Let's all talk about Warren Ellis, now.

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Let's all talk about Warren Ellis, now.

Postby Malice » Tue Jun 10, 2008 3:57 am UTC

It took me a while to "discover" this guy. But now that I'm there, I'm loving everything of his.

A brief overview of the things that I've read:

Transmetropolitan: one of the best science fiction stories (not comic) that I've ever read. The character is unique (moving far beyond his inspiration, Hunter S. Thompson), a brilliant anti-hero who is an all-around horrible human being, barely (but truly) redeemed by his ceaseless fight against corruption and endless compassion for his fellow man, which humorously exists side by side with a deep-seated misanthropy. It's fitting, because Ellis approaches his outrageous, razor-sharp satire the same way, managing to find rich moments of emotion and connection within an equally delicious layer of absurdities and obscenities. Warren Ellis is a workhorse writer, and nowhere is that more evident than here, when he (and his artist) fill every frame with dozens or even hundreds of details, unique individuals, subcultures, jokes, and ideas. He crafts his future physically, spatially, providing a flood of information... and that's outside of the action and the plot, which is, in and of itself, pretty damn brilliant. Ellis's specialities are his dialogue, his ideas, and his plot structures, which are always satisifying, and Transmetropolitan's epic battle between the city's best journalist and the evil President-elect is the best of the bunch.

(did I say brief? oh well)

In descending order of complexity, we arrive at Planetary, which has been nearly finished for a while now. Regardless, it remains one of the best examples of the popular "mysterious group investigates mysterious things" stories. This version is good for two reasons. One is its plot; as mentioned above, Ellis is a master at structuring, raising questions and setting up future payoffs, and this series is a doozy. Each issue moves so quickly (and is so text-heavy and action-light) that it seems almost too short--until you finish the series and realize that each episode is about three times as deep as any other random comic.
The second reason Planetary is excellent is because of the myriad influences that it blends, often in disguised forms. I'll try not to reveal them, as that's part of the fun, but in general, any series that manages to blend one specific superhero universe with its own characters (especially the fascinating central character, Mr. Snow), with parodies/reworkings of other characters (the ultimate bad guys are basically an evil version of the Fantastic Four), with Hong Kong action films, Godzilla movies, X-files-style mysteries, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen-style groups (and literary/steampunk influences), etc., etc., etc., ends up being an intricate joy to read. Not to just to play spot the references, but in the way Ellis blends real history, alternate history, superhero canon, literary history in an intricate way, even if all the connections aren't spelled out. Again, it fits, because the main characters are discovering those connections at the same time you are. It's a wild journey, and one which is definitely worth reading, even if its missing an issue or two of denouement.

Annnnd it's quite late. I'll talk about Fell, and perhaps some Ellis miniseries, tomorrow.

Meanwhile, any thoughts?
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Re: Let's all talk about Warren Ellis, now.

Postby DarkKnightJared » Tue Jun 10, 2008 4:05 am UTC

Got the first, third, forth, and fifth trades for Transmet, very awesome. Haven't gotten into Planetary yet.

What do you think of Doktor Sleepless, Fell, and FreakAngels?
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Re: Let's all talk about Warren Ellis, now.

Postby JayDee » Tue Jun 10, 2008 4:13 am UTC

I reread Transmetropolitan just a few weeks ago, and it was even (so much) better than I remembered it. I think I picked it up after a conversation with my local Comic Shop Guy about gore and bowel disrupters. The plot impressed me more on the second read, but the little details even more so. All that Sex Puppets merchandising 'n stuff. Maybe it's the quotes in sigs and Spider being in people's avatars but I already want to read it again.

I don't think I've actually read anything else by him, though. I remember him popping up in Powers, but he hasn't written any of that. Checking, I've probably read his run on Hellblazer, but that's it.
Malice wrote:I'll talk about Fell, and perhaps some Ellis miniseries, tomorrow.
Please do. I think Fell is the one I've had recommended the most (well, behind Transmetropolitan.)
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Re: Let's all talk about Warren Ellis, now.

Postby Endless Mike » Tue Jun 10, 2008 12:36 pm UTC

I dislike far more of his stuff than I like. When he bothers to write a protagonist that's NOT a hard-drinking, hard-smoking, cynical, can't-lose badass in a trenchcoat, he actually writes interesting stuff.

Also, he needs to spend less time in the pub so his books can actually come out on time.
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Re: Let's all talk about Warren Ellis, now.

