wolverine: only 5 feet tall but his entire skeleton is literally coated in nearly indestructible metal. don’t fight wolverine. give him a beer and talk some smack about cyclops. you’ll become fast friends.
storm: don’t fight storm. don’t even piss her off. she can turn you into ash and ruin your golfing weekend
magik: she can literally teleport you to limbo dont fuck with magik
nightcrawler: kurt wagner is a beautiful cinnamon roll why would u wanna fight him??? besides he could teleport ur ass 500 feet in the air and then drop u. u dead. dont fight this poor sweet child
gambit: his mutant power is throwing stuff and the color purple. kick gambit’s pretty boy ass
iceman: the guy looks like a fucking snowcone. fight iceman.
professor x: ok charles is a jerk but honestly do u really wanna 1v1 a telepath. fight professor x if ur ready to get fucked up.
emma frost: u dead
angel: his mutant power is giant chicken wings??? kick angel’s rich boy ass
cyclops: good leader, great tactician, terrible sense in fashion. someone hire this boy a better designer tbh. anyway this motherfucker can take down half a dozen guys with his eyes closed ok dont fight scott
shadowcat: beautiful cinnamon roll. can walk through walls; you won’t even be able to hit her. fight kitty pryde only if you’re prepared to look like a fucking fool trying to land a punch on her. also she has??? a fucking dragon????? dont fuck with shadowcat
colossus: he’s like 7 feet tall and made out of metal. also a beautiful cinnamon roll. don’t fight colossus.
namor: king of atlantis and lives in the ocean. no wonder he’s so fucking salty. has superhuman strength and is always pissed off. don’t fight namor unless ya wanna die
Time for another review. At this point I’ve read 175 issues of the X-Men (minus the reprint gap between issues 66 and 94), plus a ton of crossovers and side stories. I’ve been blogging for about a year and a half and reading since a few months before that.
This is basically how I feel when I’m cutting through issues for this readathon. Beer in one hand. Ascot. Shirt unbuttoned down to my navel. Yep.
Shortly after I started reading the X-Men from the beginning, I began looking for a way to more closely simulate the way I read comics as a kid. Back then I was only able to buy one or two comics a month. When a new issue of the X-Men hit the gas station shelf it was a big deal for me. I would read each new issue half a dozen times, really consuming the story and the art in a meticulous way, reflecting on it for weeks before the next issue came out. Nowadays reading comics from a collected edition is a completely different experience. Every issue is presented in a convenient fashion and it’s easy to blow through dozens of issues at a time. I found myself doing this when I started reading the X-Men and I realized I wasn’t absorbing the material the way I wanted. I wasn’t creating memories of the events or getting any lasting impressions of the artwork. The solution to this was the creation of this blog. Writing about comics as I read them forces me to slow down. I have to thumb back through an issue after I finish it and take a closer look at the artwork and the writing to see what’s going on. It still isn’t quite the experience of reading comics as a kid, but I feel like I’ve found a happy medium.
Another thing I liked to do as a kid… put jaw breakers in my glasses so it looked like I had googly eyes. Yeesh what a nerd.
So anyway, on with the review. This reading covers issues 144-175 of the Uncanny X-Men, as well as X-Men annuals 5-7, Avengers annual 10, the Uncanny X-Men and New Teen Titans crossover, the God Loves, Man Kills graphic novel, and the original Wolverine mini-series. The story picks up immediately after the end of the Phoenix Saga and Days of Future Past. The X-Men battle Doctor Doom and Arcade, Magneto actually manages to kill a whole bunch of people, the Brood arrive on earth and we get an extended cosmic storyline featuring the Shi’ar and the Starjammers, Calisto and the Morlocks are introduced as the neutral mutant antagonists beneath New York City, Wolverine tries to get married, Mastermind re-emerges and attempts to get revenge on the X-Men for turning him into a vegetable at the end of the Phoenix Saga, and Cyclops meets and marries Madelyne Pryor, the woman who bears an unnerving resemblance to Jean Gre.
