Reminders and Resurrections: "X-men #11"

Resurrections are common in comics, but they're also easily complicated.

X-men #11

Publisher: Marvel
Price: $3.99
Writer: Brian Wood, Kris Anaka
Publication Date: 2014-04

It’s no secret that death is a revolving door in comics. When most characters die or are killed off, it’s more like the superhero equivalent of taking a sick day. They step down in the most definitive possible way, allowing other characters to try and fill the void. More often than not, they fail miserably or the novelty wears off. Bucky Barnes didn’t stay Captain America for very long. And Dick Grayson couldn’t give the mantel of Batman back to Bruce Wayne fast enough. It would be annoying if it didn’t work so well at garnering attention. It’s like someone burning their house down to get the neighbors to help with some landscaping.

But not all death in comics carries the same weight. That sounds like a strange concept because in real life, death the third most definitive event there is after birth and taxes. In comics, however, the very concept of a character being dead is subject to more technicalities than modern banking regulations. Sometimes a character can be officially dead, yet in a state of limbo. Sometimes they can be technically alive, but they might as well be dead. Like quantum mechanics, it’s as baffling as it is convoluted. However, it does have some perks in that it makes it easier to bring certain characters back from the dead without burning any houses down. And X-men #11 takes advantage of that in a way that would make any lobbyist for the banking industry smile.

Death and resurrection has been a consistent theme since Lady Deathstrike returned to the X-books. She had been a disembodied ghost. Now she has taken over the body of young Columbian woman who happens to be the daughter of a rich crime lord. In many respects, Lady Deathstrike traded up because this body gave her the resources to start the Sisterhood of mutants. And as the story has unfolded, she has brought a number of deadly female villains into the mix. In the process, however, she ceded her control of the Sisterhood to Akrea, another disembodied menace that was supposedly killed. It’s a common thread that has made the Sisterhood a much more compelling threat than just another killer robot.

And the all-female X-men are still several steps behind the Sisterhood. In the past few issues, they’ve been outsmarted and outmaneuvered to a point where they would come off as inept of this were a typical buddy cop movie. But that’s not the underlying theme here. They’re dealing with an enemy that is very resourceful, very powerful, and very dedicated to hurting them in every possible way. It’s like giving a jaded ex-spouse a blank check and unlimited access to automatic weapons. That’s what makes the Sisterhood more interesting than the X-men at this point. They are master villains with an agenda that even competent heroes can’t keep up with.

While the X-men keep falling behind, the Sisterhood take full advantage of it by adding to their ranks. This involves spinning that revolving door of death a little faster. The first one to benefit is Selene Gallio, the Black Queen. She is one of those characters who was never killed off in some dramatic battle. Her fate was left ambiguous after Necrosha, which was the last event she appeared in. This ambiguity is only partially addressed when Emora and Lady Deathstrike bring her back to life. Necrosha is mentioned, offering some insight into her status. But not much is explained about how she ended up some disembodied spirit in a special containment room. It renders the impact of her return somewhat muted. However, it does succeed in adding to the ranks of the Sisterhood.

That muted impact goes back to death not carrying the same weight for some characters. Given Selene’s background with magic and death, her return doesn’t conjure the same emotions as the return of Captain America or Superman. And it’s not supposed to either. Even as a villain, Selene is not Captain America. She’s not even on the same level as Squirrel Girl. She’s a character who uses her power and dark persona to contribute to a story. She’s essentially the hotness that a habanero pepper leaves in that the hotness tends to be more noteworthy than the pepper itself.

The same can be said for the other female villain that the Sisterhood plans to bring back, Madelyne Pryor. But unlike Selene, Madelyne has more emotional weight following her. As the former wife of Cyclops and a clone of Jean Grey, she has been part of some very powerful moments in the history of X-men. She actually was the one that established the first Sisterhood of Mutants back during Matt Fraction’s run on Uncanny X-men. Her status is much less ambiguous than Selene’s and the X-men figure this out. They figure out what the Sisterhood is doing, but they’re still too far behind to stop them.

It has all the makings of a thrilling chase. It’s Jack Baur or Ethan Hunt trying to hunt down a team of highly skilled terrorists before they can strike. But this thrill is also heavily muted. They never even get around to bringing Madelyne Pryor back. It’s only set up for the next issue. The story loses focus when it diverts attention to another team of young X-men taking on an old army of Sentinels that Arkea resurrected. It also loses focus when the body that Lady Deathstrike has inhabited decides to turn against the Sisterhood. These developments don’t add much to the story. They’re more like distractions akin to the annoying pop-up ads that come up before a streaming video. So instead of taking advantage of this potential, the issue sacrifices it in favor of adding new plots. That’s like adding an extra racing stripe to a drag racer instead of a more powerful engine. It keeps the story from going as far as it could have.

