This is a post-mortem of the support I used to have for Cullen Bunn.
When Bunn started writing Polaris, I was glad.
At the time, Lorna was being kept from interacting with her father. She was on a book that Marvel was using to isolate her from the rest of the Marvel universe, because the writer of that book was against “his” characters used elsewhere like that. The possible romance with Gambit was too often “Havok lite,” where Lorna was treated like his lesser, like a subordinate in a team he was the actual leader of instead of the leader of her own team.
In the beginning, I felt Bunn was doing great work with Magneto, and I wanted the same for Lorna.
Problem is. Bunn is worse for her.
He doesn’t see Polaris as a character to be given the same care and respect that he gave Magneto. He sees her as a tool he can exploit to make Magneto and Havok look better.
At the end of the Magneto solo, Bunn had Lorna act stupidly mad toward her father for putting lives at risk out of necessity. He then also had Lorna stupidly act like she was blindsided by Magneto betraying her trust, in taking power from her without permission.
These are both things that make absolutely no sense for her given her history. But okay, fine, I was able to overlook it because Bunn hadn’t written Lorna before. It takes time to understand a character, and feedback is a necessary part of getting things right. Be fair.
Deadpool and the Mercs for Money
In Deadpool and the Mercs for Money, Bunn had an alternate future version of Polaris leading the last mutants. At the time, I was very happy about this. However, there’s an element to it that I didn’t see as a problem until we had more cases of Bunn’s writing to go on.
Alternate future Lorna adopting the helmet and collar piece of Magneto’s usual costume.
See, in the past, Lorna donning Magneto’s helmet said something about Lorna. When she put it on when Havok left her at the altar, it was to demonstrate that she’s had enough of everything in life going to shit for her and she was ready to be as ruthless and vicious as her father is known to be. When she put it on in the Wolverine and the X-Men cartoon, it represented that version’s shattered innocence and everything she lost.
On Deadpool and the Mercs for Money, it stood for… Magneto’s greatness. She wasn’t wearing it for some grand character development of her own, or to showcase emotional turmoil. Bunn had her wearing those elements to pretty much say “Lorna is only able to be a leader and show the strength she has because Magneto is her father.” To bind anything she could do as a character exclusively to Magneto’s shadow.
Oh boy. Here we go.
X-Men Blue #8 was being showcased as Lorna’s big return, after a two year absence. But in its lead-up, Bunn said all of nothing about her. Which, alone, means nothing. But then he was very, very happy to tease that he was going to be bringing Havok back.
In other words, he was excited about getting to write Havok, but he wasn’t excited about writing Lorna. If he was, he would’ve been talking about her just as much if not more.
Then the issues came out.
He spends much of X-Men Blue #8 – Lorna’s big return issue – building up what a threat Havok is and letting him interact with various characters. Then, when Lorna finally shows up on the final page, she’s introduced as… “daughter of Magneto.”
Someone claimed editorial had control over this box. So okay, fine, let’s say they did. Doesn’t change that the sole dialogue she gets for her “big cliffhanger” is all about Havok.
Also doesn’t change this addition in Blue #9.
“Daddy’s Little Mistress of Magnetism.”
This is dialogue Bunn chose to include. Not editorial. Here, Bunn took a title that should have been used to introduce her in Blue #8 and deliberately twisted it into being something she only gets to call herself because Magneto is her dad.
He took a title that was her own and tried to make it into something Magneto gets credit for.
The rest of Blue #8 involves lots of talk about Lorna’s past relationship with Havok.
In subsequent issues of X-Men Blue, we got Lorna further treated like shit to bolster Magneto.
In one issue, Bunn writes her acting shocked that enemies would launch a surprise attack on their headquarters, all so Magneto can “correct” her.
This is something Lorna sure as shit doesn’t need to be told. Why? Because SHE SURVIVED THIS EXACT FUCKING THING. THE GENOSHAN MASSACRE. WHERE MILLIONS OF PEOPLE DIED ALL AROUND HER, BEGGING HER TO SAVE THEM.
This is like Magneto acting shocked about a mutant Holocaust happening and having Captain America correct him for being stupid enough not to expect it. It’s not only missing a crucial part of that character’s history, it’s an insulting miss.
Later, during the whole Mojo crossover with X-Men Gold, he had Mojo put Lorna in her old Malice outfit… and this is her reaction.
I wouldn’t expect Lorna finding herself in that costume to react like a shrieking banshee absolutely trembling in tears or anything. That would be stupid, and I had some jackasses try to frame me complaining about this in that manner.
