Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Google+ Share on Reddit Share on Pinterest Share on Linkedin Share on Tumblr BE WARNED: This column contains spoilers about the recent wedding attempts of Batman and Catwoman (culminating in this week’s BATMAN #50) and Kitty Pryde and Colossus (culminating in X-MEN GOLD #30). If you are at all interested in reading both those issues without anything being spoiled and the mainstream press didn’t already ruin them for you, this might be one to skip. Weddings can be beautiful things. If you have ever been married, you know how often people tell how important the day will be, is being, or was. Additionally, if you have ever been married, you know how difficult the process of wedding planning can be. The event that might be such a blast for your friends and family takes you almost a year to plan and you spend the entire day running from person to person to say hi and often skip dinner entirely or never spend as much time with the people you want to spend your time with. In other words, weddings can be amazing. They can also be really hard. Sometimes — oftentimes — they are both at once. With all that pressure, no wonder sometimes people do not choose to go through with that. Sometimes even the most anticipated weddings end up derailed when a bride or groom gets cold feet. In comics this past month, it happened to two high profile weddings, in fact. After months of lead up, multiple issue arc, and several one-shots, neither Kitty Pryde and Colossus nor Batman and Catwoman managed to reach the altar. And boy oh boy is that some nonsense. Well, this never happened. (Courtesy of Marvel Comics) But First, One Wedding Cancelled, Another… Changed? If you have chosen to ignore my spoiler warnings and are still here, you do not get to complain about the brief summary I am about to write up. Understand? As X-MEN GOLD #30 opens, everything appears on track. Nothing overly portentous to anyone familiar with how a lot of wedding fiction unfolds has occurred. However, in the end, Kitty phases through the ring as Piotr attempts to put it on her finger and calls it all off. Meanwhile, Rogue and Gambit inserted themselves into the situation. Apparently lacking in social graces and looking for a bargain, the world’s least likely to stay together couple took the altar. Hey, they more or less said, as long as we got all this wedding stuff here, someone might as well get married, right? Their friends, instead of booing them, went along with this hideous act of toxic self-regard. After a series of specials in which Batman family members punched villains in the face over and over again, BATMAN #50 arrived. Catwoman finally replied to the letter Batman wrote back in the “I Am Suicide” storyline where he expressed how important she was to him. Instead of responding in kind, however, she called him a child. Several hundred words later, she concluded that marrying her would make him happy. Happiness would “kill” Batman. This would make the world a worse place and she cannot be the cause of that. So, while Bruce waited, she jumped off a roof. Then she was off to get a new costume and commit more crimes, I guess. Bruce, world’s greatest detective, caught on hours later. Realizing he had been ditched, he too leaps, most likely to work out his emotions on some poor low-level thug. Kitty and Colossus’ Decades Long Romance: From the First Kiss to the Wedding What This Isn’t This is comics. And, of course, because this is comics, fans have taken on these two events. And because some fans see everything in terms of “us versus them,” some of the takes involved specious arguments about DC biting off Marvel or vice versa. (Writer’s note: corporations do not care about whether or not you defend their honor online, only that you buy their stuff. Your demonstrations of loyalty are meaningless.) I am not making that argument. The fact is, inevitably, sometimes some events are going to eerily echo one another. Often, maybe even most of the time, it will not be the result of outright thievery or plagiarism. For example, you may recall the return of Bucky as the Winter Soldier and Jason Todd as the Red Hood happened very close to one another. Or that Captain America and Batman died around the same time and both their returns involved a magic bullet and time travel. I do not think either company was ripping the other off though. You see this all the time in film as well. VOLCANO v. DANTE’S PEAK. DEEP IMPACT v. ARMAGEDDON. Rarely are you seeing a legit MAC & ME v. E.T. situation? So, no, my annoyance is not either company ripping off the other one. This is the kissing they’ll be missing. (Courtesy of DC Comics) Also, It Isn’t This I am not calling for a ban on the “left on the altar” storyline. Nor am I saying that it can never work or has not been used to great effect at times. When it was used by CHEERS to derail Sam and Diane’s wedding it was excellent. It added depth to Sam and convincingly wrote Diane out of the show in a way that felt in character. Additionally, it creates threads that informed seasons of CHEERS after the fact. Movies have also made great use of the device. Sometimes this is as a catalyst, as in the WEDDING SINGER, one of Sandler’s best. Other times it seems like the entire point. For instance, RUNAWAY BRIDE, a movie that is beloved if not to my taste. Finally, it can even be the climax of the film. See THE GRADUATE, an excellent movie with one of the best soundtracks ever and a great use of the trope. I confess no examples in comics come immediately to mind, but I see no reason it could not work in comics as well. The Unexpected Happens in X-MEN GOLD #30 No, Not This Either Finally, I am not saying the issues themselves are badly written or drawn. In fact, I quite like both titles and have consistently enjoyed the work of writers Marc Guggenheim and Tom King. On the art front, I thought both issues looked great, too. This is a criticism of how the device was deployed in these two books. It is not a commentary on the overall skills of those involved. The Investment One of the things about comics is that if you make a storyline about an event, it will cause fans considerably more than a single issue. In television, this doesn’t matter. You watch six episodes of CHEERS over the air, you watch three, you watch them all the price is the same. Comics though cost you with every installment. As blogger extraordinaire and comic shop owner par excellence Mike Sterling parodied this week, to promise a wedding through all the promotions and through the very name of the storyline and then deliver it is a bit of a dick move. This isn’t like promising, “someone will die,” in the solicits only to have that person be Wildebeest. That’s a kind of dickery as well but they have at least followed the letter of their promise, if certainly not the spirit. DC and Marvel, by any measure, promised marriages that certain fans have long awaited and lied. The marriage of Kitty and Piotr ended in the wedding