In this week’s episode, Jacob sits J.R. and Anthony down to explain why 90’s-era X-Men crossovers were so awful using the one that cost Wolverine his metal and Magneto his brain, FATAL ATTRACTIONS! There are deaths! There are returns! There are betrayals! There are explosions! By the end of this podcast, you will know that the story probably wasn’t as good as you thought it was.
A quick note before we begin. The remaining chapters of Chuck Austen’s X-Men have been COMPLETED. As in written (with images) and ready to post. That means no more delays in further updates – there will be two updates next week and then the final chapter and a wrap-up the following week. Thanks for sticking with it – it’ll be worth it!
Took Place In
Uncanny X-Men #442-443
Juggernaut, Polaris, Wolverine
Others You Should Be Aware Of
Emma Frost, Professor X, She-Hulk, Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch
In a Nutshell
Professor X takes the body of the slain Magneto back to Genosha and has a philosophical debate with Polaris while Wolverine tears down buildings.
Before we begin, I have to give a little bit of defense to our favorite writer, Chuck Austen. 2004 was a big transitional time for the X-Men. At the time, there were three X-Men books – one was considered the “flagship”, which carried the MAIN X-Men story – while the other two were basically secondary books for characters to appear who weren’t being used in the main book. And Wolverine of course, because Wolverine. The flagship book would get all the Wizard attention (remember Wizard?) while the secondary books were kind of left to their own, hoping that no one would notice. For X-Treme X-Men, it gave Chris Claremont room to do whatever he wanted, because he’s Chris Claremont and damn it, he earned it. As for Uncanny, Chuck Austen did…well, we’ve learned what Chuck Austen did.
But come 2004, suddenly the flagship hit a transitional period. Grant Morrison finished up his epic in New X-Men and headed off for the Distinguished Competition, and fanboy messiah Joss Whedon was set to come in and start his epic in the newly launched Astonishing X-Men – back when jumping on points were actually jumping on points. In the meantime, the rest of the X-Books got shuffled a bit. Both Uncanny and New had decently high numbers (back when that mattered) so X-Treme X-Men was ended and Claremont was brought back over and given Uncanny, which from a sales point made a lot of sense – Chris Claremont back in the book that he built. Glory. Chuck Austen was in turn pushed over to Morrison’s old title, given back it’s original name of simply “X-Men”. So all was good in the world. Whedon manned the flagship, and the others kept going.
Well, except that there was a two month gap between Morrison’s last issue and the big relaunch. That meant nothing for X-Treme X-Men – all it had to do was wrap up and get ready to jump. But for Uncanny and New X-Men, that meant two months of treading water, not able to start new stories because RELAUNCH. So in Marvel’s epic wisdom, they decided to give both books to Chuck Austen and said “do something for an epilogue”. But it wasn’t an epilogue to his own stories – no funeral for the Cabots to be seen. Instead, he got hampered with writing an epilogue to Grant Morrison’s finale of Planet X. (We’re going to ignore Here Comes Tomorrow). That meant Magneto and Phoenix dead, Charles Xavier leaving the school, and the school in ruins.
That by itself wasn’t too bad, but any X-fan worth their mettle is probably aware of the shenanigans that took place just after Morrison left Marvel. The entire run of Morrison’s X-Men had been the infiltration of Magneto into the X-Men following the destruction of Genosha. Then the climax hits and everyone’s mind is blown and we’re left with the aftermath…and Marvel decides “Nope, it was not actually Magneto” and brings him back a couple months later, with Professor X seemingly having known the entire time. It was a horrendous mess, and it hampered any kind of story dealing with it, because if Professor X knew, why would he be going through these motions here?
So in Chuck’s defense, that’s not his fault. This will also come up when we get to the return of Xorn. But enough of that. We’re not here to defend – we’re here to ridicule. So let’s go!