Postby The Skoot » Tue Jun 10, 2008 12:46 pm UTC

Love, love, love everything Warren writes. He does tend to have a very distinctive writing style and certain pet themes he keeps returning to, but the detail he puts into what he writes and the insanely good dialouge are enough to forgive that IMHO. Currently reading through Transmetropolitan, which I can't believe I haven't picked up earlier. His novel from last year, Crooked Little Vein, was a brilliant read, if a little uneasy in places (the saline scene in particular). I can't wait to see how he tackles Astonishing X-Men.

Endless Mike wrote:Also, he needs to spend less time in the pub so his books can actually come out on time.


This is true though, unfortunately. Deadline keeping isn't one of his strong points.
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Re: Let's all talk about Warren Ellis, now.

Postby SecondTalon » Tue Jun 10, 2008 9:55 pm UTC

Orbiter: A nice yarn about the end of the US Space Program and it's restart. You pretty much can predict the ending before it really even gets going, but it's still nice.

The Authority: Superhero team that gets tired of cleaning up everyone's messes, so they start kicking the shit out of governments that don't play nice. Though.. honestly, I wouldn't bother with any of the stuff written after his tenure. Really.

Nextwave: It has a theme song. How is that not awesome?
Issue #11 contains a series of splash pages that Warren Ellis and Stuart Immonen devised so that in order to get the full impact of the scene, a reader might have to purchase six copies. On the last of the pages, a caption reads "Nextwave: Blatantly wasting your money since 2006".
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Re: Let's all talk about Warren Ellis, now.

Postby Malice » Wed Jun 11, 2008 12:36 am UTC

"Welcome to the moon, detective.
Miles from anywhere, colder than Eskimo nipples, and if you breathe in, you die."
-Lt. Beard, "Fell"

You can think of Fell as an alt-Transmetropolitan. It encompasses many of the same themes, elements, and structures, while taking place in a different genre. Where Transmetro uses a journalist to explore a decadent-yet-vibrant science fiction city, Fell takes a much darker (and therefore, it seems to me, less realistic*) look at a present-day city "over the bridge" (Snowtown) which seems to have passed beyond mere decline and into a physical, earthy, infested decay. Ellis has moved from Transmetro's moody, yet exuberant and impassioned coked-up journalist, to Fell's quiet, competent, fish-in-unclean-water detective, who seems not so much passionate as simply driven to do something, anything, about the horrors he witnesses. The character change fits the mood of the piece; this is one of those stories where the past only exists in bits and pieces, and nobody has any future. There is only today's case and then the next today's case.

As usual, Ellis shows his considerable skill at actually dealing with the episodic nature of comic books--something which eludes many current (and past) practitioners. In this case, each issue focuses on a single homicide (or other) case for Fell to solve, while managing to deepen characters, further explore Snowtown, hint at the circumstances of Fell's transfer, and offer some very odd ideas (including unexplained, consistent appearances of a violent nun in a Ronald Reagan mask*). All in a single 23 page issue. Unlike Planetary's breakneck pace, Fell feels a little slower, a little more measured, which again, fits the "Se7en"-ish tone of reluctantly facing horrors instead of searching gleefully for history's mysteries.

Finally, it wouldn't do to end this miniessay without mentioning the art, which is incredible, and also unique. I've literally never seen anything like it, at least in comics (not that I'm all that well-read, but still). For reference, I suggest looking at the fifth page in the first issue. The art highly expressionistic, first of all, suggesting rather than explicating in most cases. It tends to exaggerate, as well. See the car in the top panel there, how it's elongated and smooshed in some odd fashion. How Lt. Beard's fingers in the last panel look thin as bones. And look at the art--really, really look at it. The eye is tempted to glance over, summon up the ideas, and move on. You see rough, sketchy inks; grainy, faded colors. The background in the second to last panel, for instance--the rest of the precinct is barely suggested, incomplete. At times, Fell looks like an old movie made in low-quality from some decade that never existed between the 60s and 70s. (The art style could also be an attempt to capture the feel of old photographs, since some of the panels are things its detective has taken pictures of and captioned.)

See page 14, same issue, for an example of Fell's other art style, which it uses for violent and fast-moving sequences. The artist (Ben Templesmith) adds in a blurring effect (focusing on part but not all of the image, again like a camera); changes the color scheme from blue night to a brown-ish red; removes even the scanty backgrounds previous in evidence in favor of an expressionistic scatter of dot, blots, and burns; and continually changes angles (including breaking the 180 degree line), creating a chaos of lines of motion. This has the effect of isolating the reader in a confined, undefined space where they are personally assaulted with violence and conflict, drawing them into the heightened senses and emotions of the fight.

