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Love Triangles: Do They Add Drama, Or Are They Merely Over-Dramatic?

There ARE other fish in the sea. Maybe all this in-fighting is counter-productive?

Thinking back on all the love-triangles across comic books, there are almost none that become truly memorable. Off the top of my head I can only think of Mary-Jane/Black Cat/Spider-Man, Cyclops/Jean Grey/Wolverine and Cyclops/Emma Frost/Jean Gray. And two of those have two of the three same participants. Even now we have a very prominent triangle in X-Force between Fantomex, Psylocke and Archangel (people just LOVE to get into complicated situations with psychic mutants), but do these triangles serve to heighten tension, or are they just a stand-in for real character development?

Jean doesn't look terribly interested in who comes out on top of this.
== TEASER ==
This will surely cause no drama in the group!

In my opinion, and this is of course subject to who's writing what, they generally work as intended and can actually be a great way to add suspense and an air of unpredictability to certain situations. Recall all the way back at the beginning of Ultimate X-Men, for instance: Cyclops and Wolverine were, much like their 616 counterparts, vying for the attention of Jean Grey. Professor X, as an exercise to try and make them get over their differences, sends them on a dangerous assignment in the isolated Savage Land.

When Cyclops nearly falls off a cliff and Wolverine catches him, he remarks that the Professor's idea seems to have worked...just as Wolverine lets go and leaves him for dead before immediately leaping into bed with Jean when he returns. This was a shocking turn, but also didn't seem out of character for the ruthless assassin-turned-teaching assistant. And of course, the revelation that Cyclops survived only served to heighten the tension of him returning to the Xavier Institute.

Returning to a modern-day storyline in Uncanny X-Force, when you factor in Archangel's already fractured, unstable mindset when he transforms AND Fantomex's dubious morality (as well his suave, charming allure), you have so many possibilities for how this can go wrong that you could make entire arcs out of just that. Though you PROBABLY shouldn't, and I'll tell you why.

Problems arise with these kinds of stories when they are used merely for cheap drama or become the focal point of a book. Anyone still read Archie? The crux of that book is which girl will he choose, as well as his wacky high school antics, but since that question STILL hasn't been answered, most people aren't terribly interested in jumping onto the title with the fact in mind that it hasn't fundamentally changed in decades. However, the best (or worst) example I can think of is in New X-Men, which I understand was/is a book about teenagers teens have drama, both in real life and in comic book form, but it'd be almost impossible to diagram everything that was happening on that team. You'd be better off saying that half the team was in love with the other half, but only if the object of their affection has someone else vying for it. You'd think with such an even boy/girl ratio that everyone would find someone, but no, we're subjected to an incredible amount of teen angst, and that's at the heart of the love triangle problem, which both those books illustrate, the triangle becomes the focus of the story rather than being a device to add drama or excitement to it. It becomes the main course rather than the spice that adds flavor, and no one wants to eat an entire dish of oregano, no matter how delicious it might be in pasta.

I'm secretly rooting for this outcome.

Eventually, though, Jean chose Scott (and then Scott chose Emma, but that's another triangle...) and that drama came to an end, which is a part of why it remains such a classic: it ended. We, as readers, got closure, the characters got some development and long-lasting tension that's still referred back to in modern stories, and that was enough.

But what about those triangles that never really got going and never quite ended? I'm thinking mostly about Sue Storm/Reed Richards/Namor, or even that Spider-Man/Mary-Jane/Black Cat one I mentioned earlier. These actually, and perhaps unexpectedly, work out the best of all because they're constant and fun. There's very little chance that Sue would ever leave Reed for Namor, or that Black Cat will be a real threat to Mary-Jane (even post-Mephisto retcon all they've done is taken a couple of tumbles between the sheets), but these flirtatious challengers popping up adds a dynamic to the characters that is often lacking. It's easy to see Sue Storm as settled into her role, outside of being a superhero, as a wife and mother, but when this buff, brazen, arrogant king shows up and begins demanding her hand it marriage, it's a lot of cheeky fun to see her actually return the sideways glance he's giving, and you as a reader realize she's still got very human urges. One tends to root for Reed more because he's the better man and because they said their vows to each other, but it's interesting to see "Mrs. Richards" have more than one suitor, even if you know how it's going to end. Likewise Peter Parker, nerd extraordinaire, because of his wit, intelligence and cool-factor as Spider-Man, he has his own veritable love octagon, and the women love him for different reasons. That's enough to keep Pete guessing since the women generally fall into two camps of what they represent for him: one is being a responsible, timely man, and the other is being a wild, unpredictable kid. Which will he choose? Well, we still don't know for sure, but isn't it still fun to guess?

