X-Men – Fatal Attractions review

X-Men Fatal Attractions

X-Men Fatal Attractions

For much of the X-Men’s long and sordid publishing history, it’s been pretty easy to draw a correlation between the plight of their fight for mutant equality with the real-life struggles of minorities, whether those themes were intended by Marvel or the respective writers or not. We live in a post-modern era of literary criticism, where what the author intended something to be about has little-to-no bearing on what it’s about. As much as I hate that when people tear down my own writing, I’ll use it as a crutch here, sure.

What’s a little less clear is which minority the X-Men’s struggle takes the form of. It matters little in the long scheme, as it can switch and borrow and do whatever it wants, as ‘mutant’ is a fictional minority without a straight parallel into the real world; but at some point the prevalent theme of the X-Books stopped being an allegory for the plight of disenfranchised African-Americans, and started being about the plight of disenfranchised homosexuals.

And, I think, Fatal Attractions was the start of that shift.

Now while X-Men is purposely vague enough that it could rightly be said to apply to any minority or oppressed people, there are certain elements that have always linked it with sexuality. The “hidden among us” nature of not being able to always tell who is a mutant and who is not, mirroring the closeting of homosexuals. The fact that this ‘transformation’ usually (in both cases, to my knowledge) becomes apparent at puberty. So what is it about Fatal Attractions that makes it the definitive place for me where the narrative shifts to the favor of representing gay culture?

It’s the Legacy Virus.

Fatal Attractions originally hit the stands in 1993, a point in time during which the GRID and AIDS issues were hitting an apex (just after, actually). Characters in the X-Books leading up to this event, mainly Charles Xavier, had been name-dropping homosexuality in their speechifying a lot more in the issues leading up to this crossover. This was partly because it was simply more acceptable to do so, but also because this was what it was leading up to: a mysterious, deadly, rapid-disease of unknown origins that specifically attacks mutants.

For those of you not up on the cultural history of scientific ethnocentrism surrounding AIDS, it was originally known as GRIDS, which stood for Gay Related Immune DiseaSe. While that’s a very politically-incorrect thing to say now (and was then, really), it wasn’t entirely based outside of fact. In its onset, AIDS did mainly only affect homosexual men. In fact early scientific thinking was that there was something in the very nature of gay sex that was causing it (this was quickly disproven). It seems laughable now, but there you have it. It wasn’t until later that this unconquerable disease started to spread to heterosexuals… just like the Legacy Virus.

Of the collections themselves, there are two ways to collect it: a 259 page version collecting X-Factor #92, X-force #25, Wolverine #25, Uncanny X-Men #304, X-Men #25, Wolverine #75 and Excalibur #71; or a massive 816-pager that collects UNCANNY X-MEN (1963) #298-305, 315 and ANNUAL #17; X-FACTOR (1986) #87-92; X-MEN UNLIMITED (1993) #1-2; X-FORCE (1991) #25; X-MEN (1991) #25; WOLVERINE (1988) #75; and EXCALIBUR (1988) #71. I whole-hog recommend the latter, not just because “bigger is better” and all that, but much of the underlying circumstances leading up to the main action make it make much more sense.

One of the saddest things I've ever read.

One of the saddest things I’ve ever read.

For instance: a major plot point if Colossus’s defection from the X-Men to join Magneto. This comes on the heels of him watching his entire family get killed, followed by his little sister, Illyana Rasputin, being taken as the first victim of The Legacy Virus, as the modern science has no way to combat it at the time. The issue where her death is rendered — told after-the-fact from Jubilee’s point of view as she tries to comprehend the death of such a young teammate, is heart-wrenching. It’s Uncanny X-Men # 303, and it may be one of the saddest things I’ve ever read.

All that stuff is left out of the smaller trade, so it lacks cohesion and the events lack weight. It’d be like cutting a movie down to just the action beats: without context, the action beats don’t mean anything.

But hold on, I hear you: isn’t this story all about a big fight with Magneto and Wolverine getting the adamantium ripped from his skeleton? Well… no. Because this story came out pre-internet and that was such a huge, surprising moment, people tend to only remember those scenes from X-Men # 25 and Wolverine # 75 where Wolverine is maimed and clings to life.But those are actually just epilogue to the main story, a consequence to the action beat,

That’s not to say those issues are bad. Even reading it now and knowing that it all ends up okay, Wolverine # 75 is so well-written that I actually get anxious reading it. Even though I’m aware he’s clearly going to make it, a little part of me wonders: what if he doesn’t? When a story can drag you in to that level, that’s damn good writing.

But all that, the maiming of Wolverine, that’s just an excuse to finally ‘kill’ Magneto. It was a question of: what could Magneto do that would make even the peace-loving Charles Xavier go for the ultimate solution, and this was it. In this same trade where the Legacy Virus makes the X-Men “about” life as a homosexual, it does away with the standard analogy of Professor X as Martin Luthor King and Magneto as Malcolm X by having the latter finally go too far and have to be put down.

One last note, just in case you need the extra push to buy that Fatal Attractions is about the change of X-Men from a race parable into a gay parable: the name. Think about it: Fatal Attractions. is it not reminiscent of the old code for homosexuality, “the love that dare not speak it’s name?” And as sad as this is, and as loathe as I am to bring it up: in the early ’90s, being attracted to another man was seen as a “fatal attraction.” AIDS was (and is) a big deal folks, and a very sober wakeup after the sexual revolution of decades past.

Even devoid of this intellectuality that I’m bringing into it (and your reading experiences may of course differ, remember that in post-modernism there is no ‘one way’ to read a text) Fatal Attractions is one of the crown jewels in the unraveling saga of the X-Men, and a good example that the title was not lost when Claremont left the series.

X-Men: Fatal AttractionsX-Men: Fatal Attractions by Scott Lobdell

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“Even devoid of this intellectuality that I’m bringing into it Fatal Attractions is one of the crown jewels in the unraveling saga of the X-Men, and a good example that the title was not lost when Claremont left the series.”

View all my reviews

X-Men: Fatal AttractionsX-Men: Fatal Attractions by Fabian Nicieza

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“Even devoid of this intellectuality that I’m bringing into it Fatal Attractions is one of the crown jewels in the unraveling saga of the X-Men, and a good example that the title was not lost when Claremont left the series.”

View all my reviews

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6 responses to “X-Men – Fatal Attractions review

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