Polaris and Leadership

It’s been a while since I wrote a blog post. I’ve had myriad things I’ve talked about in various places, but this is really the first thing that feels blog post worthy. It includes my views on the current X-Factor in relation to this topic.

Lorna and leadership positions is a complicated subject. Over the course of her existence, she’s been involved in teams and gained some measure of leadership experience within them. She’s also had moments where she was considered a leader figure – someone that isn’t leading a team, but had people who considered her an icon to follow.

I think it would be helpful to simplify this with a chronological breakdown of where she’s been in the comics… and where she is now.

  • Viewed as Queen of Mutants taking over for her perceived father Magneto (X-Men #49-50, 1968)
    • rejected at time both because “Magneto evil” and “Magneto not father”
  • Secondary/stand-in team leader (X-Factor, 90s)
  • Stand-in for Magneto taking his form via image inducer (Genosha, late 90s/early 00s)
  • Viewed as Queen of Mutants again after Genoshan genocide (Uncanny X-Men #442-443, 2004)
    • rejected at time while dealing with mental issues, but definite leader philosophies and will shown
  • “Second in command” (in theory) on Starjammers (late 2000s, early 2010s)
  • Fill-in leader for X-Factor (2012/2013)
  • FINALLY TEAM LEADER (All-New X-Factor, 2014)
  • Fill-in team leader again (X-Men Blue, 2017)

That’s the overall picture. Now let’s talk about it.

For many hardcore Marvel/X-Men fans, and some casual fans, the default perspective of Lorna in terms of leadership is connected to 90s X-Factor. She’s sometimes referred to as “co-leader” of that team, but it’s been pretty blatant that she hasn’t truly been considered by Marvel to be a leader or equal partner coming out of 90s X-Factor like that term should convey. When she went on to Starjammers, it was from Havok recruiting her to the team with a heavy emphasis on him leading it. He’s also repeatedly received leadership positions (Uncanny Avengers, Astonishing X-Men, etc) in the comics since the 90s while Lorna has not.

Equal partners would be getting equal opportunities. The lack of them for Lorna means that at least people at Marvel never truly considered her a co-leader of X-Factor. Only his subordinate. Second in command.

That gets me into the progression of Lorna in terms of leadership. Before the 2010s, she has a history of being used to fill in where most convenient for other characters’ needs. The implication is that Lorna does not exist to lead. She exists to support the leader, and keep the team together for the leader’s sake in their absence. She exists to be used for the benefit of whichever character is deemed by Marvel to be the one who shall lead. Her actions and remarks all feed into this idea. She may get to have moments where she gets to lead, but the underlying suggestion is that she’s only keeping the chair warm for the “true” leader’s return.

This FINALLY changed with All-New X-Factor. She FINALLY got to lead a team of her own for once. It took 46 years to happen, but happen it did.

… And her leadership was undermined. Both in the text at first, and by Marvel as a whole the entire time.

In the text, ANXF #4-6 presented Lorna as a woman who is somehow incapable of keeping herself together and making good calls. This flew in the face of her past experience as a stand-in which should have been understood as providing a foundation to build on. Those issues in essence treated Gambit like the “real” team leader, and Lorna as leader in name only. We saw it with things like Gambit recruiting Danger to the team while Lorna sulked to the side like she had no say in if she joins, and Gambit actually physically pulling Lorna’s arm to stop her plan of action as leader in #6, and Lorna just letting him do both without having words about how it undermined her as a leader. Later issues thankfully treated Lorna MUCH better in this regard, which is why you see me recommend ANXF #7-20 regularly. But the problems of those issues remains.

Outside of the text, Marvel gave ANXF no promotion. Pietro wasn’t on ANXF covers while Days of Future Past was in theaters. ANXF didn’t actually tie into Axis at all (which is pretty damning considering Axis used the dead of the Genoshan genocide, something Marvel’s been pretending never happened to Lorna for the past 15 years). All-New X-Factor #14, the issue of Lorna and Wanda spending time together as sisters, was buried as the second issue of a double shipping month (meaning people are less likely to know it released and buy it) with no cover for it out until the Friday before release (so nobody could see a visual and preorder the comic to show interest to comic shops, thereby limiting buzz and sales).

In short, Lorna’s only turn as the actual, intended leader of a team was undermined at its start in the script, and sabotaged on the promotion level.

And now we get to post-ANXF.

Lorna was in limbo from 2015-2017. When she finally held another leadership style position, on X-Men Blue, it was back to the “fill-in leader” dynamic. Lorna not leading a team cause she’s supposed to lead it. Only leading cause who’s supposed to be there isn’t right now.

This would be fine as a temporary, holding pattern sort of thing before Lorna moving forward to other things. Or if bigger things were happening for her. But then we get to the current X-Factor…. where Lorna is a team member.

ONLY a team member. She’s not leading this team. She’s not doing other, more important things outside of X-Factor that would make this a side gig. X-Factor is literally the only thing she’s doing.

So again, let’s consider this trajectory.

It took Lorna 46 years to finally lead a team of her own, on X-Factor. She ROSE to that position after decades of being kept behind, under the table, not properly explored, where even her origin story took over 40 years to be told.

Now it’s 6 years after Lorna led All-New X-Factor. And her progression in those 6 years has been from leading a team… to only filling in when the leader is out… to only being a team member on someone else’s team.

To put it simply: she’s been regressed.

The current X-Factor tried to smooth this over in the first issue, and with interview comments beforehand.

