Monday, May 14, 2012


The road I traveled last week was bumpier than I could have hoped,
but comics always help smooth things out.  For reasons that likely
have something to do with having too many comic-book boxes fall on
my head, I’m catching up with Marvel’s multitudinous X-Men titles.
I’m currently reading titles from the last weeks of 2010, well on
my way towards my catch-up goal of the end of this month.

My friend Steve “The Steve” Chaput marvels at my desire to read so
many comic books to get current on titles, but it’s not difficult
for me.  I have a not-carved-in-stone “eight-page rule” which gives
comic books that many pages to hook me.  I’ve adapted that rule a
bit for the X-Men titles.

When a X-title proves to be as mediocre as, say New Mutants by Zeb
Wells or X-Force by the writing team of Craig Kyle and Christopher
Yost, I pretty much just skim them.  That moves my reading along a
little faster.

There always seems to be an “event” of one sort or another going on
in some or all of the X-Men titles.  Necrosha seems to have been an
excuse to bring back lots of dead characters, many of them boring.
Even if I still don’t believe any American president would give so
much power to a Norman Osborn, I thought Utopia made sense within
the Marvel Universe.  Despite my dislike for its back-from-the-dead
villains, Second Coming was exciting and well-coordinated with some
actual and tragic consequences.  Granted, tragic consequences are
undone with regularity in comic books.

Because I’m writing about so many comic books that were published
a few years back, I’m not writing reviews per se here.  Just some
general comments that occur to me as I box up the issues to return
them to the generous friend who loans them to me.

X-Force didn’t have a chance with me.  Cyclops creating a secretive
“kill team” never rang true.  That he now regrets that decision is
a good thing.  That there now seems to be a new “kill team” that he
doesn’t know about isn’t.  That the new “kill team” is led by the
overexposed Wolverine makes it even worse.  My friend passed on the
Uncanny X-Force title, but I have some of the collection editions
coming via my local library.

Wolverine continues to be a bad brutal joke.  His healing factor is
cartoon-ish.  One of my readers tells me Wolverine was once thrown
into the sun and healed from that.  That’s just stupid.

Wolverine’s search for the monster who “created” him turned out to
be insanely boring.  The dreaded “big bad” was basically a bigger
older Logan and we’ve seen that before.  Also eye-rolling boring
was anything involving Wolverine’s sociopath son Daken. 

Wolverine’s comics seem to be little more than exercises in blood-
letting, degradation, and torture.  He gets torn to pieces, forced
to kill innocents, sent to Hell, and it makes for really bad comic
books.  There was a time when Chris Claremont gave the character a
sense of purpose, a quest to rediscover his humanity and become a
true hero.  I use to like that Wolverine.

Peter David’s X-Factor remains my favorite of the X-titles.  Sans
any major headlines, David has consistently written good and even
great stories with Madrox, Layla Miller, Wolfsbane, and the rest.
Save for Second Coming, X-Factor has avoided various X-events
and, in that instance, the team's physical distance from Utopia allowed
the team to play a role in the event more in keeping with the tone
of their own title.  I also get a kick out of the oft-adversarial
Cyclops and Madrox relationship.

Though today’s X-Men are far from the X-Men I grew up with in the
1960s and as a Marvel writer and editor in the 1970s, I like many
elements of these titles.  I like Cyclops truly coming into his own
as a leader.  I love his relationship with Emma Frost.  I’m crazy
about Emma Frost and her quest for redemption.  I get a kick out of
the Science team created by Hank McCoy and, though saddened to see
Hank leave the X-Men over issues of morality, such a tough decision
makes him even more heroic in my book.

Namor and the X-Men? It’s a great concept, made more so by the oft-
uneasy alliance between Utopia and New Atlantis.  While having so
many mutants in one place may make them an easier target for their
enemies, the mix of personalities delights me.

Magneto on Utopia?  My jury of one is out on this one.  Despite
Magneto's past, I’m still a sucker for a good redemption story
and his could be one of the best.  He’s a complex character and
I hope he stays on the side of the angels. 

X-Men Legacy isn’t as strong as Uncanny X-Men or X-Factor, but its
saving grace is its emphasis on Rogue.  The character has finally
and fully come into her potential.  She’s admirable and effective,
a role model for mutants young and old.  I hope she remains a major
player in the X-titles.

Marvel published a neverending supply of X-Men mini-series and one-
shots.  In this catching-up phrase of mine, I’ve read some of those
and put others aside for later reading.  Here are quick thoughts on
a few of the ones I read...

Astonishing X-Men: Xenogenesis (2010) is a limited series by Warren
Ellis with art by Kaare Andrews.  It’s a gritty inventive tale set
in Africa with a bunch of seeming mutant births in a small village
attracting the attention of the X-Men and then bringing them into
contact and an uneasy alliance with a local dictator.  It is, by no
means, a warm and cuddly story but it is an engaging and well-done
story.  It ran five issues.

Maddox (2004) is a five-issue mini-series by Peter David with art
by Pablo Raimond.  This one is mutant detective noir with Maddox as
the private eye.  It’s real good.

I have mixed feelings about Magneto: Testament (2008) by Greg Pak
with art by Carmine Di Giandomenico.  It’s a five-issue account of
Magneto’s childhood under the Nazi occupation of Europe.  Though
well-done, well-researched and moving in a horrifying way, the tale
somewhat fails as a Magneto story.  His being a mutant and his powers
are downplayed to such an extent that the series protagonist need
not have starred Magneto.  Still worth reading.

Mekanix (2002) is five issue of Kitty Pryde trying to fit in at the
University of Chicago and coming into conflict with a nasty group
of mutant-haters.  It’s written by Chris Claremont with art by Juan
Bobillo and Marcelo Sosa.  It’s not a great series, but it’s good
enough to get a “worth reading” from me.

Muties (2002) was a six-issue anthology series featuring one-shot
stories of mutants.  Good concept, so-so execution.  I prefer Demo,
the 2003-2004 series by Brian Wood and Becky Cloonan and published
by AiT/Planet Lar.  That twelve-issue series revolved around young
people with supernatural powers, but often de-emphasized the powers
in its stories.

New Mutants Forever (2010) is a five-issue series in which writer
Chris Claremont picks up from where his run on New Mutants ended.
Drawn by Al Rio and Bob McLeod - Claremont and McLeod created the
series - it’s not outstanding but it is quite readable.  Which is
not an insult in my book.  Had I bought these issues and not just
borrowed them, I would have happy with my purchase.

X-Men/Spider-Man (2009) is another interesting concept that doesn’t
quite come together.  These are stories taken from four different
years in the lives of these heroes with a plot element connecting
them all.  Written by Christos Gage with art by Mario Alberti, it’s
worth checking out.

That’s all my mutant musings for the week.  I’ll be back tomorrow
with more stuff.

© 2012 Tony Isabella

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