DR #31: Why X-Men Apocalypse is a Good Sign

Dear Reader,

Well goshdangit, lookie like them thar X-Mans went an had themselves a goldurn Apocalypse.

Apocalypse Pic 1

Ayup. That there’s an apocalypse alright. Got them Apocalypse lips.

(Apoca-Lips, if you will.)

The first thing I want to stress is that it wasn’t bad. It was kinda mediocre, honestly: at the time of this writing it is at exactly 50% on Rotten Tomatoes, so it’s difficult to be much more “kinda mediocre” than that. While I don’t think “kinda mediocre” is going to look good at the box office, or when it comes time to do nostalgia pieces on the franchise as a whole, there’s a way in which the mediocrity of a big superhero summer blockbuster is a really encouraging sign for superhero movies as a genre.

Come with me on a journey down memory lane, Dear Reader, to the distant age that men once called 2012. Politics were restless, the economy was bad, and global warming caused a very silly disaster movie. I can understand if this distant era seems strange and incomprehensible, but great events were in the air, reader—a particular event, actually, an Event with an uppercase E even.

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It was called Avengers vs. X-Men.

Not the kind of Avengers vs. X-Men where they have to go live at different movie studios and the X-Men get Doofy Quicksilver and the Avengers get Scarlet Witch (as long as they don’t tell anyone she’s a mutant).

This was a diegetic versus. It was this big Marvel crossover where the Phoenix Force showed up and new mutants were being born and everyone had ideological differences and people got killed for shock value. The marketing was intense, every title Marvel was publishing tied in somehow, and they even did novelty joke covers about it.

Now, a mere four years later, what is the fallout? Well, Rogue is on the Avengers, Professor X is still dead, Storm and Black Panther got divorced, and the Avengers Academy is shut down, sorta, though it still apparently exists in continuity, they just aren’t publishing a comic about it anymore.

But Cyclops being a guerrilla revolutionary isn’t a thing anymore. The Red Skull stealing Professor X’s brain got dealt with. Black Panther moped about how hot Storm was, sometimes, and held a grudge against Namor that’s mostly played out. You could very well dive right into Marvel comics today, read everything every week, and never have any idea that AvX, as they were hashtagging it at the time, had ever happened.

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On the other side of the aisle (so nobody can accuse me of being partisan), DC had Blackest Night. I remember it fondly—because it had all the ingredients to become an enduring fan favorite.

  1. Centered around a second-tier character who had a lot of love from the more dedicated parts of the fan base: Green Lantern.
  2. Vastly expanded the scope of the universe in a way that seemed obvious in hindsight: by introducing lanterns of all colors of the spectrum.
  3. Dealt with a superhero trope that everyone takes for granted—people coming back from the dead—in a way that made it a serious threat.
  4. Involved literally every title DC was publishing at the time, including even bringing back two or three issues of cancelled titles just for the event tie-in.
  5. Involved something that was big in the current Zeitgeist, zombies.

And in a brilliant piece of marketing, all the tie-in issues came with a plastic lantern ring slipped into the polybag. There were all seven colors, with their insignias, as well as Black and White. And yes, I did collect them all.

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See? I still have them.

I’d argue that Blackest Night was underrated at the time, and still is. And yet, what mark on the present continuity has Blackest Night left? Not much, though it didn’t help that a reboot got in the way (I’m looking at you Flashpoint Ugh).

I guess it did help us get to know the various colors of lanterns, since we really don’t often see any but red and green. I guess events got set in motion that led to Kyle Rayner like, exploding to Heaven, because he needed to recharge the universal life force (???). The point is that he’s gone because of Things Having To Do With Being A White Lantern. Other than that, I can’t think of any effect of Blackest Night that you can see in present DC comics.

If you read comics you’re entirely familiar with the practice of the overblown summer Crisis Event. At the time it’s presented as if it’s the biggest deal ever and nothing will ever be the same afterward, but in practice the ones with lasting consequences have been the exceptions rather than the rule. Crisis on Infinite Earths was the template, and it stuck. House of M stuck for a lot longer than anyone expected. Flashpoint stuck (ugh), though thankfully not as long as we thought. Mostly, however, such Crises fade back into the ether from which they came, and unless they bring back a character that you particularly liked or set up a series that ends up being your favorite, within a few years your only reminder is that moment of bemused recognition when you come across the TPB on your shelf. At the time it seemed so vital, but now it’s covered in dust.

I mean, who now remembers the original Secret Wars for any reason other than introducing the Venom Symbiote in the form of Spider-Man’s black costume?

I would say that X-Men Apocalypse is the cinematic translation of this part of the comics genre.

You could certainly say that we didn’t need this particular part of comics translated to the big screen, and you wouldn’t be wrong. You could say that you would bet they weren’t trying to translate this particular part of comics, and I would agree.

But though X-Men Apocalypse was kinda disappointing, it was disappointing in the exact same way that the comics genre sometimes is, which means that the movies are approaching the characters and the storytelling in the same way that comics do. And that is an encouraging thought.

Wish I Could Say I Wasn’t Proud of Apoca-Lips,

-The Guy Who Wrote This.

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