Falcon, Sam Wilson — the first African-American superhero in comics, and Captain America’s partner — had a secret past as a criminal (and gang member, and possibly pimp) named “Snap” Wilson. His heretofore acknowledged history, as a hard-working Harlem social worker, had actually been false memories implanted by the Red Skull when he used the Cosmic Cube to manipulate him into becoming Cap’s partner.

This was, frankly, a horrible idea. Turning the first African-American hero into every awful stereotype of inner city African-Americans is completely unjustifiable. And since that storyline, writers have continually attempted to change, mitigate, or revive the Snap plot, to mixed effect. Some writers claimed that the “Snap” persona had never actually existed — that it, rather than the social worker past, was what the Red Skull had implanted. Others treated “Snap” as more of a split personality, totally outside of Sam’s control. But it never quite went away, and as recently as the Avengers Disassembled-era Captain America and the Falcon series, Sam was still periodically reverting to his “Snap” persona.

Thankfully, no one lately seems to be acknowledging that most recent series. In fact, since Sam “died” at the end of it, and then reappeared without explanation in Ed Brubaker’s Captain America run, it might be safe to say it never happened as far as continuity is concerned. And I’d like it to stay that way. Brubaker has made no reference to Snap in the 50 issues he’s written so far, and Sam has found a solid place in the comics as a hero, social worker, and the glue that holds together Cap’s supporting cast. I want to see this continue. Sam is an excellent character, and he deserves much better than he’s been given in the past. And since it’s become increasingly obvious that no retcon has managed to make the “Snap” backstory palatable, ignoring it entirely seems to me to be the best possible solution.


Um. I don’t know how to say this without haterin’, and I really try to avoid that. But. No aspersions on X-Men Legacy, or on Mike Carey, but I never want to see Rogue and Gambit in a romantic relationship ever again. Carey’s work on Legacy could be amazing, but I can’t get past my aversion to the story to see it. I talked about this in the Sacred Cow post a while back, but I think it’s one of the most dysfunctional relationships — written and presented as romantic — in comics.

So what about you? What storyline do you never want to see used again?

  • @Anika — I think you and I are on opposite sides of this one, as there’s no way to make me come running faster than to say ‘Starjammers,’ and I know you dig ‘Phoenix Endsong’. :)

    @Jennifer & @Sigrid — Word.

  • Dan

    I totally agree with Caroline and Sigrid. I had no idea about this whole “Snap” Wilson situation, but I can see how it’s a bad, bad idea. But, sorry Anika, I love X-Men in space.

    Personally, I never want to see any story that involves time travel as the major plot ever again. No more alternate histories. No more intrepid travelers coming from a dystopian future to stop something horrible from happening…inevitably blaming the wrong person in the process. In essence, no more Apocalypse.

    I also never want to see anymore stories where the hero quits due to overwhelming self-doubt. We all know they’re gonna get over it, so why bother.

    Oh, and stop trying to give Bruce Wayne a socialite girlfriend. It’s only going to end in blood and tears.

  • I could do without Final Crisis and Batman RIP. I may be biased though.

  • Chilly Willy

    The current Armageddon run on The Authority. I hate it – and I’m trying to weed ‘hate’ out of my vocabulary. Hate. I keep telling myself “if they don’t wrap this up and get back to normal next month, I’m dropping it”. But I don’t. But I should.

  • @Dan I would like to be able to agree with you, on principle, but I also happen to have Cable as a favorite character and I don’t want to put him out of work! (And digging the current alt-future in X-Factor as well. What can you do?)

  • @Caroline @Sigrid — Yep, I have to agree in both cases, especially Caroline’s. Screwing with the readers just gets tedious after awhile.

    @Anika @Dan I actually like both X-Men in space stories and time travel stories — when they’re done well. I don’t think Vulcan or Bishop needs to exist, for instance, but I would hate to lose the opportunity for another original Phoenix story or Days of Future Past. They’re storylines that can go bad really easily, true, but I’m sure some future writer could still spin gold out of the concepts.

  • @Dan I totally agree that I need to stop dating the socialites. The last one tried to get me killed.

