This week's All-New X-Men #40, which concerns the adventures of the original, teenage X-Men after they were torn out of their own time and brought to the modern Marvel continuity, will reveal that Bobby Drake, known as Iceman since his 1963 debut, is gay. At least, it will reveal it for one of the Bobby Drake's currently running around the Marvel Universe is, because All-New X-Men is a series that takes full advantage of the X-Men's history with time travel, alternate futures and cross-dimensional shenanigans.
A little while ago, in a moment when things looked very dark for the future of mutant-kind, Hank McCoy (AKA Beast) used his mastery of science to bring the five original X-Men (Cyclops, Jean Grey, Iceman, Angel and Beast) to the future. It was his hope that if the jaded Cyclops of the present could speak to his idealistic younger counterpart, he would give up his slide into pro-mutant, terroristic, anti-government acts and retake the original X-Men's mission of proving the humanity of mutants through heroic example. Instead what happened was that the original five X-Men, ripped out of time mere weeks after being brought together by Charles Xavier, got a good look at what their futures looked like. Jean Grey and Professor Xavier are dead, Beast looks more like an animal than a man, Angel has metallic wings for some reason, and to top everything off humanity is still afraid of mutants. The five teenage X-Men voted to stay in the future until they'd fixed it.
Sure, it's a pretty Comic Book Crazy plotline. But it resonates: the original X-Men are now the ultimate example of adults who would be despised by their teenage selves. The young X-Men are struggling with big ideas about fate and predestination. Jean Grey now knows all about her connection to the Phoenix Force before she's ever manifested it. Young Cyclops is rewriting his history entirely by leaving Earth to live with his space-pirate father, a man presumed dead for most of Adult Cyclops' adolescence.
And now, young Bobby Drake is realizing that even if his older self identifies as straight, he's definitely gay. With a little encouragement from Jean Grey, he starts to internalize the idea in preview pages from All-New X-Men #40.
The implications of that difference between the two Bobbys is one isn't ignored entirely by the issue, written by Brian Michael Bendis and drawn by Mahmoud Asrar. Comic Book Resources reports:
An exchange in Wednesday's issue addresses both canon and potential objections from some readers, with young Bobby asking, "How can my older self not be [gay] but I am?" before continuing, "Because maybe he couldn't handle being a mutant and gay in a society that has issues with both? And one is easier to ‘put away' than the other?"
The original X-Men team was first published in an era before the Stonewall Riots, but comic book characters rarely age in real time. If Cyclops and Beast, et al. are in their, say, late thirties today, their teenage years would occur sometime around 1990, the beginning of the era of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. It's also the era in which Marvel lifted its editorial ban on openly gay characters, and made the mutant Northstar its first openly gay superhero.
As the creator of characters like Miles Morales (Spider-Man) and Jessica Jones (former superhero, current private eye), Bendis is no stranger to incorporating touchy issues into comics, and All-New X-Men #40 looks to be an example of that. Bobby's reference to being "mutant and gay" is a nod towards the intersectionality of identity, hinting at the complicated politics and potential hazards of "coming out." By lampshading the fact that Young Bobby's homosexuality exists alongside Old Bobby's heterosexuality, Bendis and Asrar are playing with some complicated, even fraught, ideas, and perhaps implying significant internalized homophobia on the part of Old Bobby.
All-New X-Men #40 will hit comic shop shelves and digital retailers pages tomorrow, April 22.