From the House of Ideas: When Reading Feels Like a Chore

If you’ve been reading From the House of Ideas for a long time, or if you’ve read any of my work at Biff Bam Pop! over our nearly fifteen years, you might know that I don’t really like to write negative articles. We all know that if you want to read bad think pieces or movie reviews that slam actors and directors, they’re out there in abundance and you can find them elsewhere. But every so often, I feel as though something less than positive (in my mind, at least) is worth discussing.

Such is the case with X-Men: Before The Fall – Heralds of Apocalypse, which was released last week and is a one off leading to the Fall of X event in the large roster of Marvel’s X-Men related titles. The book is written by Al Ewing and illustrated by Luca Pizari and details the origin of the mutant world of Arakko. While the book looks great, as someone who has been reading many of the X-titles out there (but not all at this point), I found the story to be nearly impenetrable. And that’s a problem.

Is it Al Ewing’s problem? No, I wouldn’t say that at all. Ewing’s usually a good writer; for me, the problem is that the current run of X-books have 1) become overwhelming and 2) hardly accessible. The later point is what really stood out to me in X-Men: Before The Fall – Heralds of Apocalypse. Now, I may not be a rocket scientist, but I do speak English pretty goodly, and I found the use of impenetrable language in this book so dense that I often found myself confused, and even worse, disengaged with the title.

The experience left me wondering who this book, and perhaps even the current X-Men roster of titles, is being written for. I suppose I romanticize the days of my youth, when I could pick up a copy of Uncanny X-Men under the pen of Chris Claremont and pretty much know who and what was going on in any given issue. The storytelling was serialized, and the longer you stuck with the book the more you’d get out of the worldbuilding, but newcomers could usually pick up the threads of the stories pretty quickly on their first time out.

While current books typically have synopsis’ at the beginning of each issue, but even the one included in X-Men: Before The Fall – Heralds of Apocalypse feels like two paragraphs of “wtf”, and I read the stories being referred to! Somewhere along the timeline, things just became too dense and complex, and reading a lot of these titles have become a chore rather than a joy for me.

The saving grace, though, is I love my X-Men, and I still want to see what happens with the Fall of X storyline. However, whereas some runs of stories have become perennial favourites in my reading list, including the first block of Hickman-written books, I think the entire X-line has moved too far away from what he’d achieved, which was a magical combination of deep worldbuilding and still-readable tales. Whatever comes next, I hope that the House of Ideas manages to find that sweet spot again.

THE ORIGIN OF ARAKKO! In ancient days, Genesis turned back the hordes of Amenth. In ancient days, Genesis forced Annihilationin to a parley. What words were spoken in her mind? Now, finally, Apocalypse will know…and the echoes of those words might destroy him…and Arakko with him.

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