I wish I could discuss the dialogue, too (look at the way Ellis creates voice through pauses and word choice, in the last panel of the first page). But this is far too long already. In general, the dialogue, story, characters, and artwork combine to make a world which doesn't look quite real (or quite sane) when you get in close, although it's normal enough at a glance--just like the city itself.

*less realistic? Perhaps it's just my optimistic view of human nature, but Transmetro seemed much more balanced between horrible fucks and actually nice people in bad situations than Fell, where most of the good people have pretty much left, and those who remain are the kind of people who
Spoiler:
kidnap children and inject them with excrement.
Yeah.

**which could be a veiled political message about how trickle-down economics and Republican government has left the entire area of Snowtown in a state of abject poverty and therefore crime. Or it could just be a bit of surrealistic insanity. Ellis hasn't shied away from either.

(I'm still going to reread it, but it turns out that reading the first issue is enough to remind me of all this. Huzzah!)

Edit again: Bah, Warren Ellis reminds me that the nun is wearing a Nixon mask, not a Reagan mask. Does that throw my theory about subtle political commentary out the window? Probably--"nun" and "subtle" don't belong in the same sentence, let alone the same line of pretentious literary criticism.
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Re: Let's all talk about Warren Ellis, now.

Postby Zohar » Thu Jun 12, 2008 3:45 pm UTC

I love almost everything Ellis writes. This includes his Authority, Transmet, Orbiter, Fell, Nextwave, Global Frequency and probably more stuff I forgot. I have Crooked Little Vein (his first novel) on my bedside table but it might take me a while to get to it.
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Re: Let's all talk about Warren Ellis, now.

Postby Jesse » Thu Jun 12, 2008 5:29 pm UTC

News just in. I <3 William Gravel.
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Re: Let's all talk about Warren Ellis, now.

Postby DarkKnightJared » Fri Jun 13, 2008 6:11 am UTC

Zohar wrote:I love almost everything Ellis writes. This includes his Authority, Transmet, Orbiter, Fell, Nextwave, Global Frequency and probably more stuff I forgot. I have Crooked Little Vein (his first novel) on my bedside table but it might take me a while to get to it.


Fuck whatever is stopping you. Read it. NOW.

...

What the hell are you still reading this for? Didn't I say READ CROOKED LITTLE VEIN?
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Re: Let's all talk about Warren Ellis, now.

Postby steewi » Mon Jun 30, 2008 3:16 am UTC

Anyone pick up issue 0 of No Hero recently?

I bought it on spec, because it was cheap, and my quick glance through looked promising. It's another advance on the 'deconstructed superheroes' genre, but he's put enough of a twist on it to make it original. Plus, splatterfest seems to be happening from the get-go.
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Re: Let's all talk about Warren Ellis, now.

Postby Belial » Tue Jul 01, 2008 3:31 pm UTC

My roommate just bought me New Universal for my birthday.

Hooray for Warren Ellis writing superheroes some more.

HOORAY.
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Re: Let's all talk about Warren Ellis, now.

Postby danteshepherd » Tue Jul 01, 2008 8:58 pm UTC

He revamped most of the X-titles in the early part of this decade, right? And it was considered a failure? Well, what he did to X-Force, when I had been collecting it for years, finally making it good again, blowing me away month after month . . . just astounding. But because no one else liked what he did in the other issues, after Ellis was finished, they canceled the team. Too disappointing.

I keep a couple scanned issues from Global Frequency on my computer at work just in case I need a intravenous shot of inspiration.

And don't forget his cameo in Powers.
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Re: Let's all talk about Warren Ellis, now.

Postby Endless Mike » Tue Jul 01, 2008 9:09 pm UTC

Milligan's X-Force revamp was way more interesting, even if it had nothing to do with the characters in the title up till then.
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Re: Let's all talk about Warren Ellis, now.

Postby Jessica » Wed Jul 02, 2008 11:36 pm UTC

nextwave is by far the best thing ever.
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Re: Let's all talk about Warren Ellis, now.

Postby steewi » Thu Jul 03, 2008 2:41 am UTC

Gosh I'm coming in late on Warren Ellis. I read everything out so far of Freakangels, yesterday. I'm convinced that Warren Ellis has severe issues, but I think he also knows it, so I'm not worried.
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Re: Let's all talk about Warren Ellis, now.