  • Enjoying the comments but wanted to clarify, we’re really asking about a storyline/type of story that has recurred over the years. I do understand the urge to vent about a specific current story that’s bugging you, but that’s not exactly what we’re talking about.

  • Dan

    @Caroline I thought about the current X-FACTOR arc, which I’m enjoying, as well…I’m not sure how big of a story that’s going to be, though. It’s more the AGE OF APOCALYPSE-type stuff I hate. (Which is why MESSIAH WAR is currently filling me with dread!)

    And, can’t Cable do his thing in the here-and-now?

  • @Dan Oh, yeah, I was kind of kidding. I like the non-Apocalypse-y, non-timetravel-y Cable stories best.

    Maybe there should be a list of exceptions to the rules — like, “Peter David can do time travel stories” and “Abnett & Lanning can write about space.”

  • WordPress just ate my comment and I am very sad about that, so you get the short version instead. I will just say that I never want Dick Grayson’s severe PTSD post Grayson/Winick/Jones runs on Nightwing and Outsiders, but as Catalina Flores is dead and Dick appears to be almost happy now (even if he is Batman) I am okay with simply forgetting it existed. I like angst. I like it when Dick angsts. But the sheer ridiculousness of trying to do a Born Again type story for Dick freaking Grayson just drives me crazy, especially when it resulted in Dick being completely insane and severely OOC for the next 4 years. Plus, he nearly married his rapist. And then beat up Roy and made racist jokes at his expense. And it was like suddenly all of the writers were trying to turn him into Batman but in the WORST way. He’s the light and happy one. Just stop it. (Even if he does have self esteem issues, but seriously, the man was raised by Batman. These things are inevitable.)

    My other answer is that I’m sick of the whole ‘blood will out’ thing going on in DC comics right now. Joey and Rose Wilson were evil because their dad is evil so they must both be totally insane and kill people as well. Alfred says that Damian will be good because he inherited that from his father. Raven will be evil because of her father, even though her whole thing was proving herself to NOT BE HIM.

    So yeah, I am sick of both of those storylines and would be incredibly happy if neither of them were ever seen again.

  • @Margot Huh, that ‘apple doesn’t fall far from the tree’ thing is REALLY interesting. I don’t know the specific stories that well but, yeah, having a child of bad parents grow up to be a hero is really great drama, and it seems cheap to insist they’re doomed b/c of their past. (Honestly, I could have thrown — ‘is Emma Frost evil again?’ in there with ‘is Jean back?’ Go there or don’t but enough with the teasing!)

  • Menshevik

    @Anika –
    thinking the matter over I think I actually like the X-Men space stories better than most of the stories set in space in other series, so I’ll have to disagree, even if there are a number of stinkers among the X-Men space stories. (And although the Savage Land makes no sense whatsoever – what happens during Antarctic Winter, when there is no sun? – it’s kinda goofy and it’s what Rogue and Magneto will always have).

    Caroline –
    certainly can empathize with you there. Although I rather liked the fakeout when Kitty dressed up as Dark Phoenix.

    Sigrid –

    Other storylines I never want to see used again:
    1) Company-wide crossover events. Haven’t really enjoyed one since “Inferno”, and not many before that.
    2) Another oh-so-special new Summers relative appears. I like Rachel (however, she may not actually be a Summers – apparently Chris Claremont wanted her to be the daughter of Jean and the Phoenix), but could do without Cable (sorry Caroline!) and Vulcan.

  • @Menshevik Ha ha ha, true. Oh, Kitty.

    Also, I totally want Ruby Summers from X-Factor to come into main continuity. I can never have enough Summerses who aren’t Vulcan. (And to be fair, Cable was never a ‘new’ Summers; making him Scott’s kid consolidated two existing characters and at least made Cable more interesting).

  • I lol’d heartily at the hatred for X-Men in space, and I agree somewhat with it, but I can understand the need to strech out a book’s horizons every now and then. What truly irks me beyond belief is any story that brings a dead character back to life. I find it absolutely appaling and an homage to mediocrity. I don’t get it, nor I ever will.

