For lack of a better post title, I’m using this.
I’m going to start with an unusual prediction. In X-Men Blue #12, multiple characters, including Polaris, are trapped in these magma vents with a threat that trying to get out will roast them.
Polaris has a Masters degree in Geophysics. Despite being applicable to the situation, I predict her degree will not play any kind of role in getting out.
Okay, now to dig in on the main topic. I’m about to go into the difference in fiction between using relationships in a constructive manner vs a toxic manner. This is all going to revolve around Polaris because what keeps happening with her is the whole reason for this post.
Anyone that knows me, knows how absolutely dead set I am against Polaris and Havok interacting at all right now. They also know why. The pairing has decades worth of Lorna getting treated poorly for Havok’s benefit. Lorna is still suffering from that poor treatment, and Marvel keeps refusing to give her a fair shot to build her own character without his involvement.
Because most of my talk is about Havok, that could make people think there are no similar risks with other characters. That’s not true. The point of trying to keep Havok and Polaris apart for now is to let her break the cycle of poor treatment.
But, that cycle still exists, and it seems to have infected how some writers see her relationship with other male characters like Gambit and Magneto.
So, we’re gonna go into just what the heck I see as an issue. But we’ll start with what’s possible. The good stuff.
Potential: Gambit and Magneto
With Gambit, we have a character who’s charming, romantic but frequently underestimated. Much of Lorna’s history with Havok hasn’t been about the two showing affection for each other, but about Lorna showing devotion to Havok. One way. Gambit would be a nice change of pace, and he’d likely encourage a lot of taboo angles for Lorna to explore – compared to how Havok is straight-laced, self-suppressing, a “boy scout” to many even when evil.
Further, a lot of people seem to see Gambit as second to Rogue, in the same fashion as Polaris is often seen as second to Havok. Lorna and Gambit also have history as Horsemen of Apocalypse, and Lorna had a shapeshifter stripper that looked like Gambit at her bachelorette party. They have shared experience to build off of with each other, and a potential for storylines where they’re of equal importance.
SImilarly, Magneto offers a lot as Polaris’ father. He knew of her being his daughter at least since she was a toddler. He acted in ways he thought would protect her. When she grew up, he eventually recruited her for Genosha, helping her to improve her skills and learning a thing or two about leadership and diplomacy.
They have shared experience with genocides, too: Magneto with the Holocaust, Lorna with the genocide of Genosha. They both understand the effect their powers have on their minds and bodies. There’s a lot between them to work with. And, when the Maximoff twins are restored as Magneto’s kids, the whole family will have so much they can do together.
There’s a lot of potential here. So let’s look at how it’s been done all wrong lately.
All-New X-Factor started promising in issue #1. Some cracks in #2. But what’s relevant here, with Gambit, is #3 to #6. ANXF was a book meant to let Polaris lead a team of her own, and Gambit had experience as a leader. Gambit could have provided guidance, and they could have disagreed, but here’s the key: Lorna already had leadership experience thanks to Genosha (w/ Magneto) and replacing Havok and Madrox as temporary leader on X-Factor.
All-New X-Factor ignored Lorna’s leadership experience. It emphasized Gambit’s leadership experience. This started a downward spiral into problems where Gambit became a “replacement Havok.”
The rules of what would set Lorna off into “rage mode” were all over the place. A cat scratches her in ANXF #2 and she’s suddenly ready to kill it. Then ANXF #6 comes along, Gambit roughly yanks her arm and shouts at her not to do something just because he disagrees with it, and she just lets it slide?
ANXF #4 itself had everything deliberately set up for Gambit to be the “savior” – and for Polaris to look like an out of control idiot to build up Gambit and Danger. In theory, Lorna’s behavior could have been explained as emotions affected by remembering what happened to her on Genosha. But that allusion never happened. To get that message, you would’ve needed to know about Genosha and Lorna’s history. It wasn’t provided anywhere on panel.
Over the course of ANXF #3 to #6, Peter David slowly slipped from Lorna being the leader of her own team, to Gambit acting like the real leader of the team with Lorna only playing pretend. He even wrote Gambit as inviting Danger to the team, and Lorna acting frustrated by the offer but letting it happen. On her own team. As if, as leader, she has less authority to decide who’s on her team than one of the team members.
This is how what could have been a good relationship between Polaris and Gambit on All-New X-Factor was poisoned by poor writing. They could have developed an excellent dynamic. They could have been co-leaders, and storylines could have been developed that treated them as equals. Instead, the relationship as written on ANXF became toxic for Polaris. It made her look worse for Gambit’s benefit.
There’s still potential with them and I want to see it pursued. But it has to be done right. ANXF #2-6 wasn’t it.
This is a section I’d hoped I would never have to write. I spent much of the past 8 years pushing for Lorna and Magneto to retain their relationship and explore it because I saw so much opportunity for both of them. Unfortunately, that opportunity has not been seized upon to date.
We started with nice parallels. Magneto as symbolic of darker aspects of Lorna, and Lorna as in a sense providing a legacy for Magneto.
But there’s a difference between being part of a legacy that comes from Magneto, and existing exclusively to benefit Magneto.
In the final arc of the Magneto solo, we saw some great moments of Lorna and Magneto ‘Getting Shit Done’ ™ together. Those were good. We even got a reference to Lorna’s time as Malice!
But then we had her written as acting horrified by Magneto putting lives at risk while trying to save the world. As if she’s too dumb and naive to think on the level of her “wise and experienced” dad. We also had Lorna act shocked and betrayed by Magneto deciding to siphon all her power and take on trying to save the world by himself, as if she is, again, too dumb and naive to expect that from him after all their time on Genosha.
