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Mutating Heroes

So Robin Laws once divided stories into three genres. Dramatic (people talk to each other about feelings—these can be awesome), iconic (tune in next week, same bat-time, same bat-channel), and transformative (go to Dagobah and be forever changed).

Batman is an iconic hero. He needs to be restored to status quo constantly.

What makes X-Men my favorite comic is that it’s a framework for telling transformative hero stories. Storm went from a pickpocket in Cairo to being the leader of The Brotherhood of Mutants on the planet Arakko and her journey is still not over. Characters die and are gone from the comics for years and years. Logan was dead for four years. One of Marvel’s most popular characters and he didn’t show up for four whole years. Things change and things matter and the story doesn’t reset. Even when people come back it’s in a new context.

And now, in the context of the House of X, even resurrection itself is recontextualized and deconstructured. A nation of mutants who cannot die. X-Men is a non–self-similar Penrose tiling of a story that just keeps sprawling in all directions, whereas Batman is a spiral that keeps circling around the same iconic core.