Postby zomgmouse » Sat Jul 05, 2008 11:01 am UTC

I never really got into comics or graphic novels before I found Transmetropolitan, to tell you the truth; but this one just got me right in, and I must say I haven't read anything else like it. Garth Ennis' Preacher came quite close, actually, but never to the level of Transmet.

It has just the right combination of action, wit, dark and light humour, and definitely meaning and theme to be classified in the "ABSOLUTELY FUCKING AWESOME" list, and although I'm sure I won't find anything else like it, I sure hope that something else comes close.

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Re: Let's all talk about Warren Ellis, now.

Postby DarkKnightJared » Tue Sep 16, 2008 9:23 pm UTC

Apparently he's also releasing a "graphic novella" called FRANKENSTEIN'S WOMB.

Fuck. Yes.
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Re: Let's all talk about Warren Ellis, now.

Postby DarkKnightJared » Thu Oct 23, 2008 8:13 pm UTC

He released a new "graphic novella" called Aesthetic Mechanics. Anyone else read it?
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Re: Let's all talk about Warren Ellis, now.

Postby Grop » Fri Oct 24, 2008 11:50 am UTC

I have read the French edition of Fell (one hardcover book so far, made of several stories). I am not fond of American comics (which I don't know very well) but I was impressed by this one.
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Re: Let's all talk about Warren Ellis, now.

Postby Jesse » Fri Oct 24, 2008 10:50 pm UTC

I suggest you all get on board Doktor Sleepless right now, because it feels like it's going to rival Transmet for me.
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Re: Let's all talk about Warren Ellis, now.

Postby Belial » Fri Oct 24, 2008 11:08 pm UTC

I also have that feeling.
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Re: Let's all talk about Warren Ellis, now.

Postby Izawwlgood » Fri Oct 24, 2008 11:22 pm UTC

I adore the man. That is all. I'll chime in with other favorites later.

Did you guy's ever play that crappy game he contributed too? It was actually pretty fun except for the total lack of balance.
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Re: Let's all talk about Warren Ellis, now.

Postby steewi » Sun Oct 26, 2008 1:52 am UTC

DarkKnightJared wrote:He released a new "graphic novella" called Aesthetic Mechanics. Anyone else read it?


Yep, I picked it up on friday. It was quite good, and not his usual sort of thing. Not great, though - it had a degree of off-handedness that made me think it would have been better with more build up, like it was a subplot of a larger story.

Edit: BTW, it's Aetheric Mechanics.
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Re: Let's all talk about Warren Ellis, now.

Postby Izawwlgood » Sun Oct 26, 2008 3:31 pm UTC

Anyone currently reading Freak Angels?

EDIT: Nm. Yay Authority!
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Re: Let's all talk about Warren Ellis, now.

Postby steewi » Mon Oct 27, 2008 2:21 am UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:Anyone currently reading Freak Angels?

EDIT: Nm. Yay Authority!


Yes. The slowness of the story is frustrating, but I enjoy it.
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Re: Let's all talk about Warren Ellis, now.

Postby Jesse » Mon Oct 27, 2008 8:26 am UTC

SLowness? He's releasing six pages a week. Compared to how Warren Ellis normally releases stuff this is bloody lightspeed.
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Re: Let's all talk about Warren Ellis, now.

Postby Belial » Mon Oct 27, 2008 12:37 pm UTC

Those six pages rarely involve much story progress, though. You wait a week, and get six pages of them arguing over what to call their hideout, for example.

Not that I'm complaining. Just saying, it is slow in that sense.
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Re: Let's all talk about Warren Ellis, now.

Postby SecondTalon » Mon Oct 27, 2008 3:14 pm UTC

... so wait a month then read what you missed like you would a normal comic?
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Re: Let's all talk about Warren Ellis, now.

Postby steewi » Tue Oct 28, 2008 2:46 am UTC

Pfft. As if I could do that.

With Belial - It's a slow moving plot line even if you wait a month for 24 pages. They're up to, what, episode 32 now? And there has been perhaps 2 action sequences not involving large amounts of dialogue.

I'm still reading, and will continue to do so. It's a good set up. I plan to discover Doktor Sleepless as soon as I can afford a TPaperback.
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Re: Let's all talk about Warren Ellis, now.

Postby SecondTalon » Tue Oct 28, 2008 4:21 am UTC

Eh, it's just gotten past the "Meet the Freakangels, all eighty gajillion of them." phase.

Alright, 12 of them. And one of them hasn't been on-panel yet, I don't believe.