Then, on Deadpool and the Mercs for Money, we had her costume adapted with allusions to her father. This isn’t the first time a “future Lorna in a dead end future makes herself look like her father” scenario has happened, but there are key differences.
On Wolverine and the X-Men (cartoon), it was from a traumatized Lorna broken by the loss of her dad and all of Genosha. It was representative of shattered innocence, same as Lorna donning the helmet when Havok left her at the altar in the comics. On Deadpool and the Mercs for Money, it was Lorna adopting his symbols when taking up the mantle of leader – essentially suggesting that her authority to say or do anything for mutants comes exclusively from him, not herself. She’s just an extension of him.
X-Men Blue. This is the one I’ve been ranting about most. I’ll skip the Havok-specific parts and focus on the Magneto ones.
For her “big reveal” at the end of X-Men Blue #8, what Polaris got to describe was dialogue about Havok and her name as only this for description: “Daughter of Magneto.” Other characters got things like descriptions of their powers, or special titles. Lorna got “she’s an extension of her dad.”
With no insight provided into Lorna herself, her depicted reasons for being on New Tian and fighting Havok for #9 became “because daddy wanted her there.” #9 also added insult by twisting a title she’s well-known for, Mistress of Magnetism, and adding ‘daddy’s little’ in front of it. “Daddy’s Little Mistress of Magnetism.”
Bunn twisted it from a title she earned for herself, into a title bestowed on her solely because Magneto is her dad.
Finally, we get to X-Men Blue #10. Polaris and Magneto spend time together. Their interaction looked okay. Lorna said some nice things about not just going along with whatever her father says… but then their base was attacked. And in that moment, Bunn wrote Polaris as – again – stupid and naive, shocked by a surprise attack happening on the base, so that Magneto could “correct” her.
Polaris was nearly killed by a surprise attack on Genosha. Millions of people died all around her in a surprise attack she couldn’t stop. She had intense trauma from the ordeal that drove her “crazy.”
Simply put: there’s no way Lorna would be shocked by a surprise attack like that.
That’s how the relationship between Polaris and Magneto in the comics is on the verge of becoming horribly toxic for Lorna. Instead of their relationship used to help develop Lorna and establish who she is, it’s being used to rip development away from her and give it all to her father.
It’s the same problem Lorna always had with Havok. Anything she managed to accomplish, it ended up being just a sign of how great and wonderful Havok is. So far, Bunn’s writing of her relationship with Magneto is the exact same thing. It just doesn’t have Lorna crying “Daddyyyyyyyyyyy!” every time she gets a paper cut. Yet, anyway.
Toxic in Reverse: Magneto, Quicksilver
I want to touch on Secret Wars: House of M for a moment. Lorna’s depiction in that was excellent. Nothing wrong with it at all that I can imagine. The problem comes in with how Magneto and Quicksilver were treated poorly for Lorna’s benefit.
At one point, Magneto was written as stupidly blinded by rage and unwilling to work with others or listen to reason. He took unnecessary risks – which made absolutely no sense for a man who had somehow become such a high and mighty ruler. In that scene, Lorna was written as a sensible daughter, a calming influence, pulling him into the right direction. This made Lorna look great, but it didn’t fit Magneto at all.
Similarly, SW:HoM wrote Quicksilver as a conniving, cowardly brat who schemed with Namor to steal the throne. He trembled at the idea of having to fight Polaris, then acted high and mighty when a happenstance blow from elsewhere took her down. Did this make Lorna look good? Yes. Did Pietro need to be written this way? Absolutely not. He could’ve been playing Namor, for example, and he could’ve stood up to Lorna unafraid.
A lot of people mistakenly think that to make one character look good, you have to make another character look like shit. Or, they think it’s acceptable to ruin one character to build another.
This is ignorance, and it’s ultimately bad for all characters involved.
There is so, so much potential between Polaris and other characters. Friends. Enemies. Family. Lovers. Two characters can disagree on a topic and have their own points of view, based on their own life experiences.
Let’s take a hypothetical future scenario. Magneto and Polaris disagree on how to train the teen O5. Magneto decides to try to stay more in line with Professor Xavier’s teachings, because Prof X isn’t around and it’s what Charles would’ve wanted. He emphasizes diplomacy and non-violent solutions if possible, with only a little bit more of hard edges.
The wrong way to write Lorna here would be “Where’d my old man go, what happened to the ideals you taught me to believe?” This would be Lorna defined as a character whose identity depends solely on “what you made of me.” No development outside him. Just Lorna robotically serving as one aspect of Magneto’s character.
Another wrong way to write Lorna here would be having Lorna say Magneto is still too violent, and citing nothing of her own history except what men told her. This would be Lorna serving as an aggressor to Magneto’s plans just so he has a daughter adding difficulties. If there’s nothing in her own history to work with here, then it’s still defining her exclusively by her father.
The right way to go about it would be Lorna insisting on a direction based on her own history. One potential course would be Lorna insisting the teen O5 need to know the horrors possible to prevent/be prepared for something like the Genoshan genocide. She might insist on harsher training.
I am not saying this is how such a scenario “should” go. I’m not even saying I’d necessarily think it was the right way to go if it was written and made canon. I’m thinking off the top of my head in giving an example. The point of my example is that in it, Lorna is defined by herself. She’s defined by something she lived through that shaped her worldview and values – not by Magneto’s worldview and values. Her actions are hers.
Character relationships are only good for Lorna if she gets to be her own character in the process. They only tear her down if she’s just serving as a proxy or extension of another character.
And the same goes in reverse. You’re not challenging who your favorite character is by making the other character defined by them. There are no genuine outside viewpoints to contend with. It’s like arguing with yourself for the rest of your life. You’ll eventually reach a dead end and miss out on things you never would have thought of by yourself.