46 Comments
Posted by AlKusanagi

Comics are basically "soap operas for boys," and love triangles are tried and true tension generators. Comic books should be over the top, and triangles give relationships that extra melodrama.

Posted by JoseDRiveraTCR7

I like triangles, but like you said they can be used for cheap drama, and to cover up the fact that the writer doesn't know how to write relationships or secondary characters well.

Posted by ozker1127

lol in the picture after the first paragragh Wolverine looks like Vegeta. 
 
these are soap operas for boys, these triangles get old
Posted by The Stegman

meh, not a fan of them, they distract heroes from doing what's important...being heroes

Online
Posted by crusader8463

I have always found love triangles annoying in every medium, and wish writers would stop using them.

Posted by EnSabahNurX

I like love triangles if they run a natural course, when they start dragging  them out it gets very irritating. If they seem like a natural progression than it just adds to characters. 
Sometimes just having the tension/ flirtation is good enough to keep things interesting but should NEVER be the sole focus of a story arc it should be a subplot 

Posted by LoganRogue24

my one friend told me there is a Gambit Rogue Wolverine love triangle but idk as much as i would love that i have not seen it in comics is he imagining things or is there proof. i never liked that Logan pines for Jean but thats my view.
Posted by fodigg

This is another thread that can totally benefit from the handy-dandy x-men relationship chart: 
 

Posted by JonesDeini
@fodigg said:
This is another thread that can totally benefit from the handy-dandy x-men relationship chart: 
 
Ha!!!!
Posted by Feliciano2040
@AlKusanagi said:

Comics are basically "soap operas for boys," and love triangles are tried and true tension generators. Comic books should be over the top, and triangles give relationships that extra melodrama.

Pretty much.
Posted by ScarlettLynn

Love triangles are almost always told in repetitive, dull ways that we've seen play out a thousand times before. I don't think they are 100% horrible plots but it's pretty damned close.
 
I think that if the writer manages to not just make it about waffling objects of desire and posturing competitors then maybe, just maybe, they can work. Love triangles can be interesting if there's a bond between all three parties involved. If it's solely about two people lusting after one person and having that one person ~torn~ between the two... then it's really just dull and done to death.
 
If the writers can manage to remember that there are three people involved and that there are three relationships at play and to tell the story of all three then sometimes you've got a compelling story to tell.
 
Most of the time, however, it's just your typical lazy plot device.

Posted by mistersarcastic

Not necessary over-dramatic, but if the same thing is going to carry into several other universes (Scott/Jean/Logan) then yeah it's a little over the top and tiring...

Posted by Dro

I always enjoy watching Scott and Logan fight. But then I don't read X-Men regularly, so...

Posted by NightFang

Both.

Posted by CellphoneGirl

I like Love Triangles but IMO only a few of them have actually worked well. For ones to work they need to be interesting. Not something that'll barely move the plot along. Something that would effect the characters a while after it has happened, even effecting the characters around them. Like the whole Cyclops/Emma Frost/Jean Grey one.

Posted by frozenedge

I won't mind seeing Spider-Man and Black Cat hook up. I'm tired of the every helpless Mary Jane. And the Scott/Jean/Logan triangle is something that'll never go away sadly. 

Posted by lady_sinestro

I get irritated by love triangles, but I see their appeal. I suppose it's just something we have to learn to live with. xD
 
I just wish they could be more clever with the way love triangles are told. Most of the stories seem the same.

Posted by blaakmawf
@AlKusanagi said:

Comics are basically "soap operas for boys," and love triangles are tried and true tension generators. Comic books should be over the top, and triangles give relationships that extra melodrama.

Well put.
Posted by daak1212

Forgot Magneto/Gambit/Rogue

Posted by Dernman

I sometimes like them.

Posted by GundamHeavyarms

Whenever I think of a love triangle I usually think about Reed, Sue and Namor. There's also Archie, Betty, and Veronica.  I think they can drive a story, but sometimes they just drag on into "will they or won't they" territory.

Posted by Dracade102

Never been a fan of these...

Posted by gambitpryde1993
@LoganRogue24: I think there is in the X-Men Golgotha arc.
Posted by Death_to_sane_people

I'm glad Cyclops won. Losers deserve eachother. I love u LOGAN!!!  (sorry cyclops and jean fans! ;)) 
Oh and spidey, plz date black cat. I like her better.

