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Wednesday, April 13, 2016

X-amining X-Men (vol. 2) #1

"Rubicon"
October 1991

In a Nutshell
Magneto returns to face the reunited X-Men in a brand new series.

Co-Plotters: Chris Claremont & Jim Lee
Writer: Chris Claremont
Penciler: Jim Lee
Inker: Scott Williams
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski
Colorist:Joe Rosas
Editor: Bob Harras
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

Plot
In outer space, a team of SHIELD agents chase a group of renegade mutants to the doorsteps of Magneto's Asteroid M, drawing his attention. The intervention of Magneto upsets the Russians, over whom Asteroid M is currently in orbit, and they initiate the Magneto Protocols, prompting Nick Fury to propose an alternative approach to the US President. Meanwhile, the reunited X-Men train in their brand new Danger Room, playing a game of tag against each other and the new X-Mansion's defenses. Afterwards, they're contacted by Nick Fury, who informs them of the situation with Magneto, and they agree to help however they can. On Asteroid M, Magneto puts a stop to the fighting between the agents and the mutants, who pledge their service to him. Magneto is eager to remain apart from worldly affairs, but the mutants' leader, Fabian Cortez, convinces him the world will respond to his actions, and that he needs a suitable deterrent.


At Xavier's School, Cerebro alerts the X-Men to the arrival of Magneto's energy signature in the atmosphere, and Cyclop's Blue Team rushes to intercept him. They find him in the mid-Atlantic, where he has raised the sub Leningrad and pirated its nuclear arsenal. Though he argues it is merely an act of self-defense, the X-Men attack, and when he flees, Rogue gives chase, trying to convince him that his actions are only reinforcing everyone's worst fears about him. Their conversation is cut short by the arrival of Russian jets, prompting Magneto to detonate one of the missles, which sends Rogue crashing down. On Asteroid M, a wounded Magneto is tended to by Cortez, while Rogue awakens in Genosha, which is under attack by the mutants now calling themselves Magneto's Acolytes. The X-Men rendezvous with her and attack the Acolytes, but they are interrupted by Magneto, who doesn't condone the Acolytes' attack, but declares them to be under his protection just the same. Meanwhile, at the X-Mansion, Moira makes a discovery that convinces her everything that's happening is her fault.

Firsts and Other Notables
Though the X-Men have technically been a franchise since New Mutants launched, this issue marks the first time the characters have joined the ranks of Spider-Man, the Punisher and the Avengers in being featured in more than one book at the same time. It's hard to make clear just what a big deal this was at the time, given that nowadays there's routinely three X-Men books being published, along with a couple X-Forces, a handful of Wolverines, the occasional X-Factor and whatever the heck Uncanny Avengers is supposed to be, but the idea of publishing another X-Men book, one that was just about more X-Men and not a different take on the concept (ie "mutant students" or "X-Men posing as mutant hunters" or "EXTREEEEME X-Men!") was fairly radical in 1991.

Both Chris Claremont and Jim Lee (and most of the rest of the creative team) move over from Uncanny X-Men to launch this series; Claremont will only last through issue #3, while Lee sticks around through issue #11 (without any fill-ins, amazingly enough) before leaving to help launch Image. Claremont was initially scheduled to write both this series and Uncanny, but left Marvel entirely for reasons we'll get into in future posts; he ended up writing the first three issues of this series as a kind of severance package (he's said in interviews that writing this book more or less paid for his house), as by the time they saw print, he was already gone.

Following the reconfiguration of the various teams following the "Muir Island Saga", this issue features the first appearance of the X-Men's Blue Team (though the rest of the X-Men appear as well), comprised of Cyclops, Beast (both brought over from X-Factor), Wolverine, Rogue, Psylocke and Gambit. It's a pretty decent team makeup; while Jim Lee clearly got first pick of characters for his book and thus, this one features all the cool characters, it's also nicely representative of the various eras of the X-Men (Cyclops & Beast from the originals, Wolverine and Rogue from the 70s and 80s teams, with Psylocke and Gambit as the more recent additions).

The X-Men get new costumes this issue, designed by Jim Lee. Most notable (in terms of being completely different from their previous looks) are Cyclops and Jean Grey's; everybody else pretty much sticks with what they had - Rogue gets a new green-and-yellow bodysuit, but it's not vastly different from previous costumes she's had, while Storm's costume changes from all-black to all-white and gets some "X" logos added to the lapels. Colossus goes back to his classic outfit, with a few tweaks, while Iceman and Beast get an X-logo added to their trunks.


