Published on June 25th, 2012 | by Joe Glass1
Tales from the Four Colour Closet – This Year’s Most Astonishing Wedding
Now, I’ll admit I’ve missed a lot about these characters’ relationship. Kyle was introduced in a Matt Fraction issue of Uncanny X-Men, but as far as I could see there was no hint that he was a gay man let alone dating Northstar (it’s been a while since I read the issue in question, but I certainly don’t recollect him being any more than his sports events manager).
It was later in a Tim Fish short for an X-Men anthology book that Kyle was outed as gay and Northstar’s boyfriend to my knowledge. I didn’t read much of Alpha Flight (it’s on my list of trades to get) and then we were in Astonishing X-Men time, and it’s all been leading up to this wedding.
As such, I’ve always thought the relationship felt a little rushed and tacked on, but accepted it…because the wonderful thing about comics is even within a whole comic time is disjointed and loose. In between panels a million years could pass, so I have never assumed that we see every single aspect of any given characters life. That Kyle is not a superhero too meant that the idea that their relationship played out ‘between the panels’ was always the saving grace of this plot arc for me.
And as for Northstar’s side of it, he has always been portrayed as brash, hot-headed and an archetypal speedster. So it makes sense that he would rush headlong into anything, even something big and important like a marriage.
Now, first off, I want to give a brief review of the comic…in terms of how this fits in with the overarching story arc that this is part of-I felt it was really out place. The climax of the situation we were left at last issue plays out in about a page, revisited later in a manner that was just as brief, and all in all it felt anti-climatic. The threads of the investigation, what is going on in the first place etc etc just aren’t resolved and are left hanging and take a back seat while we enjoy this landmark diversion.
I do not think that the story arc is entirely a media-baiting ploy as I don’t think the writer, Marjorie Liu, would be happy with that anyway. And the villainous plot always had felt a little tacked on to what was clearly the much more important of Northstar and Kyle’s life heading towards this momentous direction. However, I feel Marvel may have pushed to get it out quicker and the overall story arc may have suffered for it.
The story of the issue itself, taken out of context as a one-shot issue, is actually pretty damn good, so I am by no means saying it’s terrible. My one remaining gripe is the art: I’m admittedly not a massive fan of Perkins’ style, and it at times looks messy or rushed in this issue and all the preceding issues…it just doesn’t feel like Astonishing X-Men quality to me. And when the book came out the same week as the positively GORGEOUS Avengers Vs. X-Men #6, it couldn’t help but look less next to it. That being said, the storytelling is well executed and the emotional beats and expressions are very well handled.
Review over, I want to look at the piece as a whole: as a cultural artefact and it’s importance right now. Rushed or not, media-baiting or not, beautiful or not, what is important and laudable about this comic is THAT IT HAPPENED. Yes, marriage between gay couples has happened before, but not at a time when the ‘Gay Marriage’ debate was at its height and generally in a few short panels, not made as a major event. To anyone to decries that an event was made of it at all, I ask: did you bemoan when they did it with Mister Fantastic and Invisible Girl? Or Peter Parker and Mary Jane? Or Cyclops and Jean Grey? If your answer is no you didn’t, then tell me, please, what it different when it’s the marriage of two male characters?
What’s also great is that in the past couple of year’s we’ve seen tons of marriages dissolved, broken down or retconned out of existence, so it was nice to have a new marriage commitment coming in and handled in the classic way that many of the major comic book marriages of the past have been.
Moreover, the commitment of Marvel to standing behind this message of acceptance is clearly evident in the inclusion of a full page ad in the back of the issue detailing how you can get married in New York City, whether you are gay or straight. In fact, what is a shame is that this doesn’t happen often.
Patrick Strudwick wrote a really great article for Gay Times magazine this month discussing what he calls the ‘Purple Pound’: the potential of money raised and adverts aimed at straight supporters of LGBTQ issues and rights. He discusses how the more gay men and ‘our’ issues are treated as normal and appear casually more and more often in the mainstream media, then the more ‘gay’ becomes normal in the mindset of the general public, which can only reap positive effects for gay rights in the long term.
A company like Marvel showing a commitment to being a part of this movement and showing support for their LGBTQ fans is quite simply massive.
To people and groups such as National Organization for Marriage who angrily rail against gay men being shown to be happy, normal and in love in front of children, and yet try to suggest they are not homophobic and wish gay men well despite trying to stop our inalienable right to show our love for one another at every turn, I say this: how is this particular issue ‘children’s literature’? In the very same issue you have a character’s stomach exploding, another one impaled and characters waving guns and shooting at each other; and yet it is the tender, romantic story of a loving couple that you take issue with?
The kind of sadness caused by not having full, complete and total support (which we SHOULD HAVE, as these are our rights that we are being denied we’re talking about) is shown within the issue, another thing I commend. Between Northstar’s teammate not supporting or attending his marriage, to the many empty chairs at the ceremony, the whole thing is handled in a way not to make the reader angry or hate that character, but rather to feel Northstar’s sadness at his friends’ inability to be there for him. In fact, the character chosen to represent this was such an unexpected and sympathetic choice that we can’t help but still like them and feel sorry for them.
Because this isn’t a story about hate or getting angry; it’s a story about love and togetherness in a world that sadly still to some extent fears and hates you.