“Fire with Fire”
Writer: Warren Ellis
Pencils: Casey Jones
Inks: Tom Simmons
Colours: Ariane Lenshoek and Malibu’s Hues
Letters: Richard Starkings and Comicraft
Editor: Suzanne Gaffney
Original publication date: July 1996
We’re coming in hot this week, joined by comics and pop culture scholar Dr. Anthony Michael D’Agostino to wield scorching takes about how everything that happens in the underwhelming Excalibur #99, “Fire with Fire,” is actually a narcissistic projection of the issue’s writer and maybe there’s value in that after all? Plus objections to Onslaught and reflections on which came first—being queer or reading X-Men?
On teachable moments:
“I literally do not know whether I was this queer, sadomasochistic personality before Papa Chris found me or whether X-Men turned me into that person and I don’t care—I’m good.” -Anthony
“The X-Men form affinities and relationships with each other that are dangerous. It’s not always cute.” -Anthony
On author surrogates:
“This book opens with Pete Wisdom talking, and that’s basically the book—Pete Wisdom talking… All the other characters seem to exist to confirm his agency and lovability.” -Anthony
“The gravity of the conspiracy isn’t totally convincing here. They find a private interest group is peddling money to the government in return for favorable legislation. Their shock is adorable.” -Andrew
On brooding Brian:
“I like what Ellis is doing here in terms of Brian questioning his role, and whether he wants to be a superhero or not… but his naivety about the Hellfire Club spoils it a little.” -Anna
On heel turns:
“Margali being so concerned with being pretty doesn’t work for me. The first time she appeared in comics, she had green skin and horns. Now beauty is suddenly a big motivation for her?” -Anna
“The evil in the story is supposed to be culturally and geographically specific—it’s a story about London… Yet the visualization is very generic.” -Anthony
Want more Anthony Michael D’Agostino?
Dr. Anthony Michael D’Agostino has a PhD in English Literature focusing on the Victorian Novel and Comics Studies. When he isn’t teaching writing, queer literature, and feminist theory at Fordham University, he serves as a private online tutor and executive functioning coach specializing in helping students with ADHD get the most out of college. And this summer he will be dropping his own podcast “Theory of X” which will discuss how some of our favorite comic book storylines can help us understand big theoretical ideas like feminism, capitalism, or whatever.
If you’re of the academic persuasion, check out his article “‘Flesh-to-Flesh Contact’: Marvel Comics’ Rogue and the Queer Feminist Imagination” in the wonderful special “Queer About Comics” issue of the journal American Literature, edited by Darieck Scott and Ramzi Fawaz!
Find him on Twitter @TheoryOfX.