When the Krakoa era first dawned, many praised its bold new direction and quickly found a queer allegory within the ideals of a community forging a home free of bigotry. Particularly within the lens of LGBT+ representation, Krakoa brought a promise for something new –the problem is, we really ended up getting more of the same with an extra dose of queerbait instead of honest queer representation.
In House of X/Powers of X, when the independence day celebration raged on, many readers were excited by a particular set of panels. Scott, Jean, and Logan –the famous love triangle– were all seeming to have a good time together. When Scott sat down, Emma and Jean seemed to kind of mend fences, passing a drink to each other before Emma longingly looked at Scott. The Sinister Secret pages later made it clear that love triangles were no longer an issue for mutants –and many fans praised this as giving a four-person polycule –but did we actually get that?
In X-Men #3, when Emma and Jean share witty barbs over “sharing things,” it’s clear that’s an allegory for Scott. Scott and Jean share a kiss in Cable while Scott and Emma share flirtatious banter that hints at a deeper bond in X-Men/Fantastic Four. Many times Jean and Logan have been together romantically on panel in the pages of X-Force. But the reality is, Emma/Jean and Scott/Logan aren’t given these moments –making it less of a polycule and more of a coexistance of multiple straight ships. When Ororo flirts with Logan she doesn’t tease him by saying she’ll tell Jean and Scott –she says she’ll Jean. Just Jean. When Scott calls Jean to bed in X-Force he only calls Jean –and it doesn’t look like they have a third spot in that bed.
So, at this point, it’s pretty clear what’s going on –Jean/Scott, Scott/Emma, and Jean/Logan can coexist, but that’s it. That hasn’t exactly stopped the main book from queerbaiting with some scenes that wink and nudge to the idea that maybe, just maybe there’s more going on behind the scenes with any potential queer pairings here. But a joke is all you get really. Jokes about Logan seeing Scott in a speedo feel disingenuous at that point, and it’s making fun of an audience Marvel knows is desperate for more representation.
This era loves the idea that it’s more progressive than it is and doesn’t actually put in the work to prove otherwise in most cases.
Since the Claremont days, Kate Pryde’s sexuality has been a hot topic, with many readers latching on to the idea that she is attracted to women. And those same readers thought they found their saving grace in Marauders when Pryde finally kissed a woman, locking lips with a female tattoo artist. That was about nine months ago. And no, no one has touched on Kate’s sexuality since nor did that scene itself do anything to make a statement. The word “bisexual” is never mentioned, nor is an attraction to women ever discussed or explored further. Was Kate included in Pride books this year after that moment? No. So it leaves a very hollow feeling, with readers questioning whether or not Kate even is considered bi by Marvel’s standards.
Can readers truly open the pages of an X-Men comic book and expect to see Kate engage in explicitly romantic scenes with women? Honestly, no. And that’s what makes the Kate Pryde incident one of the most hollow instances of queerbait I’ve seen in years. Knowing how long people have waited for bi Kate, teasing the idea, then not committing to it just feels like giving a hungry audience less than scraps to make a meal of.
When it comes to queer women on Krakoa, the most we’ve gotten is Mystique longing for her dead wife and some background panels of Cecily and Mercury making out. This might change with Way of X, considering how Loa is written as her attraction to Cessily seems pretty clear, but we’ll see. Either way, the record isn’t great here for queer female characters getting content.
In the case of Mystique, the government of Krakoa is literally preventing her from being with her wife. Considering Mystique and Destiny are the closest we get to seeing a major WLW couple in the center of a story this era, the optics on that aren’t great at all.
But surely Marauders has done so much good with Bobby Drake, right? One of Marvel’s highest-profile gay characters? Not really. Bobby’s been convenient set dressing in a book that barely uses him. Or Christian Frost for that matter, who spends his time being Emma’s supporting character rather than an important piece of any story.
X-Factor seemed to be a saving grace for many, featuring a cast of queer characters like Akihiro, Northstar, Kyle Jinadu, and Prodigy. In X-Factor, Speed got his first on-panel kiss with a boy, Shatterstar returned, the groundwork for Star’s reunion with Rictor was laid out –and X-Factor was one of the first books to get canceled. X-Factor was the book for queer rep, the only Krakoa book you could open and be sure you would see LGBT+ content without a shadow of a doubt, and without it, where does that representation go?
We can’t pretend X-Factor was perfect either — Akihiro is still going by a codename that many Asian fans have pointed out is a slur. There was really no reason for this run not to finally fix that as they did with John Greycrow’s racist codename. Good LGBT representation for characters of color most certainly involves getting rid of racist codenames, and that’s where X-Factor failed Akihiro.
Have you noticed who’s missing? Trans mutants — yeah, there really are none. If Krakoa is meant to represent an entire population of mutants, it’s literally impossible for all of them to be cis. Krakoa has opened the gates for so many new characters to exist — this is mutantdom on a global scale, all on one island — how can there be no trans mutants? Many trans comic critics have explored the ideas of Krakoan resurrection and practices through a trans lens (pieces I highly recommend checking out, by the way), something so important that the actual stories themselves should also be seizing on. Trans people deserve representation — they deserve to see themselves in their comics.
There have been a few bright spots this era that deserve note — X-Factor, as I mentioned, did do good work with queer rep for the most part. In the pages of Excalibur, Rictor is getting the spotlight, and aside from a really weird, out-of-character usage of Cullen Bloodstone, this has been good to see overall. In New Mutants, Vita Ayala has finally given some much-deserved attention to Karma, a disabled lesbian of color.
But overall? The result of queer representation on Krakoa is quite grim. Children of the Atom, Ayala’s other series, introduced a new lesbian character of color, Carmen Cruz, who even got to come out on-page to a friend. It’s refreshing, and a character like Carmen is extremely important. She’s not even a mutant, and her story is already doing more than most of the X-Men titles this era, depicting her longing for another girl her age.
The sad truth is, Carmen is probably the third lesbian character in X-books ever, even despite her not being a mutant. There’s Karma and Bling! and not much else. Sure characters like Destiny could be lesbians, but they never say so themselves, and the most we get is just a confirmation that they like women. That’s what makes something like this scene from Children of the Atom so important — she says she’s a lesbian specifically and she gets to come out on her own terms. She’s comfortable, and she’s even happy. These moments matter immensely — it’s the moment readers know they can relate to these stories and characters.
In terms of LGBT+ stories, Krakoa is a lot of smoke and mirrors, promising bold new directions and changes but giving us more of the same. Many people have likened the rampant queerbait of this era to Claremont’s time — but the difference is that Claremont was writing in the 1980s. He didn’t know what he could get away with, and subtext was all people really had to work with. This is 2021, we shouldn’t be relying on subtext. We certainly shouldn’t have queerbait on this level either — why even waste our time doing that instead of just utilizing the queer narratives/characters you have and are already willing to show?
Krakoa’s ideals of embracing one’s true identity and finally feeling safe to do so would work beautifully with a queer story. The problem is, the writers aren’t really seizing on that at all. This is the time for new characters to emerge too. A new trans character would go miles in the way of representation, but simply creating these characters or knowing they just exist isn’t enough, as we’ve seen with characters like Bobby this era. We need them to be used, too. We need their existence celebrated. Queer readers need to be able to open up these books and know that they’ll see someone who is like them. And as it stands? They really can’t –and that’s a huge problem.
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