I started my X-Men fandom back in 1991 when my brother picked up Uncanny X-Men #275 (featuring my all-time favorite cover), and then had me buying them just three issues later. 1991 was a big year for the X-Men franchise, as the three big titles – Uncanny, New Mutants and X-Factor all went through major changes. With the release of the cartoon shortly after, the X-Men became an even bigger sensation for young fans, even for a line that had for some time been THE book of the comic scene.
A lot of my time in late-91 and most of 1992 hanging out a small local comic shop about three blocks away from my house hanging out with the local solicitor, a guy I only knew as Steve. Steve had opened a comic and card shop along with a small art gallery in a building next to Louisville’s Clifton Pizza, which is why to this day I associate the smell of a sit-down pizzeria with comics. Steve was an amazing contributor to my fledgling comic fandom, one of the three people that _ my love of comics (along with my older brother and my friend’s Aunt Jane – who was my comic mentor).
I spent many a dollar in Steve’s shop, and he gave me numerous deals that helped me build my collection of both comics and cards. For the entire summer of 1992, I spent dollar after dollar on packs of the first-ever X-Men trading card set. This 100-card set (not counting the bonuses) was drawn completely by Jim Lee, and reflected all of the X-Teams, even Excalibur. This card set let me learn about all the X-Men characters, in a time when Al Gore had yet to develop the Internet. Back then, you had to read the issues yourself or find some kind of resource to get your knowledge. And this one was mine.
At a dollar a pack, I spent most of the summer of ’92 piecing together this set. Steve was nice enough to buy back my doubles as I slowly but surely worked on the entire set. In fact, two weeks was spent looking for two cards to finish the set – Shatterstar and Danger Room Gambit – until one fateful day I bought one pack that had BOTH cards in it. I was one happy camper.
In fact, my biggest regret of the numerous lost pieces of my youthful comic collection is that I managed to lose this set somewhere along the line. It was probably pitched or given away by my mom, but I can’t really blame her as it likely took place during my down period of comic fandom in the early 00’s. I could actually buy the whole set now for not that much, but I can’t say I have the money for it right now. (If any reader would like to…just saying, ha!)
But I occasionally go back and look through the set, via a site of scans at comiccovers.com, and reminisce about the fun I had collecting them.
But today when I did so it dawned on me that there are some characters that were highlighted back in this boom period of X-Men that have been lost into character limbo over the years. After all, it’s been over 2 decades since this set came out. So let’s look at some of the featured characters from this period that have been largely forgotten over time.
Marvel has just released the following teaser image for their upcoming Avengers vs. X-Men event.
My first thought was “shouldn’t this be a very short fight?” But then I thought maybe Iron Man’s suit was made from a non-metallic metal. I tried to go to Wikipedia to see if the material that his armor was made from was listed there, but then I started reading about his current Bleeding Edge armor, and went a bit cross-eyed. So, I’m turning to you Iron Man readers. What is Stark’s current, or maybe last few suits made from, and is it a metal that Magneto wouldn’t be able to just rip apart with a thought?
There’s this odd thing about comic-based video games. There is rarely any kind of solid expectation to how one might turn out, especially based on previous history. Even when historically your franchise’s games have been crap, like Spider-Man for instance, suddenly a game can come out like the first one on the original PlayStation that just knocks it out of the park. And then you can tweak and update your formula and get it perfect, like the movie-based Spider-Man 2, and then manage to screw it up come Spider-Man 3 to where now you’re trying to rediscover the magic in alternate dimensions.
The same goes for the X-Men. Activision stumbled upon a winning formula when it came out with X-Men Legends and the follow-up was even bettr, but the system was pushed over to the Marvel U proper and the X-Men got stuck sitting around with nothing to do (not counting the movie tie-in). Finally, Activision decided to go back to the X-Men franchise with developer Silicon Knights this go-round, and shift up the format from the popular Legends series to something new.
