Saturday, August 31, 2013

The History of the X-Men in August

UNCANNY X-MEN #499 (2008)
The finale of Ed Brubaker and Mike Choi’s “Divided We Fall” arc, wherein Cyclops and Emma Frost overthrow Mastermind’s hippie regime in San Francisco while Wolverine, Colossus and Nightcrawler beat up Omega Red in Russia. The big event to come out of this story as it headed into issue #500 though had to be Cyclops’ decision to move the X-Men permanently (for the time being) to San Francisco. I remember in meetings I sat in at the time Marvel higher ups noting this would be a major switch to establish more of a presence in the California of the Marvel Universe, with the Runaways, the Order and the Eternals already hanging around there. Obviously there had been Marvel series set outside of New York City prior to this from West Coast Avengers to Iron Man and Daredevil’s own California stints to Thor in Oklahoma to the X-Men themselves operating out of Australia, but this seemed bigger. The change would not only stick for quite some time, it also perhaps indirectly inspired more Marvel heroes to branch out, from Scarlet Spider in Houston to Venom in Philadelphia to the new Nova in Arizona. I’ve always dug this concept and still eagerly await somebody setting up shop in Boston; I’ll even take Quasar.

UNCANNY X-MEN #425-426 (2003)
As I’ve gone along in this little chronicle of history, I’ve noted how Chuck Austen’s tenure writing the X-Men started off well enough—I think his initial issues still stand up today—but quickly became divisive as he seemed to lose his focus somewhat and veer heavily into soap opera at the expense of logic. Despite the previous sentence describing so many works of fiction I love, he lost me around this two-parter, “The Sacred Vows.” It’s the wedding of Havok—who secretly loves Annie, the human nurse who cared for him during his coma who’s currently with Iceman who still has feelings for Polaris—and Polaris—who went crazy after surviving the destruction of Genosha and confirming Magneto to be her father. Havok decides mid-ceremony to reveal he reciprocates Annie’s feelings, leading Polaris to create a whacked out half-Bridezilla/half-Magneto costume with garters and attack everybody with silverware and such until Juggernaut stops her. Annie had worn out her welcome, feeling more and more like a character nobody but her creator wanted to push, and established favorites like Iceman and Polaris getting more and more off center started to make the book a bit hard to swallow.

UNCANNY X-MEN #358 (1998)
I’ve not sure if I’ve read this issue or not. It took place during my hiatus from comics, and while I’ve made great efforts to fill in the gaps of my Uncanny X-Men collection in particular since, I think this one slipped through the cracks. It’s a spotlight on Bishop and Deathbird, who had been stranded in outer space together and become sort of a couple, fighting aliens. Again, I missed this romantic pairing and have only ever seen them when they briefly interacted during “The Twelve” and then in an alternate timeline after a fashion via their daughter in X-Men: The End, but it intrigues me, as it seems like a case of throwing two darts at a wall full of random X-characters, but there’s that uncompromising warrior aspect to both that actually makes some sense as far as chemistry.

UNCANNY X-MEN #303 (1993)
I kind of hope Brett White doesn’t read the blog anymore—does anybody read this blog anymore?—because he might lose it here, but I’ve never read this issue, which I know ranks among his all-time favorites. It’s weird, because I have everything from X-Cutioner’s Song to Uncanny X-Men #299, then I strangely skipped out on #300—I remember reading it cover to cover in a Walden Books or something and then not buying it—as well as the three subsequent issues before coming back for good with #304 and Fatal Attractions. I know people revere this particular story as among Scott Lobdell’s finest work with the death of Illyana Rasputin and Jubilee having to cope with it before anybody else, but yeah, never read it; forgive me, Brett.

UNCANNY X-MEN #232 (1988)
Man, I am blowing it this month, because I don’t believe I’ve read this story either. Between Essentials, trades and single issues, I’ve got pretty much everything up to Fall of the Mutants, then I fall off for a year or so, and pick back up with Inferno; this falls right in that hole. Anyway, it’s a Brood story, which always both delight and terrify me, and perhaps of more note it’s got Marc Silvestri art, which seems perfect. Silvestri has a rep for drawing a lot of robots and futuristic tech—he did create Cyberforce—as well as attractive ladies, but he’s also got a really intense knack for horror, as you can see in Witchblade and elsewhere, so judging by that and this cover, I gather he does well with the Brood; I’ll make a note to seek this one out, through the office Essentials copy if nothing else.

UNCANNY X-MEN #172 (1983)
Superb issue in the midst of a superb run by Chris Claremont and Paul Smith. The story picks up directly from Claremont and Frank Miller’s seminal Wolverine limited series—in part the basis for this year’s “The Wolverine” film, though the movie incorporates many elements from this story as well—as the X-Men come to Japan for the wedding of Logan and Mariko. You get everything in short order, with some genuinely heartwarming moments of congratulations to Wolverine from his “family,” the continuing tension of Rogue being on the team, and then action aplenty with Silver Samurai and Viper striking, plus Yukio from the aforementioned limited series making her return; Smith draws it all beautifully, making warm smiles from Nightcrawler and Kitty Pryde come to life as readily as crazy ninja fights. Viper manages to poison Colossus, Kitty and Nightcrawler while Samurai threatens Mariko, leading to the equally awesome next installment in Uncanny X-Men #173 where Wolverine has to put aside his mistrust of Rogue to protect his fiancée while Storm’s adventure with Yukio ends up having intense ramifications on her character; classic stuff that you need to check out if you never have.

UNCANNY X-MEN #112 (1978)

The second battle between Magneto and the All-New, All-Different X-Men, with a lot of weird elements framing the story, from Mesmero having previously brainwashed our heroes into thinking they were circus performers to the introduction of one of Marvel’s all-time weirdest characters, Nanny, the mothering robot who wants to turn all adults into children so she can take care of them. Chris Claremont uses the story to reinforce that despite all the X-Men have been through to date—fighting the Sentinels, the original Phoenix saga, etc.—they’ve still yet to really gel as a team as opposed to a grouping of disparate personalities, and Magneto utilizes their lack of cohesion to knock them down one by one. John Byrne also quickly emerges from right out of Dave Cockrum’s shadow to make the book his own artistically.


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