This also marks the debut of the "leather jacket X-Men" as Rogue (most regularly) wears a leather bomber jacket branded with the X-Men logo on it over her costume (Gambit is also wearing a coat, but he's been doing that since his first appearance). In a move that often gets mocked alongside other 90s trends but which I really kind of dig, in future issues, other characters will take to occasionally wearing leather jackets as well, giving the team a unified look beyond the handful of X-logos on their otherwise-unique attire. While that trend will eventually fade out, Rogue's jacket sticks around as a part of her costume longer than most.

Also, thanks largely to the animated series (which adopts these designs for its characters), these costumes stick around (with some variations) for a long time, becoming the characters' default looks for an entire generation of fans brought to the series by the cartoon.

In addition to new costumes, this issue features the debut of a brand new X-Mansion, rebuilt behind the scenes between Uncanny X-Men #280 and this issue (albeit one which looks just like the old one), marking the first time we've had an un-destroyed X-Mansion since Uncanny #243, and the first time the X-Men have operated out of it since #219 (or X-Men Annual #11). It comes complete with a brand new, state-of-the-art Danger Room, which features in the issue's opening pages.

Additionally, Professor X gets a brand new hoverchair (later said to be of Shi'ar design), which will be his principal mode of transportation for the next decade or so, and like the new costumes, remains a iconic look for the character amongst many fans.

Forge has also built the X-Men a new Blackbird jet (presumably, two of them, one for each squad).


Future issues will establish that Forge and Banshee are not assigned to specific squads, and function basically as support staff for the mansion along with Professor X (though Forge ends up spending most of his time in Uncanny, while Banshee will shortly leave the franchise entirely for awhile). Jubilee, meanwhile, is nowhere to be found, nor is her absence commented on; she'll return in issue #4 of this series (again, without comment), having appeared in Wolverine during the intervening months, and more or less function as a member of the Blue team for the duration of its existence.

This issue marks the first appearance of the Acolytes, a group of mutants with an almost-religious like devotion to Magneto. Notably, they form and pledge themselves to Magneto without his involvement (as opposed to him going out and recruiting them). Most of this iteration of Acolytes will not outlast this story, but the Acolytes as a group, with varied membership, will return and become a fixture of the 90s and last even into the 00s.


One member who does outlast this story is their leader, Fabian Cortez, who also appears for the first time. Like Trevor Fitzroy over in Uncanny, he will eventually be established as a member of the Upstarts, and like Fitzroy, he will burn intensely hot for a few years (even getting to be the chief villain of a 30th Anniversary-celebrating X-Men/Avengers crossover) before mostly disappearing into villain obscurity by the late 90s. This issue suggests he has healing abilities, but the rest of the story will go into more detail about what exactly he does (I've heard the character was named after Fabian Nicieza, whom Claremont apparently resented for helping oust Weezie from New Mutants, but I've never seen that corroborated).


Moira MacTaggert is shown to be living and working out of the mansion (presumably due to the damage done to her Muir Island facility during "The Muir Island Saga"). She ends the issue having made a horrible discovery, and will feature heavily in the next two issues of the series.

This remains the highest-selling single issue of comic book ever, with upwards of eight million copies reported as sold. Of course, those sales were to retailers, not directly to customers, and for all the people who bought numerous copies thinking they'd one day put their kids through college, the enormous print run pretty much ensured there would always be supply to meet even the most fervent demand, thus limiting the potential value of the issue.

In the most 90s thing to hit the X-books yet, this issue was released with five variant covers: one with a quadruple-foldout cover containing the entire image of the X-Men attacking Magneto (itself an homage to the cover of the first X-Men #1), printed on high quality paper with no ads for $3.95, and four more in which the main image is broken down into four pieces, one piece per cover, printed on regular paper and priced at $1.50 for the double-sized issue (the five different variants are usually labeled as #1A-#1E, with #1E being the gatefold cover). Like the polybagged trading cards in X-Force #1, the variant covers invariably helped boost sales of the issue, as collectors bought all five to complete the "set" (this is also part of the reason why, despite being the best-selling comic book of all time, it's also, nowadays, frequent quarter bin fodder).


Additionally, each of the different covers included a different double page pinup from Jim Lee (with the super gatefold cover edition also featuring all the pinups). One features a collage of X-Men villains...


...another the original X-Men....


a third, the X-Men lounging by the pool (I believe that's Stevie Hunter next to Jean, and possibly Opal with Iceman way in the back)...


and finally, a preview of things to come, most of which, for the most part, come true (the only weird one is the green, techno-organic-ish woman in the bottom left corner; I believe that is a reference to what will eventually become the "Phalanx Covenant" crossover).


