I’ve been meaning to write about my X-Men marathon, and how better than to begin with an era which was short and most people don’t remember.
The daily X-Men marathon has been a daily readthrough of every X-Men comic (within reason) from its inception to the present. I started when I turned 40 as hey, you ought to embrace the midlife crisis somehow, and I started posting online about them around August. Originally it was a single issue of X-Men, but when other series started I began to read a story arc in spin-offs or a single issue of whatever was counting as the main X-Men book at the time.
At the time of writing, I’m right at the arse-end of the Revolution and Counter X eras. I’ve been primarily using Crushing Krisis’ reading lists as a resource for my order, but occasionally tagging in other things like UncannyXmen.net or adjusting a giant spreadsheet I’ve got accordingly. Sometimes there’s some slight nudging based on what’s happening in real life (I do my best not to read more than one issue on mine or my partner’s birthdays, on Christmas or any holidays).
The X-Men hit an incredible height of popularity in the 1990’s, borne from the flashy artists who swiftly left to form Image, some still incredible artists and writers who frankly improved the books after the exodus. There was also the cartoon, a million Toy Biz toys, trading card sets and Wolverine starring in anything. Then you started to have the regular crossovers. My time collecting X-Men as they came out started just before The Phalanx Covenant, then I kept reading through Age of Apocalypse. Our local Forbidden Planet went under around that time and I picked up a number of AoA titles outside of my normal purchasing habits around then. Some people (my brother included) abandoned X-Men after AoA, deciding to go out on a high. Any who remained behind bailed with Onslaught, a crossover which took over almost everything and buckled under the weight of editorial changes and one of the main writers being Scott Lobdell, a man allergic to planning.
The fallout from Onslaught and Operation: Zero Tolerance were interesting, Steve Seagle & Joe Kelly were interesting, as were some of the spin-off titles like Cable having Jose Ladronn’s gorgeous artwork. But we can’t have good things and opinion was often gathered from Wizard: The Guide to Comics, which routinely had people wanting Claremont back. Seagle and Kelly were unceremoniously got rid of and Alan Davis was brought in to wrap up some of the outstanding stories, specifically The Twelve. As I’ve ripped the plaster of writing about X-Men off, I’ll get to The Twelve one day. This isn’t the time for that, I’m still in the preamble about Revolution.
The X-Men film was about to come out, there was a new team needed and Chris Claremont had assisted with some of Davis’ last issues, teeing himself up for a new run. Even so, it was All New, All Different.
X-Men Revolution consists of May 2000 to June 2001, most of which is written by Chris Claremont, but once he’s done with the books we get a return from another X-Men alum, Professional Comic Book Writer Scott Lobdell. It consisted of 27 issues of Uncanny X-Men, 28 of X-Men, an annual for each, a couple of miniseries and nine issues of X-Men Unlimited. There was also the Counter X initiative, where Warren Ellis was brought on to helm X-Force, X-Man and Generation X along with other writers who took over as they continued. Bob Weinberg wrote a Cable run, Joe Harris & Georges Jeanty led a Bishop series set in the far future. There was a miniseries in Limbo called Black Sun, an Excalibur miniseries to let Ben Raab play with the toys again and Search for Cyclops brought him home near the end of the era.
So how was it? Mostly not great. I expected to be incredibly bored by this era and I’ve got good news for you. It’s not boring. I thought I’d share some good and bad findings from the era.
GOOD – A distinctive look
Some of the designs are a mixed bag, but there are some fun new uniforms. Cable, Phoenix and Rogue are standouts for me. Psylocke’s look isn’t quite as distinctively her, but it’s a good style.
Nate Grey’s rarely had an actual costume and when he has they’ve looked like garbage. Switching to trousers, an open jacket with nothing underneath and a sweet new tat was a good change for him. Steve Pugh’s Generation X uniforms weren’t their best, but he definitely made them look gloriously chaotic and teenage, especially Jubilee.
BAD – The villains
The Neo, The Goth, The Shockwave Riders, The Crimson Pirates. Tullemore Voge, Bloody Bess, Domina, Jaeger, Lament… There are too many villains all at once and with so little time to know what their deals were.
I liked the idea that The Neo were a separate tribe of mutants who had a horrific disaster when Mr Sinister Punk’d the High Evolutionary and made him switch off all mutants’ powers. That’s a neat connection to the previous story. But what’s their deal? Why are there so many of them? All the sub-groups didn’t help, either.
GOOD – The Six Month Gap
I like the idea of skipping ahead a bit and finding out where the heroes are. Recent comics have done this a bunch with titles like Amazing Spider-Man. DC even went further with One Year Later and my beloved Legion of Super-Heroes had the wonderful Five Year Gap. In this case, the X-Men were still dealing with the loss of Cyclops and the giant space station the High Evolutionary left in orbit in the previous run. I know Claremont did a lot to tee himself up for the era, but when an era of comics changes you often see creators abandon everything that went before (see Whedon & Ellis).
This felt like a smooth transition while also being a new start. X-Force spent a lot of its time showing what went on six months ago with the ‘death’ of Pete Wisdom and then ending with the ‘death’ of X-Force.
BAD – The Gaps in the Six Month Gap
There are some problems with the six month gap, specifically things Claremont left out as hooks to explain in X-Men Unlimited at some point and never got to. Joe Pruett managed to explain the deal with the new Thunderbird, but Jean and Betsy’s power swap didn’t get clarified and I think get ignored later on.
GOOD – The Art
At least early on, there’s some fantastic art. Even if we’re keeping some existing artists like Tom Raney and Adam Kubert, they’re trying for a slightly new and different look. They’re more dynamic here. Leinil Francis Yu is one of the main influences on this era and he looks great. In more recent times he feels like more of a static creator, but here there’s a good dynamism.
Ariel Olivetti and Steve Pugh are standouts for the Counter X side of things, with looks which I’d have expected as something more of the New X-Men era instead of this one.
BAD – It’s mostly pointless
This era’s the shortest one I’ve read so far and it shows. Most of the new characters rarely or never appear again. There are some plotlines which would interact well with other bits of Marvel history, but even creators have forgotten they exist. X-Man’s whole ‘spiral’ idea about the multiverse and the Brilliant City who believe they sit atop all other realities. The many secret organisations who run things (in Cable & X-Force, mainly) who don’t interact with each other, let alone anything in the future.
The Neo never really panned out to anything and while they could have been interesting, weren’t. Kitty Pryde went missing for most of the run and reappeared without fanfare after Colossus died.
There’s an Excalibur mini in here which I don’t think amounts to anything in the long run. Dazzler’s fled Mojoworld after an adorable Age of Apocalypse might have killed Longshot but again, that doesn’t really go anywhere.
GOOD – Wrapping things up
The previous run closed out by putting The Twelve and Apocalypse out of their misery. This age ended the Legacy Virus and the eternal civil war in Genosha.
I’m going to close out with a positive, and hopefully I’ll get some more findings from my X-Men reread onto the blog soon, including looking back at what I’ve read so far.
If you want to follow along in real time, I post every morning on Facebook in the album “Daily X-Men”. I don’t think we even need to be friends for you to follow that. I’m a bit more sporadic with posting on Twitter, just because there’s only so much time in the day, but post under the hashtag #DailyXMen whenever I do.