Superhero romance is … fraught. Marriage doubly so, as Batman and the X-Men found out yet again this week. After all, even in the happiest marriages, your spouse might suddenly die at the hands of an ancient madman or get tossed into the far past for a spell, leaving you at the mercy of a sexy fishman.
You know, par for the course. Then there are the marriages where your wife was actually a demonic clone of your presumed-dead ex-girlfriend or your spouse has been a shapeshifting alien all along. Or, sometimes, you divorce after your two children are revealed to be constructs created through chaos magic. Or you find out your spouse-to-be is trying to use you to … steal uranium.
So nothing in superhero marriage is ever easy. Spider-Man saved his aunt by sacrificing his marriage. Cyclops had a happy wedding with Jean Grey in X-Men #30 in 1994. They, uhh, took a honeymoon in the future at the behest of their alternate universe daughter to raise his son from the clone of his new wife, and survived a bombing plot (the bomb was inside his chest) and the creeping return of her cosmic-level powers before, in 2000, dying to save an older, time-traveling version of his son from the madman Apocalypse. He came back just a year later, finding his time had, uhh, distanced him from his wife and took up an affair with another psychic and ...
Christ. I hate comics.
Now Jean Grey is back but Cyclops is dead again, but the X-Men have moved on to a new married couple. In a surprise twist, Rogue and Gambit got married in X-Men Gold #30, but it came with a price. For months, Marvel hyped the issue as the wedding of Colossus, a strong man with metal skin, and Kitty Pryde, who he’d known since she was 13 and was best friends with his sister.
But in a shocking twist, a now-adult Pryde left him at the altar, using her powers to become intangible to sink into the Earth and get away from it all.
And now, after months of similar hype with the Batman/Catwoman wedding, DC is having Catwoman become a no-show for the wedding, claiming that it will help make sure he stays Batman because he needs deep unhappiness to fight crime in the semi-authoritarian manner he already employs.
Now, Marvel and DC have often cut it close with storylines and new characters as a way to compete with each other, but I can’t think of a time when two high-profile weddings both ended up with the characters not getting married in the end after months of hype.
Sure, of the weddings listed on the Marvel Wikia, only nine haven’t resulted in death, annulment, or divorce. And it’s not the first time an X-Man or Woman has left their betrothed at the altar. In an era no one likes to talk about, Havok left Polaris at the altar in 2004. That event, though, was barely hyped and seemed to be chiefly motivated by the hyper-soap-opera elements of the time period under reviled X-Men scribe Chuck Austen. Many years prior, in 1983, the wedding of Wolverine and Mariko Yashida ended with a mind-controlled Mariko leaving him at the altar in a tragic (but much better received) storyline written by Chris Claremont.
And in 1974, Spider-Man was able to stop the wedding of his dear Aunt May to his enemy, Doc Ock. He was in it for the uranium to which she was somehow connected.
Over in the DC Universe, Green Arrow and Black Canary nearly tied the knot before Arrow was revealed to be an impostor sent to kill Canary. But then, technically, they got married for real shortly after. This came after similar event hype, though Green Arrow wasn’t necessarily an A-list character at the time. (The TV show Arrow has changed some of this standing for the better.)
So two high-profile nuptials throttled not by supervillains, but by cold feet. In both cases, the outcome was spoiled by the New York Times reporting on the events just days before. Of any wedding not predicated on a bad faith ploy, the coincidental-ish timing is certainly strange. As comics struggle to keep up sales compared to their on-screen namesakes, both issues also serve as bizarre “gotchas!”
Sure, the marriages may not last. Death, divorce, time displacement, demons, impersonators, and editorial interference may scuttle all the happiness the couple had in store. But — even with some precedent — it may leave a bad taste in the mouth of some readers too bludgeoned with event after event, relaunch after relaunch.
At least in the case of Batman, it served as a backdoor glance into a complex psyche. In the case of Pryde / Colossus, it was much more of a strange “gotcha!” as Marvel quietly moved another two characters closer together to set up the Rogue/Gambit wedding instead and prepare the way for a new series, Mr. and Mrs. X.
Let’s hope this series—by cult favorite writer Kelly Thompson—pays off for fans. Otherwise, it’s just one long bump in a rough storm for the X-Men in the last decade.