Much earlier in the year, I was pretty damn excited about X-Men Destiny. Sure, they were dropping the format used in the two X-Men Legends games and going more with an “action RPG” approach, but still it seemed pretty neat to me. Even the thought that you wouldn’t be playing as any of the actual X-Men, but rather a new mutant recruit that would be fighting alongside the X-Men as you learned to use your mutant powers.
My initial thought was Dragon Age: Origins in which you start off as a basic character with a selectable origin and fighting class and eventually expand with other side characters that can fight along side you (with commands available) as you go through the massively large story complete with twists, turns, and tons of options that have a huge effect on the overall story of the game.
Seriously, go play Dragon Age: Origins if you haven’t.
Under advisement of Comicdom Wrecks! co-conspirator Casey, I decided against dropping $60 on the title (as if I had that kind of money to toss around) and instead hopped over to one of the Redbox terminals and dropped $2 to play it for a day. And it’s a good thing too, since it only took me six hours to beat the damn thing.
After the jump I’ll go into detail about the game, including my likes, dislikes, and the overall sense of blah to the deal.
There’s a great benefit the follow-up to a bad movie has before it’s even been screened for the first time. No matter how good or bad it may be, it likely cannot be worse than the previous one. Fans went into Batman Begins knowing that whatever they saw would surpass Batman and Robin. And those left disappointed by X-Men: The Last Stand likely went into First Class with the thought that it simply had to be somewhat better.
I make the lofty comparison between the Batman and X-Men franchises because just like the movie from the Distinguished Competition, Marvel’s merry mutants have pulled off a miraculous turnaround from the gratuitous action nonsense that Last Stand had been into an origin story filled with likable characters, interesting dynamics, and (if you can believe it) little-to-no Wolverine.
If you haven’t seen the movie yet, you should probably stop right here and avoid the SPOILERS I will be getting to after the jump. If that’s the case, I’ll leave you with this. X-Men: First Class is, in my opinion, the best movie in the franchise, only argued by X2: X-Men United. Instead of reading this blog, you should go see it. Actually, click on the jump link and give us the page hit. THEN go see it. And then come back.
Brian Cronin’s weekly feature Comic Book Legends Revealed is an incredible source of answers to comic book questions you didn’t even know to ask. He’s covered everything from Superman to Howard the Duck in his 300+ entries. One of his most interesting topics, to me at least, came in part three of his #300 special feature and dealt with a subject very close to where I currently am in my effort to read the entire story of the X-Men all the way through.
The background story had been building for nearly a year throughout both Uncanny X-Men and New Mutants. Professor X had been mugged by students who believed him to be sympathetic to mutants (and then learned him to be actually a mutant himself) and left for dead on the street. He was saved by the Morlocks, whose Healer barely managed to bring him back from death, but his full recovery depended on allowing himself time to rest and recuperate. Needless to say, he pushed himself harder than ever and his body began failing on him to the point that he lay dying at the close of issue #200 forcing Magneto to swear to take over for him at his school and serve as headmaster for both the X-Men and the New Mutants. And then the Starjammers suddenly appeared and fixed him.
But the interesting bit wasn’t the debate on whether the original plan had been to actually kill Xavier or not at this point. On that note, it certainly seemed like that was the case – especially Magneto’s reaction at the close of the issue, despite knowing Xavier would come out peachy-keen. No, the real story would come from a rather snooty-looking Brit who appeared for the issue’s signature event – the Trial of Magneto.
This was a less-than-likable character (I mean LOOK at him!) who popped in for a one-off appearance, made an ass of himself, and was never seen again. My first time reading this issue, I thought very little of him, believing him to simply be a character used to vocalize anti-mutant hatred as a foil to someone else who could defend mutants. After the issue, I never thought another thing about him.
But as Mr. Cronin revealed in his dealing with the matter, there was far more to Jasper James planned, only the plot was scrapped due to disagreement between Marvel and Alan Moore (yes THAT Alan Moore) that forced a retooling of the X-Men plotline. The tale is not just interesting in what was planned and was forced to be changed, but also how those ideas were eventually retooled and used in Uncanny anyway.