So Sayeth the Odinson: The Odinson Takes a Look at X-Men Character Development Over the Last Three Decades – Good and Bad

Greetings from the Odinson,

As far back as the Odinson can remember – the X-Men have been one of the most popular franchises in comics.  As a child, when I very first started reading comics, the Classic X-Men tales by Chris Claremont, John Byrne, Dave Cockrum and Terry Austin were setting the standard for what super hero comics could and should be.  With tales like Proteus, The Dark Phoenix Saga, and Days of Future Past, the X-Men became a MUST READ.

In the ‘80s, Claremont continued to push the envelope and, with artists like Paul Smith, John Romita, Jr., Marc Silvestri, and Jim Lee, take the Children of the Atom and make them the Number One comics in the business.  Long before the Big Event became the standard in the industry, Marvel’s Merry Mutants were breaking new ground with crossover events like The Mutant Massacre, Fall of the Mutants, and Inferno.  During this time, Wolverine went from being a surly little psychopath to becoming arguably the most popular character in comics.  So much so that he’s even been the star of five movies and top billing for two.

The X-Men reached the zenith of their popularity in the ‘90s, as tales like X-Tinction Agenda, X-Cutioner’s Song, Fatal Attractions, and Age of Apocalypse carried the torch and made the mutant heroes burn brighter than even before.  X-Men the Animated Series hit syndication and made Charles Xavier’s students household names.  This set up the New Millennium and the release of X-Men: The Movie, which spawned four sequels.

Over the years, there has been one major contributing factor to keeping this franchise fresh and innovative, and that’s character development.  Without a doubt, the two most impressive character evolutions belong to Storm and Wolverine.

In the beginning, when Storm was first introduced in the pages of Giant-Size X-Men #1, she was a naive innocent, making her way out into a great big new world.  Later, after life as an adventurer and a run-in with Logan’s erstwhile lover, Yukio (see Uncanny X-Men #172-173), Ororo became a Mohawk-sporting, butt-kicking leader of heroes (see Ghosts).  Storm even had to deal with a personal crisis in the form of losing her mutant powers (see Uncanny X-Men #185).  This is a very personal issue she faced in the pages of Life/Death.  She eventually got her powers back during the Fall of the Mutants storyline.  The experience made her stronger than ever before and Storm has become a fabulous example and role model as a strong, capable woman.  Most recently she married T’Challa, the Black Panther and King of the African nation of Wakanda.  Storm and the Black Panther were hand picked by Mister Fantastic himself to lead the New Fantastic Four in his absence.  But now her resolve is being tested in different ways, as T’Challa and Ororo are separated in the wake of AvX.

When Wolverine very first exploded onto the Marvel scene back in Incredible Hulk #180-181, he was a feisty little tough guy able to go toe-to-toe with heavyweights like the Hulk and Wendigo.  He was quickly recruited by Charles Xavier to be a part of his All-New, All Different X-Men strike force, a team of heroes banded together from around the world to save the bacon of the original squad.  Early on, Wolverine was an unlikable psychopath that was just as likely in a berserker rage to turn his Adamantium claws against friend and foe alike.  But as his story and the character developed with tales like The Japan Adventure, Blood Hungry, Bloodlust, and Spider-Man vs. Wolverine, creators like Chris Claremont, John Byrne, Frank Miller, Alan Davis, Peter David and Larry Hama kept adding layers to him and making him interesting and complicated.  His past for years was shrouded in mystery.  But thanks to stories like The Origin, Weapon X, Hours, Mutant Genesis, Kitty Pryde and Wolverine, the Shiva Scenario, and Origins, Wolverine’s complicated past has been fleshed out.  Even his connections to Canada’s Premiere Super Team, Alpha Flight, has been touched on.  And storylines like Enemy of the State and Old Man Logan illustrate just how dangerous this guy really is and how lucky the rest of the Marvel U is that he fights for the White Hats.

Storm and Wolverine have grown beyond the confines of just X-Men.  Both are proud members of Marvel’s Premiere Super Team – the Avengers (Wolverine joined in Breakout and Storm joined in Shattered Heroes).  Storm has scored a victory over the greatest female super hero of them all in the pages of Marvel vs. DC, and Wolverine has evolved from a loner into a leader of men and teacher of the next generation of heroes in the pages of Wolverine and the X-Men and X-Force.  They have evolved so much from their beginnings as a naïve girl from the plains of Africa and a feral little psychopath to mutant leaders and A-List heroes that stand shoulder-to-shoulder with other Marvel icons.

Unfortunately the same cannot be said for Cyclops and Colossus.  At the total opposite end of the spectrum, these two classic mutant heroes have fallen so far off the reservation they have literally gone from two of the Odinson’s favorite Marvel characters to two of his least.

