WARNING: Minor spoilers ahead for Way of X #3!
In just the third issue, Way of X is mandated into the X-Men line-wide “Hellfire Gala” crossover, potentially derailing the intriguing themes and plots of the first two issues. Luckily, most of the story takes place on the following day, which allows writer Si Spurrier alongside artists Bob Quinn and Java Tartaglia to make the necessary connection to the crossover, while actually returning to the central themes of the series, which I’ve written about elsewhere. This issue may not be essential to the “Hellfire Gala” crossover, but it is definitely one of the best X-Men comics this month.
Legion has taken on the responsibility of rooting out the threat of the Patchwork Man, revealed to be Onslaught in the previous issue, and the anticipation of the coming confrontation grows. Nightcrawler has been tasked with developing the unifying ideas which will hold the burgeoning mutant culture together. He sees promise in the Three Laws of Krakoa and starts with the first: Make More Mutants.
Thus follows a whole issue about sex and reproduction.
The new mutant society on Krakoa, which continually strives to divorce itself from “human” standards, gives Spurrier the interesting opportunity to present sexual ideas almost on the extreme moral opposite of what would normally be considered culturally acceptable. He wants us readers to bristle at what is presented. At the same time, he does so with such depth and complexity that it forces us to question our “normal” way of thinking. To his credit, he rarely offers answers or judgements of what is “right” and “wrong,” sometimes giving clear arguments for both sides and leaving the final decisions to the reader. He also presents these ideas with an incredible self-awareness of the weight of these issues, their controversial nature and the intrinsic sexual subtext of all superhero comics.
Then, the issue takes a sudden and unexpected turn into a subject very much related to the topic at hand, yet not normally covered in superhero comics. Rather than feeling out of place, this section injects the issue with more heart and compassion than would otherwise be possible. It also brings about a heartwarming realization, both for the characters as well as for the reader, about what is truly most important when talking about sex.
That said, unfortunately, not all of the experimental situations work so well; specifically, using Legion as an intermediary to the sexual intimacy of the presumably still teenaged Loa and Mercury. Adding Legion’s new bodyguards, the Xorn brothers, and Pixie to the scene makes it all a little more than cringeworthy. Spurrier’s awareness of these problems, basically addressing them directly in dialogue, doesn’t help to alleviate them completely. It also doesn’t help that, in the end, this intimate moment appears to be not much more than a plot device.
Perhaps the best this scene has to offer is the beautifully drawn, psychedelic mindscape by Quinn and Tartaglia. Elsewhere, Quinn’s style is still just a little too exaggerated for my tastes, especially in drawing Nightcrawler. But, the range of facial expressions and the dynamic poses have mostly won me over since the first issue.
Another big highlight of this issue has to be the wonderful characterizations of two lesser known mutants.
What Spurrier does with Stacy X is amazing. At first we find her fitting into the general prejudices associated with her character; her mutant power of seduction basically just making people horny. But then Spurrier gives her an unexpected depth, putting her into a new heartwarming role. We meet a Stacy X that doesn’t fit into simple generalizations of morality; in other words, just like a real person. By the end of the issue, you will end up loving her.
We also finally get to know Lost, the character first introduced in Way of X #1, as more than just a means to include vomit humor. Her real name and glimpses of a tragic backstory are revealed. And like Stacy X, she also takes on a role both heartwarming and affecting. Although she only has two lines, you’ll end up loving her as well.
As a Christian with rather conservative views on sex, I came into Way of X #3 expecting to only find things I disagreed with. And, as already mentioned, such topics and ideas were definitely included. But they were presented with such depth and complexity that they made me think rather than get mad. Then, Spurrier took the story into related, but completely unexpected areas with such heart and compassion that it completely won me over. Of the first three issues, I think I enjoyed this issue of Way of X the most.
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