Tuesday, September 28, 2010


Okay, so let's talk about Shatterstar.

Originally created by Fabian Nicieza and Rob Liefeld when they were busy destroying everything I loved about The New Mutants (oh WAIT! Can you already tell how biased this is going to be? 'cause you should have picked up on that), Shatterstar is a genetically-bred warrior both from another dimension and from the future. I honestly think they wanted to create a character with such a complicated backstory future writers would probably be unable to handle him, but maybe I'm being too cynical. It was probably for the depth of storytelling that could take place. Let's face it, the early '90s X-Force stories were full of story elements. Not excessive violence or pointless mutant vs. mutant battling (why am I criticizing? I actually liked early X-Force stories). Anyway, 'star was a mainstay on the team, even as other characters such as Cable and Cannonball would leave for the X-Men team proper over the next several years and the rest of the X-Force team would eventually suck beyond the telling of it.

I did like those later X-Force road trip stories, though. It wasn't all bad.

Anyway, 'star was essentially a kill machine. He loved slicing stuff up (by "stuff" I mean people), and Cable would often sic him on people in early stories. Both he and Feral were kind of the ones Cable had to keep an eye on since they were too violent even for him. Despite being badass, Shatterstar was defeated in an early story by Deadpool. Deadpool used to be a lot scarier when he was first introduced, but I still think this story is kind of busted. Shatterstar would have won, kids. There's also a really good two-part story where Arcade kidnaps Shatterstar and pits him against a B-list X-Men character called Adam X, who got the unfortunate codename of X-Treme. While nothing great really happens in this story, it's super fun to me for some reason. I love it. We also find out that Shatterstar was part of an arranged marriage and had never met his intended wife. Random storyline for them to introduce into the "surviving Arcade's Murderworld" plot, but okay. Major Domo, an old Mojo villain, is the one who hires Arcade. Allusions were made that this is the dimension Shatterstar is from; this story confirms it I think. Early stories were very dodgy about revealing too much.

So Mojo. Mojo was an X-Men villain, seldom used now, because he was sort of a spoof of commercialism and the rise of television-obsessed culture. This alternate world is ruled by television, Mojo is sort of this fat slob with no spine who runs it ruthlessly, and he often comes into conflict with the X-Men by kidnapping them to increase his "ratings." The short-lived X-Men character Longshot is from there. While the early nineties saw Longshot fall into obscurity, many allusions were made that Shatterstar was somehow descended from him, at least genetically. There's an X-Men story where Longshot and Dazzler are expecting a baby, then Dazzler says in little type, "Shatterstar!? Are you serious?" Also, when Beast examines Shatterstar years later, he notes that not only are 'star's genetic markers similar to Longshot, they are identical. Which should be impossible. I know that there is kind of a busted story where X-Force goes into Mojoworld to help Longshot defeat the television tyrant, but I never read these stories. It's notable that Longshot first meets Shatterstar there.

So I like Shatterstar up to this point. He eventually went through many costume changes, as all the X-Force kids did. I wasn't a big fan of him in the purple sleeveless thing, which is the point we are up to now. At this point, hints were made about his relationship with fellow teammate Rictor. Shatterstar always talked kind of funny because he was from another dimension and didn't understand stuff. Rictor eventually leaves the team. I forget why, but Cable looking a lot like the guy who killed his dad never really made him want to be there. An issue of Cable includes him seeing Rictor off at the airport with Shatterstar and Domino in tow. Kind of shitty that the rest of the team didn't come, huh? Anyway, Shatterstar is like devestated that's he's leaving. It even shows him longingly watch the plane take off with his hand pressed against the glass. It breaks my heart everytime. I thought a lot of the initial "Shatterstar is gay" innuendo was kind of stupid. Now, I kind of loved it.

Then the Benjamin Russell stuff happened. An X-Force writer, I don't even know who, decided that Shatterstar's background was just too bizarre. So they tried to simplify it. As a general rule, whenever a writer tries to undo established things about a character who has existed for many years, it's going to go horribly horribly wrong. And go wrong it did. I can't even get into the busted elements they tried to introduce, but essentially Shatterstar was not Shatterstar anymore. He was some dude named Benjamin Russell who had been mind manipulated into believing he was from another dimension. And the future. What? There was like SO MANY THINGS that proved Shatterstar was from where he was from, including all the futuristic Mojo soldiers that came to claim him in his first appearance and the Arcade story. Anyway, this essentially shatters his confidence and he stops being badass. This made no sense, since being badass was the whole point of Shatterstar. It was undone or ignored later by other writers seeking to make Shatterstar awesome again. I just pretend the whole thing never happened. It's a valid life strategy.

X-Force kind of fizzled out right before the first X-Men movie came out. Movies, of course, have made Marvel rethink their whole approach to their characters. Every X-Men book was relaunched, and X-Force became this weird underground hit with a bunch of new characters unrelated to the X-Men universe. This new concept didn't last long, but most of the original X-Force character feel into obscurity. While some would "guest star" in other books, Shatterstar was noticably absent. I think a lot of this was fear. Writers were afraid to touch Shatterstar. The "Benjamin Russell" thing has made him damaged goods. Liefield eventually did both an X-Force limited series, and followed it up with a Shatterstar one that was a prequel I think. He essentially reestablishes Shatterstar as he originally intended him, undoing all of the stuff that had normalized him previously. After these limited series, 'star was still pretty absent from X-Men related comics. He was part of some 198 one shot where he was against Bishop and Micromax or something where I'm pretty sure the Liefield-reboot was observed faithfully.

Then Peter David got him for X-Factor.

Or, more specifically, got him as an antagonist for X-Factor. While the team is being observed and attacked by some weird dude named Cortex, both Strong Guy and Rictor are attacked by a Cortex-controlled Shatterstar. Rictor, now without powers, is vulnerable. So the real fight is between Guido and 'star. With Strong Guy absorbing a lot of Shatterstar's physical attacks, it's his agility and blades that prove to be the real threat. Cortex even figures out a way to slash up Strong Guy's brain before his connection is interrupted by an outside source. Free from Cortex's control, Shatterstar looks like a lost little boy... right before him and Rictor start passionately kissing each other. It was the comic book moment heard 'round the world, confirming something hinted at when I was reading comic books as a closeted gay teenager. To put it simply: it was awesome.

With a hefty X-Factor cast (the team has something like 9 or 10 members now, it's hard to keep track), one would assume the danger of Shatterstar falling into obscurity in a book he is also starring in. Not so. It might be his extra-dimensional origin, but Peter David highlights him pretty much every issue. It's either as a guy who's just not getting human emotions or as the insane killing machine Liefield originally intended him as. He now knows all about our culture, he's still just not really understanding it. His recent conversations with Rictor about having an exclusive relationship was genuis. He doesn't understand why having sex with someone else would make Rictor think he didn't love him. He also took on Ben Grimm from the Fantastic Four... and won. Like, by a lot. This, from the guy who got beat by Deadpool? Yeah. I wouldn't mess with him now. Benjamin Russell be damned.

Wolfsbane has recently returned to the pages of X-Factor, right as Rictor and Shatterstar had defined their relationship. Rahne is pregnant, and tells Rictor it's his. Readers know that it isn't, as a recent trip to Asgard is the real culprit for Wolfie being with-child. With a majority of the team heading off to Vegas for a showdown with Hela, the Asgardian goddess of the underworld, Rictor and Rahne are being given the time to figure things out. Shatterstar is with the team in Vegas, contantly picking fights and causing problems. It's hinted that this might be due to his hurt feelings over Wolfbane's pregnancy. I've said it before. If you aren't reading X-Factor, you really really should be.

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