The backside of #1E's gatefold cover features a group shot of all the various X-Teams (sans Quicksilver) by Jim Lee; I have a laminated, supersized poster version of that image which hung on the back of my bedroom door for many years.


There's also a one-page ad for issue #2, though it's a reproduction of that issue's cover sans logo, and two pages of Jim Lee sketches for new characters and designs.


A point of clarification moving forward: this series is technically titled "X-Men (vol. 2)", as Uncanny X-Men began life as simply X-Men, before officially changing its name to add the adjective with issue #142. It's often colloquially referred to as Adjectiveless or Adjectiveless X-Men (since it has no adjective in its title). Since "X-Men (vol. 2)" is kind of a pain to type every time I need to refer to this series, moving forward I will, generally, use "Uncanny" in reference to Uncanny X-Men, and "X-Men" in reference to this series.

On a personal note, this remains a favorite issue of mine, something I've read countless times in various forms (it gets oft-reprinted and re-colored), and reaching this point in my survey of the X-books feels like a big deal, akin to reaching Giant-Size X-Men #1 or the launch of New Mutants, something that seemed way off in the distance, almost unattainable, when I first started, yet here we are, with this latest watershed moment in the history of the franchise soon to be in the rearview like so many others.

Collection Recollection
I used the Magneto-only cover (#1D, technically) for this post since it was the first copy of the issue that I bought in my early collecting days. I purchased it around the time issue #9 or #10 of the series was on the stands for a few bucks (I actually had to pay more for #2). I do have all five covers nowadays, but only because I bought the other four for a quarter a piece at a convention years ago, mainly just to say I did so.

The Chronology Corner
This issue up to #5 all take place before Uncanny X-Men #281; the gap between the end of "Muir Island Saga" and this one is used by chronologists to slot in a bunch of guest appearances by the X-Men, including their appearances in "Infinity Gauntlet".

A Work in Progress
Since his last appearance in Uncanny X-Men #275, Magneto has retired to a rebuilt Asteroid M in orbit above Earth, saying he no longer cares about human/mutant relations, though he gets drawn back into the conflict by his would-be Acolytes.


Xavier hangs a lampshade on the purpose of this issue by pointing out that it feels like all the X-Men are coming together again for the first time.


Gambit is referred to as being "Acadian" instead of Cajun, which is kind of accurate (Acadians are traditionally considered the descendants of French settlers in Canada, but Cajuns are in turn descendants of Acadians who went south to Louisana) but not consistent with how he's usually described.

Professor X (or the Danger Room) is apparently capable of building telepathic robots, as Jean attacks Colossus during the training sequence, then is later revealed to be a robot duplicate.

Magneto returns to the site of the sunken submarine Leningrad, which he destroyed in Uncanny X-Men #150, to salvage the vehicle's nuclear arsenal.


Magneto notes that for all the savagery of Wolverine's attack on him, the two were, if not friends, at least respected allies during Magneto's time running Xavier's school, and in fact, Wolverine had argued taking a less aggressive approach towards Magneto earlier in the issue.


Rogue lands in Genosha, which is still rebuilding following "X-Tinction Agenda", and is greeted by Chief Magistrate Anderson. It goes unmentioned in the text (and isn't germane to the events of the issue), but it's worth noting that Rogue is the one member of the Blue team at this time who wasn't around for "X-Tinction Agenda" (also, her going from Soviet airspace, albeit in high orbit, and landing in Genosha, which is near Madagascar, is dubious, at best).


This also represents Magneto's first visit to Genosha, a nation he will later rule, though he has acknowledged its existence (and its former economy built on the backs of mutant slaves) previously.

Gambit is able to catch a bullet in midair.


Harry Delgado is introduced in this issue as one of the SHIELD agents chasing the future Acolytes; then he shows up as an Acolyte, complete with powers. Whether this is a case of Deglado working as a double agent, getting mind-controlled into joining the Acolytes, or merely a case of each group having a "Delgado" amongst them, is never made clear, though all three options are suggested by the characters.

Beast and Wolverine perform an unnamed Fastball Special together.


Psylocke thinks to herself that she could take down her foe telepathically, from a distance, but craves the thrill of hand-to-hand combat.


The Reference Section
Rogue says she loves it when a plan comes together, quoting Hannibal Smith from the A-Team.


Claremontisms
We get two repeats of "Bang, you dead" in this issue; first, Gambit delivers a variation on it, after being duped by the Jean Grey robot.