Despite this unrealized potential, the death and resurrection theme remains a consistent and compelling feature of X-men #11. More than anything, it establishes the Sisterhood as a powerful threat that will test the all-female X-men in ways nothing else has to this point. It can do without the ongoing side-plots with Jubilee, John Sublime, and the other students at the Jean Grey Institute. These are characters that have no history of dying and coming back to life yet. Selene and Madelyne Pryor do have that history. This along with their choice of attire makes them a much more compelling story and one where too much material was wasted for no good reason.






A Certain Ratio Return with a Message of Hope on 'ACR Loco'

Inspired by 2019's career-spanning box set, legendary Manchester post-punkers A Certain Ratio return with their first new album in 12 years, ACR Loco.


Oscar Hijuelos' 'Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love' Dances On

Oscar Hijuelos' dizzyingly ambitious foot-tapping family epic, Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love, opened the door for Latinx writers to tell their stories in all their richness.


PM Picks Playlist 2: Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES, SOUNDQ

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES' stunning dream folk, Polish producer SOUNDQ, the indie pop of Pylon Heights, a timely message from Exit Kid, and Natalie McCool's latest alt-pop banger.


'Lost Girls and Love Hotels' and Finding Comfort in Sadness

William Olsson's Lost Girls and Love Hotels finds optimism in its message that life tears us apart and puts us back together again differently.


Bright Eyes' 'Down in the Weeds' Is a Return to Form and a Statement of Hope

Bright Eyes may not technically be emo, but they are transcendently expressive, beatifically melancholic. Down in the Weeds is just the statement of grounding that we need as a respite from the churning chaos around us.


Audrey Hepburn + Rome = Grace, Class, and Beauty

William Wyler's Roman Holiday crosses the postcard genre with a hardy trope: Old World royalty seeks escape from stuffy, ritual-bound, lives for a fling with the modern world, especially with Americans.


Colombia's Simón Mejía Plugs Into the Natural World on 'Mirla'

Bomba Estéreo founder Simón Mejía electrifies nature for a different kind of jungle music on his debut solo album, Mirla.


The Flaming Lips Reimagine Tom Petty's Life in Oklahoma on 'American Head'

The Flaming Lips' American Head is a trip, a journey to the past that one doesn't want to return to but never wants to forget.


Tim Bowness of No-Man Discusses Thematic Ambition Amongst Social Division

With the release of his seventh solo album, Late Night Laments, Tim Bowness explores global tensions and considers how musicians can best foster mutual understanding in times of social unrest.


Angel Olsen Creates a 'Whole New Mess'

No one would call Angel Olsen's Whole New Mess a pretty album. It's much too stark. But there's something riveting about the way Olsen coos to herself that's soft and comforting.


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


Masma Dream World Go Global and Trippy on "Sundown Forest" (premiere)

Dancer, healer, musician Devi Mambouka shares the trippy "Sundown Forest", which takes listeners deep into the subconscious and onto a healing path.


Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" Is an Ode for Unity in Troubling Times (premiere)

Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" is a gentle, prayerful tune that depicts the heart of their upcoming album, Crucible.


'What a Fantastic Death Abyss': David Bowie's 'Outside' at 25

David Bowie's Outside signaled the end of him as a slick pop star and his reintroduction as a ragged-edged arty agitator.


Dream Folk's Wolf & Moon Awaken the Senses with "Eyes Closed" (premiere)

Berlin's Wolf & Moon are an indie folk duo with a dream pop streak. "Eyes Closed" highlights this aspect as the act create a deep sense of atmosphere and mood with the most minimal of tools.


Ranking the Seasons of 'The Wire'

Years after its conclusion, The Wire continues to top best-of-TV lists. With each season's unique story arc, each viewer is likely to have favorites.


Paul Reni's Silent Film 'The Man Who Laughs' Is Serious Cinema

There's so much tragedy present, so many skullduggeries afoot, and so many cruel and vindictive characters in attendance that a sad and heartbreaking ending seems to be an obvious given in Paul Reni's silent film, The Man Who Laughs.


The Grahams Tell Their Daughter "Don't Give Your Heart Away" (premiere)

The Grahams' sweet-sounding "Don't Give Your Heart Away" is rooted in struggle, inspired by the couples' complicated journey leading up to their daughter's birth.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.