of two of their fellow mutants. The wedding of Bruce and Selina ended in no wedding at all. After following the story every step of the way, through multiple issues of the main title, specials, and one-shot tie-ins, that is one hell of a kick in the teeth waiting at the end of the tunnel. You can build drama, you can offer twists, you can call off weddings. However, when the entire drive of months of issues is “their wedding is coming” ends without them being married? That goes beyond “twist.” If Beast is crying already, just imagine how he’s going to be when he realizes what wedding he’s really going to have to sit through. (Courtesy of Marvel Comics) The Call Off Is A Weak Sauce Move Superhero comics are a genre built on big action and big drama. Even relatively quiet moments can hit with a thunderclap of importance. Take Captain America crying over the destruction of his only existing picture of his mom. The scene is wordless, told visually with a middle distance panel. Nonetheless, the drama of it bruises as much — if not more — as the wreckage of the Avengers mansion and several team members that preceded it. Both these stories, however, are all runway, no take off. The previous issues were characterized by some great action and some interesting individual developments. In the final installment, however, the fireworks were nowhere to be had. I don’t need screaming matches and rended garments. I am not opposed to them, but I don’t need them. Nor do I need a last minute kidnapping, a sudden betrayal, or the like. I do, however, need something to sink my teeth into. These storylines demanded bangs of endings and instead ended up with whimpers. Top 5 Most Romantic Batman and Catwoman Moments in Comics Swerving Away From The Interesting Kitty Pryde and Colossus have dated before. They have also broken up before. Yes, a botched wedding is new, but otherwise, we’ve seen it all before. I think they got together and broke up less than five years ago, which is almost no time at all when it comes to comics. Marriage, on the other hand, represented brand new ground for the couple. Does it carry a bit of a stigma? Yes, and we’ll get into that below. Might it make finding drama more difficult going forward? It could be a challenge, I’ll allow. However, it is hardly an impossibility. Moreover, the challenge of keeping them vibrant and interesting in marriage should excite a writer. I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard writers talk about the value of forcing themselves into a corner. Of making the difficult choice and forcing themselves to find a smart way to escape their personally laid trap. Certainly, matrimony for a beloved couple is such a corner? The same goes for Batman and Catwoman. How often have they come close to love — with each and with others — only for fate or their own personalities to derail it at the last minute? I think many seems an accurate estimate. Consider now instead of months of the return of Sad Batman and Criminal Again Catwoman we were following the adventures of a married hero and anti-hero? How much more interesting would be them shaking apart from the strain over time rather than this neat and pretty no-show? Or maybe even making it work? Oh, were they ever so hopeful? (Courtesy of DC Comics) Tired of the Fear of Marriage If it was not clear already superhero comics from the Big Two have some kind of distaste for married characters. To quickly summarize the past decade or so, we have seen spouses killed and disappeared. We have seen marriages literally erased by cosmic events, deals with the devil, and spirits of vengeance. Superman alone has gained and lost his marriage to Lois multiple times during that period and may be about to lose it again. Some of the ended marriages offered unique stories. The marriage and dissolution of Matt Murdock and Milla Donovan by creators like Michael Lark, Brian Michael Bendis, Ed Brubaker, and Alex Maleev, for instance. It strikes me as one of the strongest handlings of a doomed marriage in comics that I’ve seen. Other times the reasoning was boggling. While periodically saddled with lousy stories since she married Peter Parker, Mary Jane remained popular. Almost no one would say that Mary Jane was the biggest problem with SPIDER-MAN books of the early 2000’s. In fact, they might say she didn’t seem to be a problem at all. However, when the Wallcrawler — still not fully rebounded from “The Clone Saga” — needed a boost, MJ had to go. Arguably one of the top three or four marriages in terms of popularity and recognition went up in a literal flash. Superman’s union suffered a similar fate years later when FLASHPOINT led to the new 52 and DC decided a younger Superman couldn’t possibly also be a married Superman. The Comic Book Event Of The Century Is Here In BATMAN #50 The Women This is something I’ve seen up elsewhere that I confess I personally am not entirely sure of. However, I am also a dude so I’ll allow other people might be in better positions to judge this than me. The issue at hand is that the people that stopped these weddings are both the brides. In an industry already rife with problematic depictions of women, it is not difficult to understand people’s concerns. Kitty and Selina as runaway brides can lead to ugly commentary about them and women in general. On the other hand, I don’t feel comfortable asking writers to craft their stories with how the worst of us might take it in mind. Additionally, given that neither was copying the other, this is less a trend than a coincidence. That said, that both writers independently of one another decided the women should be the ones to stop or skip the service may speak to certain ingrained attitudes. Still, one could also mount an argument that these are examples of women proactively controlling their destinies. Rejecting societal expectations and blazing their own trail as it was. Like I said, I feel conflicted. Nonetheless, it feels worth at least recognizing.Kitty, wisely, chose a sunny day over a torrential downpour. (Courtesy of Marvel Comics) The Killer of It As stated above, I have enjoyed both writers runs on these titles and both storylines going into these final issues. That’s what, selfishly, bothers me the most about this. I was so onboard and now the end retroactively poisons what came before it. Both teams set up bold directions for their books and blinked at the last minute. And that’s a bummer. Now, either or both could still recover. They could turn these whimpers into excellent foundations for interesting stories I cannot even imagine right now. That is what I am hoping for and, given their track record, what a lot of me is expecting. In serial media, however, you can only be as good as your last impression. And the last impressions BATMAN and X-MEN GOLD left us with at the end of these stories are disappointing. I expected a fire of excitement to come out of issues #50 and #30 respectively. Instead, for now, I can only register the taste of ash in my mouth.