Then, Wolverine delivers the line when he reaches the real Professor X and "tags" him.


Psylocke, of course, describes the nature of her psychic knife.


Artistic Achievements
The shot of Archangel flinging Colossus at the mansion's defenses was used as the character's art on the X-Men arcade game console (Colossus was always my preferred character to play in that game).


Claremont is forced to script over a panel of the totally-normal-strengthwise Psylocke punching through robots, having her say that Forge designed robots so she could fight them.


Build up your Vocabulary with Beast: Vernacular 
/vərˈnakyələr/. Noun. The language or dialect spoken by the ordinary people in a particular country or region (this issue is responsible for teaching me that word, as its the first place I encountered it as a kid).


Young Love 
Rogue refers to her and Magneto as old friends, and tries to speak to him through the personal connection they developed in the Savage Land.


The Best There is at What He Does
Another spot which shows a possible disconnect between art and script is when Wolverine attacks Magneto on the Leningrad; earlier, he had sided with Rogue, arguing that Magneto deserves to be reasoned with; on the sub, he attacks with an attempted killing blow (though Claremont could have easily scripted around it; instead of having Magneto say what a close call Wolverine's attack was, he could have noted that Wolverine tore his armor but was careful not to wound him, or something).

Wolverine notes that Cortez's scent is familiar, and Cortez seems to know Wolverine; whatever their connection, it has yet to be established or referenced outside this issue.


Human/Mutant Relations
This issue introduces a new derogatory slang term for non-mutant humans, used by more zealous, anti-human mutants like the Acolytes: flatscan. It'll get used a lot by those types throughout the 90s, but doesn't pop up much anymore.

Bob Harras on launching a second X-Men series
"I thought it was the worst idea on the face of the Earth, but [Editor-in-Chief Tom DeFalco] was the boss and [he] basically said, 'Hey, we gotta do another X-Men book!' I think it was right after McFarlane's Spider-Man had come out and was a big hit. [Hesaid it was to expand the X-Men line. I remember thinking, 'How much more can we expand this thing? We have four X-books already: X-Men, Wolverine, New Mutants and X-Factor.' I thought that if we went to five, we were going to kill the golden goose. I thought it was not going to work. I thought it was just something that was profit generated and not creative. I kind of fumed for a day or two.

I think there was a lot of geekdom in my reasoning at that point. I knew on one level, of course, that we had to make money, but how could we differentiate the new book from the other X-titles? And how could we outshine Spider-Man? That was also a goal. It was like, 'I want to do this better than Spider-Man. I want to make this a big, big deal.' I wanted to make it more than just a publishing initiative. I thought, if we're going to put out the first X-Men #1 since Giant-Size X-Men #1, this should be a big, big deal.

DeFalco, Tom. Comic Creators on X-Men. London: Titan Books, 2006. p176-177

Tom DeFalco on launching a second X-Men series
"I had gone to Europe and discovered that the desire for more Spider-Man material was so great we could publish another Spider-Man book and make a profit, even if we didn't publish it in the United States. I decided to do it and everybody thought I was nuts. I realised we could expand the X-Books, too."

DeFalco, Tom. Comic Creators on X-Men. London: Titan Books, 2006. p177

Teebore's Take
As much as Uncanny X-Men #281 is about moving forward while blasting away at the past, this issue is pretty much the exact opposite: moving forward using the past as a stepping stone, embracing the past to give the future more meaning. As much as this is filled with new things -  a new series, new costumes, new teams, a new group of followers for Magneto - it's also steeped in the past, short-term, long-term, and relatively ancient: Professor Xavier's return from exile, Rogue's relationship with Magneto, and "X-Tinction Agenda" from the not-too-distant past, Magneto's role as ally of the X-Men, and the existence of the New Mutants from the older past, Magneto's sinking of the Leningrad, his last act of outright Silver Age villainy, from the relatively ancient past. The end result is an issue that doesn't just reintroduce the concept of the X-Men as a group of superhero mutants operating out of a mansion under the tutelage of Professor X (a status quo not seen, in all its components, since Uncanny X-Men #199), but also introduces new readers (and some of those millions of copies sold HAD to have gone to new readers) to the rich historical tapestry of the X-Men. It's a primer on the X-Men, but also on the fact that these characters aren't brand new, and come with history.