Literally, he meets her in the last panel of issue 168 and they get married in issue 176. That’s less than a year of dating!! Yeah I’m sure that’s going to end well. <cough> DESPERATE <cough>
What’s great about these comics is that Chris Claremont wrote every single issue, including the crossovers and side stories. Which is exactly how I want to read a comic book series. When one writer has overall direction of everything and is good at it, they can rule over the continuity with an iron fist. They can meticulously plan everything out, decide where each character is and where they are going, and how everyone’s story will intersect. There is a level of care in the continuity of the comic books of the 1960s, 70s, and 80s that doesn’t exist anymore. At this point in the X-Men, it hasn’t yet degenerated into what it is today, which is a mess of marketing and cash grabbing that puts any character in 6 stories at once to maximize exposure and sales.
All this holds true for this reading. It blew my mind that when Wolverine went on the sabbatical that would lead him to the events of his mini-series, he actually left the team and the main series for 4 issues. When these comics were being published, that was 4 months readers had to go without seeing one of the most popular characters! Sure they got to see him in his own standalone story, but nowadays editors would be too worried about losing readers from the main series to do something like this, which is why a character like Wolverine exists in so many different comic books at the same time (which still seems to hold true now even though he’s dead).
Seriously. He’s supposed to be dead, but I see at least two Wolverines in this picture. This is some cheap ass bullshit to get everyone to buy the comics where he dies and then still get the character in the new comics. You know, I really hate how Bendis fucked everything up with time travel! There aren’t enough versions of these characters running around?? You need to bring even more versions of them in from different time periods??? Yeah I know that he didn’t do Old Man Logan or Extraordinary X-Men, but he screwed up the main series two years ago when he had Hank bring the original X-Men forward in time. Hank would never do that!!! What about the repercussions on that other timeline from which you are removing the original X-Men!?? Who’s going to fight Magneto or X’Nox alien invasion?? Basically you are dooming an entire reality by removing the X-Men from it. Nice one Hank you dumb fucker.
Overall I have to say my interest level while reading these stories ranged way more than I thought it would. Coming off of the Phoenix Saga and Days of Future Past, which are the two most famous X-Men stories, I expected the series to mellow out as Claremont built toward the heavy crossovers of the late 80s that come after this. But I found my emotions ranging from being complete boredom to being the most fascinated I have ever been with the series. It was an unexpected roller-coaster ride through a bunch of content that I had no previous exposure to.
For example, there were times, mostly early on during this run, where I was having a hard time staying awake, which is just about the most damning criticism you can give a comic book. Like when Storm and Kitty go out for a night on the town with Spider Woman and Dazzler in issue 148, or during the beginning of the Brood saga. But the battle with Magneto in issue 150 might be my favorite issue yet, and Mastermind’s return late in the run was completely unexpected and exciting. These later issues were helped in no small part by the gorgeous artwork of Paul Smith. It’s a shame that his time on the series was so short because the issues he drew are absolutely beautiful. His clean artwork is so easy on the eyes, and the design and direction of his panels add so much to the narrative.
I’m tellin ya. I mentioned this before, but absolutely no one on this earth can draw a stern pointing like Paul Smith. Look at those shoulders. Look at that dimple on his chin. Look at the extension he gets with his index finger. It all projects such power and confidence. If anyone ever pointed at me like this I would probably shit my pants. Let’s take a closer look at some of the more examples of Paul Smith’s finger pointing artwork in this small gallery I put together.
Here we see Cyclops shooting off what might be a quick swing-around point, or possibly a quick draw point from the side of his body. The hitch in his wrist causes a hyper-extension from his forearm which exudes feelings of frustration and anger, possibly resulting from sexual repression.
In the very next panel of the same scene we see that Scott is actually pointing so hard that his hand rolls into a fully extended, upside down, half-moon curved, flexure point. With any luck he’ll keep going with this and his god damn arm will fall off.
Here Wolverine finally gets to fire back with a Canadian, Hold My Fur-lined Hoodie in the Same Hand point. A good way to accentuate the masculinity of a point is to just leave your whole god damn shirt unbuttoned. The more coarse brown hair you can flash around, the rougher the whole thing is going to feel.