  • And by the way, I feel so strongly about this that I don’t even want one of my favorite characters ever, Steve Rogers, to come back in “Reborn”. I am seriously dreading this series. Okay, I’ll stop now.

  • Cash

    Oog. I’d forgotten about “Snap” Wilson. Mercifully.

    I’d say at the moment, though, I never ever want to see another story that treats Deadpool or She-Hulk as a serious character.

    If I want angst or weepiness, I’ve got dozens of Marvel titles I can read. But where else am I going to get a heroine freaking out over a rumor that she slept with Juggernaut, or a mercenary with a fetish for Jean Grey’s old green minidress?

  • DreamWings

    Thank you, thank you Anika. I thought I was the only one who loathed X-Men in space stories. And euthanatos, amen. If death is never permanent; then there is no drama or danger. I stopped watching Heroes the instant they started pulling that nonsense. I’ve already been burned too many times. And every time I think about getting back into the X-books (used to be my special addiction) what do I read about? One or both of these story-lines.

    As to the ‘dark future’ storylines; usually in X-Men? Congratulations Human Race. You’ve wiped out all those nasty mutants and superbeings. Good for you. Whats the sound your hearing? Just the entire Skrull battle fleet. And I think Galactus is coming up behind them. Enjoy your new lives as slaves, or cosmic food depending on who wins. Sometimes I wonder if anyone at Marvel actually thinks about their own universe when they write.

  • Galactus walking round New York and Loki having a Hot Dog with Spider-Man.

    I hate it when they overly humanise a supposedly omnipotent (or just veripotent) character and show them the meaning and worth of us little ol’ people. So cringey!

    Also I think they should ban certain story types for periods of time, Like “after Messiah War, no 616 time travel stories for five years” Kind of thing. Everyone went nuts for Annihilation, because there hadn’t been anything like it in years.

    Also, stories where they fill in all the details of a character’s mysterious past by having all events in their life be connected and everything be significant from the beginning. Look at Smallville, Clark seems to have met almost every single person he will ever meet in his life before he turns 21! Not even going into that Ultimate Origins bilge, or Daniel Way’s Wolverine Bollocks (not literally. Unless there is a Daniel Way story about the significance of wolverine’s bollocks.) It shuts off avenues for other stories, and cheapens the character in the case of Wolverine and *shudder* Romulus.

  • Caroline

    I have to say that I do not and probably will never be able to understand the blanket objection to resurrection stories. If they really take all the stakes out of the possible fate of a character, why does everybody throw a fit when their favorite character dies?

  • Menshevik

    @ Caroline –
    Re. resurrection stories: The blanket objection comes from this type of story being overused. As for people throwing a fit when their favourite character dies, I think there are two important factors here, regardless of whether those throwing the fit also subscribe to the blanket objection to resurrections:
    – Even if the fave character will eventually return, s/he will be gone for a while, possibly for years if not decades. So practically no new stories about said character for the foreseeable future (except the odd flashback or What If?).
    – In the eyes of many, a story in which their fave character dies is a story in which their favourite character fails or loses in a big way.

    BTW, I am not sure if this qualifies as a storyline, but one type of story which I want to see seriously less of is the one where a writer (who usually started out as a fan) revisits old stories (which were usually written by other writers years, if not decades earlier) to “clean up” something that offended their vision of the book or title in question, to “canonise” a fannish theory through retcon, or to establish a connection between originally unrelated events or persons.
    Roger Stern going back (in PPSSM) to the original appearance of the Tinkerer (by Lee and Ditko) to “establish” that the alien invaders seen in it were ordinary humans who for some implausible reason dressed up as aliens. (This also involved the retcon that one of these criminals was the guy who a little later became Mysterio, so OHOTMU entries on Mysterio now have to list the issue in which the Tinkerer first appeared as Mysterio’s first appearance).
    John Byrne’s retcon of Dr. Doom’s origin to “establish” that in the accident that set him off on his life as a supervillain Doom got only one little scar and that his horribly disfigured face was actually the result of putting on a red-hot mask. (That this story made no sense is beside the point).
    John Byrne again, this time for establishing that the Sandman and Norman Osborn were related. His reason for doing so? Apparently the similar hairstyle.

