I hate the idea of fandom.

Fans, genre fans in particular, are notoriously difficult and hard to please. It's not even a good kind of hard to please, either- rather than looking for quality, they look for fan service. They want stories that seem familiar, they like narratives that make them feel like they're coming home. As a result, comics are notoriously stagnant- they rarely move forward and when they do the move generally doesn't last very long, a victim of that all-important but ever elusive king of comics: sales.

I'm not particularly fond of being called a fan, either; I'm a comics reader, consumer and scholar, for sure, but I don't like the possibility that I might be blinded by my fandom, the possibility that I might reject good stories simply because they take characters in a new direction, one that makes me uncomfortable. In fact, what I want is just the opposite- I want writers to take me places that are new, that are uncomfortable, places where I haven't been before: that's part of the reason I read comics, because I would like to imagine that the world is better than advertised.

With all that said, I have a confession to make: when I figured out Nightcrawler was going to die in Second Coming, I stopped buying the crossover. In fact, I even stopped buying Uncanny X-Men, which is a comic I've bought consistently since I began reading comics in middle school. That moment, when I started buying comics, came in the middle of what I now think of as a pretty awful period in Uncanny's history, when the book was being written by former artist and minor league baseball player Chuck Austen. Say what you will about his writing now (and, believe me, I've said plenty of those things) there was a period of time when I thought Austen could do no wrong- I loved those stories, and I loved the characters they were about. I still love those characters- I read the book through worse writers than Austen, so something must have made me stick around- and for better or for worse that made me a fan. It was only the death of my favorite character (well, that and the prospect of spending four times as much on X-Men comics per month as I was used to) that drove me away.

All accounts seem to indicate that, for a sprawling mini-epic crossover event, Second Coming was pretty good- and I didn't want to hear it. I was done with the X-Men- DONE... until I saw this book hanging out in my LCS today during my lunch break.

I had room in my budget, and I just couldn't resist, so I picked it up- and I'm glad I did, because it was actually pretty good, despite the presence of three different pencillers. Luckily, the fact that each artist was telling a distinct story maximized readability and it helped that I like Steven Sander's slightly off-model interpretation of Beast (can we get this guy on a real X book please? One of the great tragedies of S.W.O.R.D.'s cancellation was that I don't get to see his work on a monthly basis anymore). The Sanders drawn Beast tale is, I think, the best of the bunch- unlike the other two stories (one about Cyclops, the other about Hope), it doesn't serve mostly to move the X-Men forward out of Second Coming and into The Heroic Age, and Matt Fraction is at his lovable best there. There's a pretty poignant, if slightly opaque, reference to Nightcrawler's death, a reference that easily could have come off all wrong, that Fraction writes to perfection.

The other two stories are pretty good at their best moments and serviceable at their worst: Whilce Portacio's art on the Cyclops story is surprisingly fluid and it's hard for me to resist loving anything with Steve Rogers in it and even the Hope story, the weakest by a pretty wide margin, has its moments, despite being generally flat.

I hate to say it, but Uncanny X-Men: The Heroic Age made me feel like I was coming home again. I may as well just admit it- I'm an X-Fan. And there's nothing wrong with that.

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