Back to basics again for me today.
Tuesday, August 28th, 2012, is the start of Tumblr’s “Men Reading Women In Comics” project. Luckily for me, I am a (gay) man, and my pet fandom is X-Men, which over the years has given me many powerful, amazing female characters.
Whether they’re actual members of the team or one of its affiliates, allies who struck me as particularly cool, or superheroines from other groups who just formed strong ties to Marvel’s mutants, I just love seeing these ladies in the pages of an X-Book. Some of them will have lots of images to accompany the text, and others will just be short blurbs.
This will be a three-part post, with Part 1 covering #15-11, Part 2 containing #10-5, and my Top 5 X-Women in Part 3.
15) Moira MacTaggert
Moira is tough to pin down. She’s not a mutant, and not an X-Man, but her character and history is so indelibly tied with the X-Men that she might as well be. While largely known as Professor Xavier’s ex-girlfriend and a gifted geneticist-slash-plot device for patching up the X-Men and/or unlocking any science-related problems they stumble across, I like her because of her courage and strength, as much as her brains.
She doesn’t have any real powers, just her brains and her guts, and she’s plentiful in both, as evidenced from her very first appearance in Uncanny X-Men #96:
Yeah, she started off as willing to mix it up with the bad guys just as readily as the X-Men themselves. She’d spend as much time with a pistol, rifle, or machine gun in her hands as in her laboratory.
Over time, she got less combative and more like a den mother, particularly in the pages of Excalibur, but I’ll always remember her as the woman able to both solve the X-Men’s tougher scientific quandaries and pull a gun on anything and everything that threatens her or the people she cares about.
Long story short, Moira is probably the X-Men’s best-known human ally, and certainly one of my favorite non-team-members of either gender they’ve ever had.
14) Monet St. Croix
M started off in the pages of Generation X, as a…quandary. The woman who appeared in the early books calling herself M was an imitation, her young sisters Nicole and Claudette merged into the likeness of their elder sibling after she was transformed into Penance. Yeah…
Convoluted backstory notwithstanding, I think M is an amazing character. All the blunt, brutal honesty, snobbery, and snark of Emma Frost combined with a set of superpowers that would too easily guarantee her a spot on the Mary Sue list. However, we’ve been lucky enough to get some top-notch writers handling her, who make her both a powerhouse and a flawed, but still sympathetic character. Currently she’s X-Factor Investigations’ team snarker, having overcome her complex, troubled past to become one of the organization’s most popular, bluntly honest member, and thriving under the writing of Peter David.
Anyone who’s watched the X-Men animated series in the 90s knows this girl. She was the smart-alecky teenage newcomer we were supposed to identify with. Her powers, and her wardrobe, were bright, flashy, and loud, her slang trendy and dated almost before it left her mouth.
In short, she was a microcosm of the 90s. So why do I love this character so much?
Probably because for all that she’s a bratty, smart-mouthed snot, there is a heart under the attitude, and a brain as well. In her time with Generation X, she grew into her own as a character, and I always liked her powers; she had real, genuine potential for growth and expansion in their use, unlike a lot of other energy-blasting types among the X-Men (I’m looking at you, Havok).
That said, I can’t say I was completely displeased when, after M-Day, she became a vampire and faced a whole new set of challenges. The Wolverine & Jubilee limited series may have had something to do with this, since it showed that despite having a serious chip on her shoulder, she was definitely still the same person she always was, just with a new power set. I also really enjoyed her relationships with Gambit, X-23, and Wolverine during her guest appearance in X-23. So while I’d of course love to see her powers come back, if she stays as she is, I won’t cry too many tears. She’s still a valuable asset to any team she’s on. Just now, she’s the loudest, liveliest dead girl I know to boot.
12) Rachel Summers-Grey
Out of all the characters in this portion of the program, Rachel (the second Phoenix and the third Marvel Girl) is probably the most quintessentially Claremontian. Her watchword started out as being ‘tough’…so tough that she was arguably the least feminine female character on the X-Books during her early tenure with the X-Men and her time with Excalibur.
Given her backstory…a victim of the original ‘Days of Future Past’ timeline where mutants were hunted nearly to extinction by Sentinels and most of the X-Men were slaughtered…it’s no surprise that she raised as many defenses as she did, or that she would fight so hard to keep it from coming true.
Since taking the name Marvel Girl in 2004, she’s softened up considerably, adopting more feminine forms of dress and hairstyles, but she’s still plenty tough.
I wish the writers of Avengers Vs. X-Men (the latest CROSSOVER EVENT THAT WILL CHANGE THE MARVEL UNIVERSE FOREVER SERIOUSLY WE SWEAR) would remember Rachel’s ties to the Phoenix and use them better in the wake of this event, but as long as she continues to have a role in the books rather than be shuffled off to Limbo again, I won’t complain. Too much.
11) Danielle Moonstar
It would be so easy to write Dani Moonstar off as the token Native American on the X-Men. She certainly makes a bigger deal out of it than Forge, her closest male analogue, does.
But the great thing about her, IMO anyway, is that she managed to rise above being a token (at least in terms of her character), to be not only the leader of her own team, but one of the few examples after M-Day that there is life after mutant powers.
Don’t get me wrong; Moonstar’s powers, both as Psyche/Mirage and later when her codename was her surname, were awesome, and had some of the greatest potential I’ve ever seen in a field that, even by then, was starting to get old hat. Her psychic powers started off as a mix of emotion-based illusions and animal empathy, then went through many, many permutations until they finally became a kind of psychic Swiss army knife, where she could do anything that wasn’t the standard psychic tricks of ‘read minds, communicate psychically’.
Then she was depowered. And for most characters in the X-Men universe (see: Jubilee), losing your mutant power is the next worst thing to a death sentence, at least as far as being in the books goes. Instead, Dani taught young superhumans at the Intitiative for a while, and then went back to being in charge of the New Mutants, who had by now become their own team of X-Men, shouting down or smacking down anyone who dared tell her that she couldn’t.
To this day, she is one of the strongest characters in the X-Men universe, and the spearhead (so to speak) of her own book. I can’t help but wish she’d get her powers back, at least a little, if only because I’d like to see how they juxtapose with her new, tougher, go-getter attitude. But with or without them, she’s still a force to be reckoned with.
And that’s it for right now, as I’m officially late for work. Later today or perhaps tomorrow, I’ll post up part two, with pop stars, demon sorceresses, and doctors with serious chips on their shoulder.