Bishop had the strange position of being one of exactly two black X-Men when I was big into the comics. He was on the cover of the first issue of Uncanny X-Men I paid for with my own money (I remember this because it was behind the counter on a display as the first appearance of Bishop.) and he seemed pretty cool. Whilce Portacio made him look pretty mean and scary, and his power was, and is, dope.
But, he doesn’t work all the way for me. It isn’t that he’s inauthentic or not “black” enough or whatever– he’s from the future. It’s also not necessarily his origin or his underlying story. The X-Traitor stuff was fascinating, his ties to Gambit were interesting (the Boysenberry pie scene from X-Men is still one of my all-time favorites), and the hero worship he originally had for the X-Men was really very cool.
He just hasn’t clicked yet. He’s been through a few different variations. His original version is probably the most interesting to me, though the costume and hair left much to be desired. The idea of the X-Men living on into the future and inspiring people even then is, well, inspired. It’s a nice twist on the idea of a superheroic legacy, and Bishop being awestruck the first time he meets Storm or Cyclops was fun. There’s an unspoken undertone of authoritarianism to the whole works that adds a bit of sauce, too. After a while, he just turned into a generic X-Hero, but it was interesting while it lasted.
Bishop went through Age of Apocalypse and ended up with his mind turned inside out. He tripped from that into Onslaught and a series of increasingly uninteresting adventures that went from New York to the future to outer space and back again. When he landed, Claremont reinvented him as a bald detective guy, which could have been an interesting idea. Instead, it turned Bishop into a generic guy who makes deductions and sometimes fast-talks cops. District X was a series which threw Bishop into the midst of Mutant Town, New York, but it was similarly bland.
Messiah Complex added a new wrinkle to Bishop’s past. It explained that the dystopia he hails from was caused by a certain mutant baby. Messiah Complex was essentially a crossover that is at least in part about Bishop trying to kill a baby. This situation escalated in Cable’s solo series, where Bishop is chasing Cable and that baby through time.
While it’s actually kind of a gross-sounding hook on paper, I think it would have been way more interesting if Bishop were presented as at all sympathetic. If the baby actually did cause the death of millions, then Bishop is genuinely trying to do the right thing and you have a real dilemma. Instead, Bishop is eliminating entire eras in his attempt to pop the baby. It makes him pretty unlikeable, I think, on top of the whole “I need to kill this baby” thing.
Bishop’s a character that I want to like, but, like Nightwing, he’s never had a Frank Miller come along and turn him on his head and make him interesting. He’s run through a gauntlet of characterizations at this point, and none of them really seem to click. He’s always missing something. He needs a good hook and a good arc to make him worthwhile.