Posted by Death_to_sane_people
@LoganRogue24 said:
my one friend told me there is a Gambit Rogue Wolverine love triangle but idk as much as i would love that i have not seen it in comics is he imagining things or is there proof. i never liked that Logan pines for Jean but thats my view.

That would be really weird. I mean,  i thought logan was older than her and gambit had it in the bag? And yes, Logan deserves so much better than jean. I wish some of his love intrests would live though!
Posted by RedheadedAtrocitus

Love triangles to me are when comics start to take on an almost soap opera element that just bores the hell outta me.  In other words, TOO realistic and too ubiquitous.  After all, if I wanted love triangle madness and drama I'd just quit the comics and go to daytime talk shows or again, soaps, lol. Seriously though...I guess as long as they aren't dragged out too far I don't mind, but I still don't have the stomach for them much as others might.

Posted by mark5
@The Stegman said:
meh, not a fan of them, they distract heroes from doing what's important...being heroes
this, its good for a while but quickly gets annoying and distracting.  
@JonesDeini
: lol i just discovered that personally a few hours ago. I was wowed. 
Posted by MelTor

¡Wolverine es un Zorro!, es más zorro que Jean Grey, ¡es más zorro que Mystique!, ¿la promiscuidad es un poder mutante?

Posted by RainEffect

Loved the sexual tension between Namor and Susan during the civil war. That made me snicker. Nevertheless, I agree that they should have a conclusion. The only really memorable triangle to me was the Scott/Logan/Jean one. I liked that Logan was a man about it [in the 616-verse] and accepted Jean's decision. Never liked Summers, but if Jean picks him, then that's how things end.

Posted by labarith

Don't forget Reed/Sue/Ben (not sure if anything came of this in 616, but in ultimates it's all up in crappy continuity); Reed/Sue/Peter (okay, so it was like 1 issue... but there was quite the buzz about the FF issue where she invites him in...); Johnny/Ben/Alica(Skrullica) 
 
And yeah, I guess some people are rooting for Magneto/Rogue... but that's just dumb IMO.

Posted by Grimoire

I was on the Black Cat bandwagon at first until I found out she only wants the hero and not the man making her a pass. lol

Edited by PhoenixoftheTides

Over-dramatic. If there were actual repercussions to the very realistic possibility that it might not work out and the three may not end up being friends, then they would be at least believable. It would be better IMHO if these triangles didn't draw on too long and they should conclude with one or more of the people involved simply moving on with their lives (and possibly moving on to other teams). 
 
For example, I would have loved it if Jean got annoyed with Logan and because of his constant insinuations, she no longer liked him. "Yeah, I liked you back then, but now, if I had to choose between kissing you and eating bacon, I'd take the bacon."

Posted by sweatboy
my favourite love triangle out of a comic book story (which i followed on TV) was Superman-Lois Lane-Clark Kent, i liked how it was THE SAME GUY. Spiderman had the potential for these, in his case to romance 2 women under 2 different identities. Spider-Man and Black Cat or Medusa would go well while Peter Parker needs a normal girl. Although i haven't read it Hal-Carol Ferris-GL would work like Superman-Lois-Clark too
Posted by The Devil Tiger
@Feliciano2040 said:
@AlKusanagi said:

Comics are basically "soap operas for boys," and love triangles are tried and true tension generators. Comic books should be over the top, and triangles give relationships that extra melodrama.

Pretty much.

So very much ! And even much truer for mainstream comics.
Posted by Druid

Love triangles are only entertaining when they incite impulsive or violent behavior characters regret later...or don't.

Posted by evildupe
@xxCellPhoneGirlxx said:
I like Love Triangles but IMO only a few of them have actually worked well. For ones to work they need to be interesting. Not something that'll barely move the plot along. Something that would effect the characters a while after it has happened, even effecting the characters around them. Like the whole Cyclops/Emma Frost/Jean Grey one.
If the characters are interesting, then it's a lot easier to get into the drama-- like Magneto/Gambit/Rogue. Good character is what makes this "cliched" plot work. However, if someone like Cyclops fell into another love triangle, I don't think I'd want to read about it. Do you guys foresee any new love triangles sprouting up? Maybe in the New Mutants?
Posted by Derrickmv
@Death_to_sane_people: agreed on the spidey and black cat. lol
Posted by moviegeek17

when done right it adds something to the story when done poorly it only makes drags a story down

Posted by Gremlin From Kremlin

I hate love triangles... They are overdramatic.