And then of course there’s this classic piece. Kitty’s snow coated, spin-around, shoot it through the front door, Professor X is a jerk point. Look how her hair is blooming around her face, unsettled and tousled. Look how the angle of her brow and sneering lips are just oozing contempt. Look at how her pink jeans… well just look at her pink jeans.
Another appealing aspect of this set of comics is how gender diverse the writing becomes. I know there has been a great debate over the feminist qualities of Claremont’s writing, and whether it actually is feminist or if it dips into misogyny and sexualization, but god damn. Almost every major character introduced or significantly built upon is female.
Storm, Dazzler, Kitty, Rogue, Madelyne Pryor, Carol Danvers, Lilandra, Illyana. Even the villains are highly gender diversified with Deathbird fighting her sister for the Shi’ar throne, the White Queen returning, Callisto getting introduce, and the Dark Phoenix threatening to re-emerge in both the New Teen Titans crossover and the Mastermind storyline.
This last panel here is just the best :)
The women are the stars of these comics. The male characters are limited to Cyclops, Professor X, Wolverine, Colossus, and Nightcrawler, all of whom were introduced previously and almost all of whom receive no significant character development. Wolverine is the exception to this, but even when the story centers on him it gets spun off into a completely different comic book series as if to not take away from what’s going on with the rest of the team. I guess you could also say Charles gets quite a bit of attention, but even this is in the context of his relationship with Lilandra, with her story and responsibilities being the main source of conflict of his character.
Oh gag me with those pit stains. They’re yellow! If Lilandra can put up with this then Charles needs to lock that shit up. He could do a lot worse than empress of the whole god damn universe.
There is so much girl power in these comic books, and it made this reading a lot more unique and interesting. In particular, Kitty Pryde sorta becomes the main character of the X-Men. This is her coming of age story as she quickly forms into an adult well before her years and takes down the X-Men’s biggest villains using her intelligence and extremely passive mutant power. She becomes an invincible fighter that no one can touch, literally, and it’s depicted in a very believable way. All of this is unprecedented, not only because Kitty is female, but because she’s only THIRTEEN years old. To take a series like the X-Men, which was pretty much a male centric frat party up until this point, and to refocus it on a tiny, goofy, thirteen year old girl, had to be considered a risk at the time. But it works, and it adds another layer of depth to the series. It’s because of reasons like this that the X-Men have endeared for so long. There are so many diverse elements of the series, and there is so much to explore and expound upon. The foundation of the series set in these early issues is so strong that it takes decades of shitty storytelling to damage it.
Yes that was a crack at much of the writing in the X-Men between 1992 and 2016.
On top of Kitty’s development we get to see Storm go through massive changes as she struggles with her inner demons and grows a Mohawk. And Rogue, who is one of my favorite characters, finally arrives and delves into depression and angst of never being able to make a real human connection with anyone, while pretty much flying around and kicking the shit out of everyone’s god damn ass.
Seriously how much fun is god damned Rogue. I would be her boyfriend in a half a heartbeat. I don’t even care that I couldn’t touch her. We could fly around punching people and telling jokes all day. And then later I’d wear a god damned body condom or something. I don’t even care.
Despite the low points it’s safe to assume I really enjoyed the issues presented here. I might have even enjoyed these comics more than I did the last set, and those issues included the best of the Claremont / Byrne collaboration. We are right on the cusp of when the X-Men blows up from an editorial standpoint and begins to get difficult to read with the massive amount of crossovers and exposure it receives, but these issues are still very tightly coupled and well directed. Despite almost putting me to sleep at certain points and being overly wordy, I really enjoyed them.
Hey, and as a final note, I just wanted to say thank you to everyone who takes the time to read my blog, and especially those who add facts and details to my posts or drop me a line to clear up whatever confusion I’m having with the story at a particular moment. I really appreciate that. Especially considering how frequently I am confused about things. I know these comics aren’t exactly Tolstoy… but god damn it you should try to watch a movie with me sometime. I have no idea what is going on and I’m constantly asking questions. I swear there’s something wrong with my brain. Anyway, thanks everyone. I won’t name any names because I’m sure to forget the most important people, but if you have ever taken the time to comment, know that I see it and appreciate your thoughts.