In the beginning, Cyclops was a shy, skinny kid, unsure of himself and possessing the power to level mountains.  His romantic relationship with the strong-willed Jean Grey gave Scott Summers the confidence to develop into one of the Marvel Universe’s greatest leaders.  Through rigorous training, study, and countless hours in the Danger Room, Cyclops developed one of the greatest strategic minds, second only to Captain America himself.

Scott has dealt with loss his entire life.  When he was a child his parents were kidnapped by aliens.  Later he would learn that his father became Corsair, the leader of the space pirates and intergalactic freedom fighters known as The Starjammers.  Scott for years was estranged from his brother Alex, who would go on to become a hero and mutant leader in his own right named Havok.  Scott faced tragedy when the love of his life, Jean Grey, succumbed to the dark power of the Phoenix and ultimately death.  And, he faced the ultimate loss when, in order to save the life of his infant son, Scott had to send his baby into the future (see Endgame) and not see him again until he was the grown man known as Cable.  But all of these events only served to strengthen his resolve and make him a stronger person.

In the wake of House of M and Manifest Destiny, Scott became a leader, not only of the X-Men but of the Mutant Community as a whole and took his brethren to new heights.  He established Utopia, openly defied Norman Osborn’s Dark Reign, and led his people through the harrowing times of the Second Coming and a war with the Vampire Nation.  He had forged the X-Men into a premiere super human strike force on par with Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.  But oh how the mighty have fallen.

During the events of Avengers vs. X-Men, Cyclops is seduced by the Phoenix Force and gives into the allure of ultimate power.  Power corrupts, and ultimate power corrupts ultimately.  With the cosmic might of the Phoenix backing him, Scott bent the world to his whim, took the freedom of choice away from the individual, and became his own worse nightmare – a villain.  He decided he was going to save the world, by any means necessary and that included crushing anyone who disagreed with him.  He fought the Avengers, he turned on his own X-Men, and he even betrayed Emma Frost, the woman he professed to love.  But nothing compares to Scott’s murder of Professor Charles Xavier, a man that was like a father to him.  In the aftermath of AvX: Consequences, Cyclops has now become one of the world’s most wanted criminals and this time it’s justified.

When Colossus was first introduced in the pages of Giant-Size X-Men #1, he was a timid farm boy from Russia and, like Storm, an innocent thrust into a great big new world.  He was naïve to a fault, but brave beyond comparison.  Even though he possessed immense power, he lacked the confidence to wield it.  But with battles against the Juggernaut (see Uncanny X-Men #102) and the tutelage of Wolverine (see Uncanny X-Men #122) Peter Rasputin was forged into a courageous hero to be reckoned with.  But as the years went by, chinks in his armor began to show.

Pretty early on, Peter developed a romantic relationship with a young Kitty Pryde.  They fell in love.  But Colossus, along with a handful of Marvel heroes, was whisked away by the Beyonder to the far side of the universe to wage a Secret War.  There Colossus was gravely injured and fell in love with the alien woman that nursed him back to health, thus betraying Kitty’s love.  Upon his return home, feeling guilty, Peter broke up with Kitty, breaking her heart.  Wolverine felt like he needed to teach the boy a lesson and did just that, with a little help from the Juggernaut (see Uncanny X-Men #183).

The Death of Illyana, his little sister, saw the emergence of his first real crisis of faith.  This led to his actions in Fatal Attractions when Colossus did the unthinkable and betrayed the X-Men to join forces with their greatest foe – Magneto.  In the alternate universe of Age of Apocalypse, it is revealed that Peter has the potential for great selfishness and cowardice.  But all of this could have been forgiven as Colossus makes the ultimate sacrifice for the future of mutantkind in the pages of Uncanny X-Men #390.

Peter Rasputin had died a hero’s death, but as heroes tend to do in the comic books, he returned (see Gifted).  However, he was never the same again.  Even after all these years, he seemed to revert to his old unsure self, lacking any real self confidence.  He sold his soul to the demon lord, Cyttorak, and became the new Juggernaut (see Fear Itself).  And in AvX, when given the power of the Phoenix Force, Colossus, like Cyclops, fell to the allure of ultimate power.  In the pages of Cable and X-Force, he is now one of the most wanted criminals in the world.

Cyclops and Colossus, over the years, have gone from two of the coolest super heroes with all the potential of being a couple of the all time greats to wanted criminals.  And I’m not just talking about the unjustly persecuted mutant kind.  No, I’m talking about the kind that actually belongs behind bars.

Three cheers for Storm and Wolverine, and three jeers for Cyclops and Colossus.  And here’s to, fingers crossed, that the latter can somehow find a way to once a gain reach the heights of the former.

This is Odinson bidding thee farewell

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About Odinson

I am a lifelong comics fan and pop culture enthusiast. Comic books, novels, games, television, movies, I love it all. From fantasy to science fiction, drama to comedy, as long as the writing and execution are interesting, I love it, and I want to talk about it.

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