“Best Kept Secrets” + X-Factor

I’m combining two topics into this post.

I recently had reason to think of “best kept secrets.” Generally, we think of that as a good, endearing trait. Like being a best kept secret makes that thing more valuable, has the extra street cred of being an in-group privilege.

You see that cozy little cafe down the street, the one you’d miss if you weren’t looking for it? They make the best sandwiches you would ever eat. But not many people know about it. It’s a special privilege for those who know about it.

But I heard someone that pointed out: best kept secrets die quietly.

That same little cafe? When times get tough, maybe their business struggles to survive. Maybe it doesn’t survive. And then 50 years after its closure, because it was so small and secret, nobody remembers it even existed. Despite all the good work put in, it’s disappeared from public knowledge.

Polaris is a best kept secret.

She’s an amazing character, with amazing potential, whose background offers a lot of relatable content and depth. We’ve seen what’s possible with this. She was the breakout character on Gifted, even without being able to call upon history (e.g. Genosha) or relationships (e.g. Scarlet Witch) that exist in the comics. We’ve seen tons of excitement and fan content over the years from people who find out she exists.

But that’s the key. They need to know she exists. Which is something Marvel doesn’t want people to know.

I could cite a lot of things, but HoX/PoX/DoX is easiest because it’s recent. Marvel didn’t acknowledge Lorna’s history with Genosha or Krakoa. They didn’t include her on the X-women variant cover. They only used her as something to build up Magneto and Havok, and exposition provided by them. And now, she’s going to be put on X-Factor – not as a leader, but as a supporting character they’re trying to frame as sort of an overseer or advisor or something. And in talking about the book, the only aspect of her Leah mentioned was her relationship to Havok. Despite how, along with so many other things, she could’ve said something about wanting to delve more into Lorna and Rachel’s dynamic due to history in space.

Every single action taken by Marvel lately has been one geared toward forcing Lorna to stay bogged down as a “best kept secret” who serves the whims of whatever characters they like and respect more, or whatever story they want to sacrifice her on the altar of. In spite of how Gifted demonstrated she can be and deserves so much more.

This is not the way. And I reject it.

I’ve had some people, mostly eager fans of HoX/PoX/DoX or Marvel, suggest that Marvel’s treatment of Lorna is more than enough and I should be happy instead of critical. That I’m somehow in the wrong for demanding better for her, and sometimes citing how other characters aren’t getting their due either and should.

I’m not going to be quiet about Lorna. I’m not going to let Marvel kill her as a “best kept secret.” If they can’t do better by her, then they should just not use her and leave her to her fandom making everything of her that Marvel won’t. If Marvel wants to get in the way of that, they’ll see me call out when they do.

If this is supposed to be such a “great new era” for the X-Men franchise like Marvel and its corporate fans claim, then I expect them to show it. I expect them to treat Lorna and other characters a hell of a lot better. I expect them to interrogate long-standing “traditions” and if they hold any merit. I expect them to radically adapt and improve upon their creative philosophy, to better utilize what they have and touch fans who they’ve missed for so long due to bad policy.

Simply making mutants the dominant species is not a new era. Giving them fluff like their own language, a resurrection process, that sort of thing is just the appearance of change. Real change is deeper and harder.

That’s topic one. I also said I would be talking about X-Factor, topic two.

I’m against the upcoming X-Factor book. I’ve said why. It’s placing Lorna into a supporting character role for a team book led by Northstar, while Lorna isn’t doing something more important elsewhere. More importantly, said team book is named X-Factor, a book she’s been stuck on for 30 years and which she previously led. Lastly, there’s been zero sign of Leah considering who Lorna is for herself. Just her talking to a couple friends she knows who are fans, and taking away from one of them that apparently Havok is more important than anything else about everything Lorna’s been through in her life.

Some people (again, mainly HoX/PoX/DoX fans) think I’m being too hasty and judgmental about X-Factor and what Leah Williams might do with Lorna. They think we haven’t seen enough yet for me to be able to make that determination.

I understand their reasons for thinking this. And I need to pull in some of my own history for full, proper consideration. Back in 2011/2012, when Marvel announced that Polaris was going back to X-Factor written by Peter David, I was pissed. I saw it as a backstep. As Marvel trying to undo Lorna’s character development and revert her to a 90s view of her. I fully expected that Peter David, having written Lorna in the 90s and being older at this point, would feel strongly compelled to revert Lorna to how she was when he last wrote her and ignore anything writers did after him.

About this, I’ve said before: in retrospect, I was wrong and too quick to judge. Peter David ended up doing a lot of good things for Lorna, contrary to what I expected back then. I didn’t imagine him giving Lorna her origin story, having Lorna lead ANXF, or having Lorna build up her relationships with Wanda and Pietro. And when Peter David DID write her origin story, I expected the worst – and was pleasantly surprised.

But that was back then. Things have changed greatly.

I was new to X-Men comics in 2011/2012. I had been told things, and read things, but I hadn’t experienced things yet. I didn’t have much grasp on how Marvel thinks and functions.

More importantly, Marvel’s had more problems with how they treat Lorna in the past few years than they did in 2011/2012. Yes, in 2011/2012, she had been tossed into space and then space limbo. And yes, her getting sent into space was purely to be Havok’s girlfriend. But there were at least bright spots like her time with Crystal and Luna. And just 2-3 years prior, Lorna had a big role on Wolverine and the X-Men, and AU versions of her did great things in Jeff Parker’s Exiles and Fantastic Force. Mike Carey’s Five Miles South of the Universe re-established that Magneto is her father, that she’s a mutant, and her return to Earth could have technically re-opened doors; arguments could’ve been made that Lorna returning to X-Factor was just a baby step to regaining a platform.

Plus, many of the biggest problems with Marvel’s treatment of her seemed isolated to how a certain editor outside the X-books saw her. Not problems within the X-books themselves.

Jump to today. We spent late 2015 to early/mid 2017 with Lorna in limbo. When she DID return, it was primarily to promote Havok and Magneto, and everything she did on Blue was in service to that. What little good that came pre-HoX/PoX/DoX, was a tiny drop amid usage for the benefit of other characters. Like a panel or two of her doing something cool before she talks up Havok to launch him into a new team book he leads.

The trend of Marvel and the X-Men books at present is one where there’s no reason to trust they’ll change course with X-Factor. Especially with the position they put Lorna in, and how Leah’s talked about her so far.

If I turn out to be wrong, I’ll be amazed and own it. Like I own that I was wrong about Peter David, above. But it would not be an unjustified wrongness. It would be absolutely justified by my experiences and observations over the past few years.

Which means that I’m not going to give X-Factor or Leah “benefit of the doubt” when history tells me that would be a mistake.

They can say Lorna is “the north star of the team” as much as they want. I’ve seen others say such things only to do the exact opposite. I saw Motomu Toriyama claim he was going to write Aya Brea as a cool mature woman in her 30s in 3rd Birthday, only to write “Aya” as a woman scared of combat who endures and accepts repeated sexual harassment and has her clothes ripped off for a game mechanic argued as “for realism” (despite Aya being sort of like a ghost). Before revealing at the end that it was Eve in Aya’s body, and killing Aya. I could say I’m going to buy every single X-Men comic out there, doesn’t mean I’m actually going to do it.

You can’t expect me to put faith in this book when both Marvel and the writer are unable to acknowledge any of her own actual character history.

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