    A lot of these stories also illustrate the point “picking it only makes it worse”. That certainly also goes for pretty much all stories featuring “Snap Wilson” after it was established that “Snap” was a false memory implanted by the Red Skull…

  • Dave

    Clones! Anything to do with clones is awful. It sucked with Spider-Man in the 70’s, it sucked when they dredged it back up in the 90’s, and it sucked in Ultimate Spider-Man too (although I think USM sucked in general).

  • If the problem is that the device is overused, the answer is “don’t overuse it.” It’s not, “these storylines always suck”, since I can name plenty of instances when they don’t.

    I am, however, totally in favor of John Byrne never being allowed to retcon anything. Though I think I remember reading that Jack Kirby originally wanted Doom to only have a minor disfigurement that he had blown up out of proportion because he was so vain. Stan apparently didn’t get that nuance in the writing, and this was one of the issues that became contentious between them.

    ETA: I know the whole point of this post is to call out things that are overused. I think resurrection is unique, though, because if you impose a blanket ‘dead is dead’ rule you are essentially allowing the death penalty to be imposed on particular characters. The character could die in the worst story in the world, and they’d still be off-limits forever. I think it’s too much power to put in the hands of people who didn’t create and don’t own the future of the properties.

  • lilacsigil

    Anika – I totally agree! Every time the X-Men go into space, everything becomes bizarre and implausible and people start carrying swords with blades bigger than their torsos. And then once you’ve met them, the aliens show up every now and then for a bit of deus ex machina (or whatever the opposite is called, when they show up to ruin your happy ending) and it’s very annoying!

    Totally agree on the deaths thing – if you don’t want to lose the characters, don’t kill them. Give them a nasty injury and send them to recuperate in Tahiti for as long as you don’t want to use them. Then we have no fake deaths, no annoying returns and maybe a bit of tropical scenery.

    …I didn’t know about “Snap” Wilson and now I sort of wish I didn’t!

  • Menshevik

    @Dave –
    there is way too much clone-hate around, IMO. I loved the original ASM Clone Saga of the 1970s and the real problem with the one of the 1990s was that they dragged it out too long. I also rather like a number of clone characters, e.g. Madelyne Pryor and the Spider-Woman of the Ultimate Universe. But given that you also dislike USM, I’d say we have to agree to disagree here.

    @Caroline –
    Yes, Kirby apparently wanted that (I’ve even seen a sketch he did of an unmasked Dr. Doom with a minor scar somewhere on the ‘net), but it has to be remembered that at least a year before Doc Doom’s origin was told in FF Annual #2 (1964), Doctor Doom had been shown unmasking to Stan and Jack in FF #10, and the two averted their faces in horror at the sight!

  • I remember buying a Dr Doom toy years ago (2002?) which had a removable mask, revealing a normal face with a small scar on the cheek(?).

    It was pretty cool.

  • Personally, I liked Spider-Man eating hot dogs with Loki. I didn’t see it as humanizing Loki, so much as demonstrating that after all these years as a super-hero, there’s not a whole lot that fazes Spidey. “Oh, the Asgardian God of Mischief wants my help. Sure, but I’m hungry, so let’s get something to eat while we hash things out.”

    What I could really do with is no more stories about Hank Pym having nervous breakdowns. At the very least, no more stories revolving around Hank and the Wasp (I know she’s dead right now, but she’ll be back eventually, I imagine) and how they might get back together, but of course, the specter of the time Hank smacked her looms over all. I think those character arcs have been trod often enough, both by writers that knew what they were doing (I’d put Engelhart on West Coast Avengers and Kurt Busiek in that category), and plenty who didn’t.

    I would like to second Margot’s comment about the “blood will out” stories, since that seemed to be the excuse for Cassandra Cain becoming Robin’s enemy. “Well, your dad’s an assassin, and your mom’s an assassin, so guess what, you’re gonna start killing lots of people too! So it is written! Cheers!”

  • Pingback: Jean is Dead, Long Live Jean | Comics & Culture()