Interviews tried to call Lorna the “true north star” of the team, like she’s a guiding light. The problem is, a guiding light is not a leadership position. It’s a supporting character position. It’s the same position she had when she was on 90s X-Factor: providing support for Havok to be the “best leader he can be.” It’s the same position she had when she got sent out into space with Havok.

Guiding light supporting characters do not exist to have their own dreams or their own potential realized. They exist to help the leader realize theirs. They may have excellent moments within that narrative. Merlin of Arthurian legend does. But in the end, the guiding light character is not meant to have great things for themselves. They’re meant to refine a diamond in the rough so that diamond can shine brighter, with the implication that at full potential they’re much better than the guiding light could ever possibly be.

In so doing, the guiding light character is only to be remembered for how they were of benefit to the leader they supported. Not for what they personally accomplished or what thoughts, feelings, goals, aspirations they had of their own. If the guiding light character performs a miraculous feat, they may get credit for that feat, but the credit isn’t for their own development or own desires in life. It’s for boosting the leader’s goals.

This sends a message: this character isn’t “good enough” or “interesting enough” to ever be a leader for themselves. They’re “more appropriate” helping everyone else’s profiles rise.

Gambit did not have this problem on All-New X-Factor. When he was on ANXF, Marvel had recently given him a 17 issue solo book (2012-2013), and he was actively the leader of the Thieves’ Guild.

He had done something big just a year before, and status-wise he was actively doing something bigger than ANXF simultaneously.

Marvel is not doing that for Lorna.

The only, ONLY things she’s done so far in the past year are have Magneto talk at her about resurrection in House of X for a few pages, have Cyclops talk at her about his son on X-Men #1, some actual good pages in Deadpool #6 (outside of X-Men), and be a team member on X-Factor.

By comparison, Rachel has more usage and exposure. She was on the X-Men book too. Recently, she was present for Kate Pryde’s funeral on Marauders. She’s had a LOT of presence in relation to X of Swords as one of the swordbearers. And she’s undoubtedly showed up in other places I haven’t seen.

This is not to say “Rachel shouldn’t get those things.” That would be absurd and wrong. This is to put into context how Marvel is treating Lorna.

Marvel may try to claim she’s in a respected position on X-Factor. But if it’s truly respected, why is she not getting at least as much usage beyond X-Factor as Rachel? Why is X-Factor really the only thing she’s doing?

To go from leading X-Factor back down to merely being a team member on it and doing or getting nothing else is, to me, insulting. It’s like giving someone a demotion and thinking that a lot of nice sounding talk about them in a PR release somehow makes up for the fact they’ve been demoted.

My ultimate opinion is this: Lorna should not be on X-Factor.

She’s not leading the team. She’s not doing more important things outside of it. For all intents and purposes, it’s a hole in the ground they stuck her in to avoid her having any presence elsewhere, avoid complaints that they’re not using her, benefit the book by way of her association with it, and benefit the other characters by how interest in her can be exploited to draw eyes to the other characters.

If she had other things going on elsewhere that are more important, this would be fine. She doesn’t. So it’s not. All it does is drag down impressions of her away from the progress she was making and back toward a backwards, regressive idea of her based in the 90s where she’s only good for supporting and building up other characters (mostly men).

By sparing her from X-Factor, even if she’s in nothing else for many years, she at least retains that last position of her as leading ANXF whenever a much better Marvel comes along that has more respect for her.

And I don’t want her taking over leadership from Northstar. Leah obviously loves the character and wants him to lead it. She should get to do what she wants. Fans of Northstar should get to continue to see him leading it. But he doesn’t need Lorna dragged down to get him there. He can do all of that just fine without her anywhere near the book.

Lastly, this has nothing to do with Leah’s writing. I’ve made no judgments about her writing itself here – if she’s a good writer, if she’s a bad writer, any of that. She might write good scenes for Lorna within the context of the scenario she has here. That’s irrelevant.

What I’m judging is Lorna’s lack of respect out of Marvel, her being artificially restricted to this book with the title of what she was on 30 years ago, demoted from a leader to a team member. The bias and disrespect is palpable.

A few pages of something good (which, so far, none of it covers even one millisecond of her experience with the Genoshan genocide) for a fleeting moment do not in any way offset the net bad of completely destroying perception of her as a leader or leader figure for decades to come.

Instant gratification is trash if it’s going to kill you.

Maybe I sound overly harsh to some people. Maybe I seem too judgmental. But I’ve been a fan of the character for 11 years now. I’ve witnessed the way Marvel thinks and acts, and how decades worth of poor treatment and negative attitudes about her have undermined everything she is and could be. I’ve read pages of her treated poorly so other characters can look good at her expense. I’ve seen comments from editors where they insist she has no fan interest cause they have some bullshit idea in their heads and don’t want to put any real thought into it. I’ve seen those same comments serve as indicators when they excluded Lorna from comics where she belonged, and forced awful things from the past on her out of their nostalgia.

I don’t want a couple pages of puff to make the bad look better. I want REAL change in a positive direction for Lorna. I’m not going to be satisfied with less than that.

If you’re just tuning in, just stepping into the show, maybe X-Factor looks fine to you. Maybe it seems respectable and meaningful by the way Leah writes her on it. But nice writing means nothing when it’s bundled in a deadly package. A “present” of your favorite book is hardly a present if the gift wrapping is laced with poison and will kill you slowly as you read it.

That is my post. And my rant. Thank you for coming to my TED talk.

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