What I WOULD expect is for Lorna to express disgust and outrage.
Malice possessed her. Imagine that. All it takes is five seconds of giving a damn about Lorna’s POV to understand. She had no control over her own body. Malice used her body to hurt the people she cared about, along with innocent people, and she suffered in the ride emotionally, reputation-wise, and physically as even the X-Men beat her down in that state and didn’t seem to care about the horror she was going through while possessed.
But what does Bunn do with it? He has Lorna act like it’s just some random strange costume. Not a costume loaded with deep meaning, symbolism and history.
Bunn used this costume from a terrible period of her life and treated it like flavor text to her advancing Magneto’s story about the Mutant Massacre. Bunn couldn’t even spare a few lines for Lorna in his quest to use her as Magneto’s lackey.
And then we get to this past Wednesday. X-Men Blue #23.
Bunn wrote Lorna telling these people to call her by who she is, not just by Magneto’s daughter, which was a good thing. I was very glad to see that. But then he did this.
“Don’t reduce me to being just Magneto’s daughter,” and the stadium cheers, until Bunn has her swiftly add “cause then you’re forgetting I’m also Havok’s ex! The person writing me thinks I only exist for the benefit of TWO men, not just one!”
And not only that, Bunn adds in the “we’ve been apart for a long time” line, which is not just bullshit, it’s bullshit that I know he knows better than to try to claim. They haven’t been apart for hardly any time at all, especially when you factor in Havok forced into every goddamn thing Lorna does, and he knows better.
I can’t make a “he just needs to understand the situation more” excuse for him this time. To make that excuse would be to pretend he’s so clueless about how comics work that he shouldn’t be writing them at all. And I know he knows comics. He has decades of knowledge about them, as a reader and as a writer. He knows better, so the only conclusion is that he’s doing this on purpose.
Where Things Stand
At this point, I think I’ve waited plenty long to see how things go with him.
I’ve seen Psylocke fans complain about how he treated Psylocke poorly to build up Magneto in Uncanny X-Men.
I’ve seen Emma Frost fans complain about how he’s trying to throw away her character development to reduce her to a villain type.
Combine that with what he’s been doing to Lorna, I have no choice but to agree with so many other readers out there on the conclusion they’ve come to: Cullen Bunn doesn’t know how to write women.
He’s completely incapable of writing them. Whether he’s incapable cause he’s not a good enough writer to handle it, or cause he IS a good enough writer but he just doesn’t give enough of a shit to do better (and that’s the nice interpretation of his work), I don’t know.
In Polaris, Bunn has this amazing badass woman who’s been through so much.
She unintentionally killed her parents. She lived a memory-altered lie of a human life as a teen, hiding her green hair cause it drew too much attention. She awoke to her powers and mutant heritage to being called a mutant queen. She suffered through possession and repeated mind control. She suffered through millions of people dying in the Genoshan genocide all around her, all begging her to save them, and her failing every single one of them. She suffered through an identity crisis when she lost her powers, and being forced into space, and tortured, and so, so, so much else.
Lorna Dane is an amazing as fuck character, and all Bunn sees in her is Magneto’s daughter or Havok’s ex-girlfriend.
I’m not buying another issue of Blue unless someone tells me Bunn did something so absolutely amazing with Lorna that it blows me the fuck away. If the next issue (meaning X-Men Blue #24) is as bad as Blue #23 or worse, I’m dropping and avoiding everything associated with Disney that I can until either Bunn does some damn amazing work with Lorna or Marvel takes Lorna away from him and gives her to someone who actually cares about her and what she has to offer.
Not as Magneto’s spawn. Not as Havok’s fuckbuddy. As Polaris, Lorna Dane, a character in her own right with a heart and mind and history and motivations and interests unique to her. That do NOT serve to make her look like shit so the men in her life look like gods.
This whole time, Bunn could’ve had Lorna interacting with Iceman and Jean to rekindle that lost shared history. He could’ve had Lorna fight Emma Frost in X-Men Blue #8 and #9 instead of Havok. He could’ve had Lorna actually say something about being put in the Malice costume. There is so much he could’ve done, and he wasted it all because he only cares about the men.
Take Lorna (and Emma Frost, and any other established female characters for that matter) away from Bunn. Leave him to create his own characters like Briar Raleigh, who really can exist exclusively to put his men on a pedestal without issue.
Bunn has no business writing Lorna, or any women really. Give Lorna to someone that cares.