I guess I'm basically saying that where you see slowness, I see buildup of potential.
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Re: Let's all talk about Warren Ellis, now.

Postby Endless Mike » Tue Oct 28, 2008 2:15 pm UTC

His Astonishing X-Men has been awful. Every character talks like Generic Ellis Character and it's all stupid sex jokes.

I'm disappointed that he's leaving Thunderbolts, though.
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Re: Let's all talk about Warren Ellis, now.

Postby SecondTalon » Tue Oct 28, 2008 6:41 pm UTC

I don't think Ellis is the word in the phrase "Ellis's Astonishing X-Men" that's making it suck. I think it's the other two words.

Yeah, I said it. So what? Wanna fight about it?
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Re: Let's all talk about Warren Ellis, now.

Postby steewi » Wed Oct 29, 2008 2:15 am UTC

SecondTalon wrote:I don't think Ellis is the word in the phrase "Ellis's Astonishing X-Men" that's making it suck. I think it's the other two words.

Yeah, I said it. So what? Wanna fight about it?


I would, but there's too much truth in it. Oh, well. I still read it.
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Re: Let's all talk about Warren Ellis, now.

Postby Endless Mike » Wed Oct 29, 2008 2:11 pm UTC

SecondTalon wrote:I don't think Ellis is the word in the phrase "Ellis's Astonishing X-Men" that's making it suck. I think it's the other two words.

Yeah, I said it. So what? Wanna fight about it?

There's some truth to that because Whedon's wasn't too spectacular either.

But at least his characters weren't interchangeable.
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Re: Let's all talk about Warren Ellis, now.

Postby Izawwlgood » Wed Oct 29, 2008 2:58 pm UTC

Jack Hawksmore=win. (Hawksmoor? I can't remember)
I think the only one on that teams I don't absolutely adore is Shin, as she's only 'pretty cool'. Hatched from an egg that the Nazi's were cooking for ultimate power. Oh yes. Nazis.
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Hawksmore>>>Engineer>Doctor>Jenny Sparks>>>Midnighter>Apollo>>>>>>>Shin

Major props for two unbearably badass superheroes coveting one each others assess.
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Re: Let's all talk about Warren Ellis, now.

Postby SecondTalon » Wed Oct 29, 2008 3:00 pm UTC

I was.. more of making a comment about how the X-Men is a terrible franchise. Mostly in how it could be (and sometimes is ineptly handled as) a stand-in for whatever oppressed group you wanted them to be and work from there making essentially social commentary with occasional ice beams and laser vision... and instead is focused on.. I dunno, aliens, psychic bird clone ladies and things that make no sense.

But I haven't been reading Ellis's run on it. Perhaps I should, to see how bad it is.
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Re: Let's all talk about Warren Ellis, now.

Postby Joeldi » Wed Oct 29, 2008 11:33 pm UTC

I've only read FreakAngels so far, although I'm thinking I'll have to get a look at The Authority before too long.

SecondTalon wrote:Eh, it's just gotten past the "Meet the Freakangels, all eighty gajillion of them." phase.

Alright, 12 of them. And one of them hasn't been on-panel yet, I don't believe.


I was able to read up to the current episode in one session, and I can say there's nothing inherently wrong with the pacing, it's just the delivery method. I'm not looking forward to the ensuing weeks of only six comics at a time though.

As of now, I think Mark is the only one of the twelve not yet to be shown...
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Re: Let's all talk about Warren Ellis, now.

Postby Belial » Thu Oct 30, 2008 6:59 am UTC

You are correct.
addams wrote:A drunk neighbor is better than a sober Belial.
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Re: Let's all talk about Warren Ellis, now.

Postby Endless Mike » Thu Oct 30, 2008 1:50 pm UTC

SecondTalon wrote:I was.. more of making a comment about how the X-Men is a terrible franchise. Mostly in how it could be (and sometimes is ineptly handled as) a stand-in for whatever oppressed group you wanted them to be and work from there making essentially social commentary with occasional ice beams and laser vision... and instead is focused on.. I dunno, aliens, psychic bird clone ladies and things that make no sense.

But I haven't been reading Ellis's run on it. Perhaps I should, to see how bad it is.

It's no more a terrible franchise than anything else. There's really only so much that can be said about "boy people sure do hate us!" and even still, that's what's going on over in Uncanny, to an extent.

And Xorn made perfect sense once he was revealed to be Magneto in disguise until after Morrison left the book and the editors decided that Magneto needed to not be dead. Now it's best to just ignore anything involving him afterward.
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