Edited by The Velvet Rabbit

I don't mind them, but they're a bit heavy-handed at times.   but honestly, I couldn't imagine someone reading any X-titles if they had a problem with torrid romances.   seriously, without the foils of romantic entanglement, the only conflicts the X-Men would face would be those of genuine supervillains - and we couldn't have that, could we?   sad as it sounds, I've heard some recent descriptions as the X-Men comics (especially New X-Men - but they're teenagers, so it's not really unexpected) as being the 'Twilight' series for comic books.   and I'm actually not inclined to disagree - though I do love it to pieces   :( 
 
also, I'd hate to date Logan - seeing as being romantically involved with him means you're pretty much a free meal for anybody who wants to make you the victim of an overly tragic death

Posted by The Velvet Rabbit
@fodigg: healing factor or no, I'm pretty sure Wolverine just jumps into bed with anything that moves.   that can't be healthy.
Posted by Screamolad

Love Triangles Are over Dramatic But They Bring drama Which Is Kinda fun to read about.  But Also Kinda Annoying.
Posted by PowerPlug

I won't even get into a relationship unless i know that there are three people involved.

Posted by C0axMF

I'm a sucker for love triangles in any medium. Especially Wolvie/Jean/Scott. The way Morrison ended his run, I am hoping that when Jean does finally come back, Scott will still be with Emma, and Jean and James will finally be together. 
 
It can be frustrating dealing with a long drawn-out love story, but when they are shaken up, things can get pretty interesting. Rogue has had many triangles over her tenure among the X-Men. Gambit's seemingly unrelenting courtship has overlapped with Iceman, Joseph, Magneto and Colossus on different occasions all amounting to little for the couple, but letting Rogue shine as a character. Their relationships show a facet of their personalities that "battle-n-basketball" can't always give us.
 
Strange that X-Men is a hot bed for love triangles... pun intended. But the Avengers have had them as well. So has Daredevil. They are the operatic stuff of life. Even as far back as the ancient Greeks, they told stories of the love triangle between Ares, Aphrodite and Hephaestus. The story of Love and War together behind Industry's back can be seen as a metaphor for passion leading one away from responsibility. The relationship that Peter Parker finds himself in with Black Cat is rather similar I would say... with Peter playing the role of a rather mighty Aphrodite.
 
Having a fairy tale couple like Clark Kent and Lois Lane or... er.... um.... Banner and Ross? being continually happy tends to limit story potential when most new writers take over the reigns and they don't have a hold of the love interest's archetype.   

But even Superman has Lana Lang. 
  
So I say bring on the love triangles! Give me space opera or give me death!

Posted by VioletPhoenix

I feel like people always forget about the Havok, Polaris, Iceman (and sometimes Annie Ghazikhanian) love triangle. Sure, they get annoying and Bobby ALWAYS gets the short end of the stick with either buuuuut..wait..poor Bobby. Maybe he and Havok should just get it on and get rid of the tension between them. Sheesh.

Edited by Timandm

@The Velvet Rabbit said:

I don't mind them, but they're a bit heavy-handed at times. but honestly, I couldn't imagine someone reading any X-titles if they had a problem with torrid romances. seriously, without the foils of romantic entanglement, the only conflicts the X-Men would face would be those of genuine supervillains - and we couldn't have that, could we? sad as it sounds, I've heard some recent descriptions as the X-Men comics (especially New X-Men - but they're teenagers, so it's not really unexpected) as being the 'Twilight' series for comic books. and I'm actually not inclined to disagree - though I do love it to pieces :( also, I'd hate to date Logan - seeing as being romantically involved with him means you're pretty much a free meal for anybody who wants to make you the victim of an overly tragic death

LOL!!!! I know you posted this two months ago but I only just now read it...

Yes, it does seem like dating Wolverine is like being the new guy on Star Trek that's wearing red... You're dead....

@VioletPhoenix said:

I feel like people always forget about the Havok, Polaris, Iceman (and sometimes Annie Ghazikhanian) love triangle. Sure, they get annoying and Bobby ALWAYS gets the short end of the stick with either buuuuut..wait..poor Bobby. Maybe he and Havok should just get it on and get rid of the tension between them. Sheesh.

Well that was an image I could have lived my entire life without... LOL!!!