As a result, this issue makes for a fantastic introduction to the X-Men for new readers. It's certainly not a perfect issue, on either the writing or artistic fronts; Claremont's tics are on full display - that final splash page is a pretty good microcosm for how Claremont's prose can sometimes get out of hand and crowd the art - while Claremont is also forced to script over some questionable artistic choices from Lee. But for the most part, this works: each character gets introduced and given a chance to illustrate their powers (the Blue team moreso than the Gold, of course, with Banshee & Forge mostly sitting things out), their personalities and relationships are on full display, it features the franchise's chief antagonist while continuing the work Claremont has done developing him, and while it gives a reader everything they need to know to understand and enjoy the story, it also isn't afraid to suggest that these characters are part of a larger world, with a rich history, beyond this issue. Reading this (a lot) when I was younger, it felt very much like a gateway, a transition point: after it was the new stuff, the stuff I was watching unfold each month. Before it was the entire complex, convoluted, engrossing history of the series, laid out for me to take, with this issue, in part, as my guide.

For an issue that could very easily represent the crass cash-in mentality of the early 90s speculator market, what with its five variant covers launching a spinoff of an already-bestselling series, it could have been much, much worse (it frankly could have been Uncanny X-Men #281 - and while it's easy to credit Claremont's presence as the difference, I do think Lee, as a plotter and collaborator, is steadier and more measured, with a better appreciation for the series' history, relative to Portacio). As is, it holds up reasonably well as an X-Men "pilot" issue, one which tells new readers what they need to know while entrancing them with shiny, energetic, widescreen art, but which still feels of a piece with what's come before, an issue which manages to look forward and start something new while still honoring what brought the narrative to this point.

Next Issue
Tomorrow, Alan Davis returns in Excalibur #42. Friday, Wolverine gets a fill-in in Wolverine #46. Next week, Beast guest stars in Spider-Man #15.

Collected Editions

54 comments:

  1. Love this. Love the art, the costumes, the training exercise, the mansion, the Danger Room, the hoverchair, Asteroid M... these are my X-Men.

    That said, I'm not a big fan of the new Blackbird. What was wrong with the SR-71? Also, considering "Blackbird" was the official nickname of that spy plane, why isn't this new craft called something else? Not that I want it to have a dopey name like the "X-Jet", but why call it a Blackbird when it clearly isn't one?

    I've also never understood why Psylocke knocking that robot's head off needs an explanation. She's a ninja and this is a comic book. I'm sure most any Hand operative could punch or kick the head off of a robot with no need for a meta-textual cover-up.

    But those are really my only complaints about this one. I agree with you on it being a "gateway"; I've always separated my X-Men into two major eras: pre-X-MEN #1 and post-X-MEN #1. Even though it's over twenty years old now, this is the start of what I would probably consider the "modern" age of the X-Men franchise.

    Gosh, between UNCANNY 281 last week and X-MEN 1 this week, I really, really want to go back and read all these issues right now, if only I had the time. I haven't been this excited for your X-Aminations since the Byrne/Cockrum/Smith era!

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    1. She's a ninja and this is a comic book. I'm sure most any Hand operative could punch or kick the head off of a robot with no need for a meta-textual cover-up.

      In this particular case I'm with Claremont, because it could be first and foremostly be said to be Betsy' background that has this gem:

      Using a ninja technique, Slaymaster toughened the striking surfaces of his left hand to produce a tough callous and sharpened it to produce a deadly razor edge, providing him with a built-in bladed weapon. (Wikipedia, but much more awesomely delivered on-panel by Alan Moore)

      Claremont may be nearly out of the door, but goshgolly as long as he's not fully out ninja-Betsy can't be decapitating robots just like nothing. The brought Slaymaster "back" for the Claremont/Lee Psylocke transition issue, fo'chrissake!

      Besides, Elektra can drop five of the much-vaunted Hand operatives hiding behind curtains in one move of, excuse me, hand. Smoke and mirrors, the lot of them.

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    2. On Blackbird, I second everything. I seem to not have registered Forge designing brand new ones for them, though, and subsequently have spent some time cursing "can't any of you draw it right!?" at post-Claremont panels I have recently been reading.

      The panel posted there where they have in the background hung the original from the ceiling as they do to fully-served warbirds fills me with sadness.

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    3. Also, considering "Blackbird" was the official nickname of that spy plane, why isn't this new craft called something else?

      Given that the original Blackbird was already a pretty heavily-modified version of the real SR-71 (what with its multiple-person cockpit and all), I'm less bothered by them keeping the name. It's become a term that applies to both the real world plane and whatever the X-Men are flying in at this point.

      I've also never understood why Psylocke knocking that robot's head off needs an explanation.

      Yeah, in terms of script covering for the art, this is less egregious. It's pretty standard comic book logic that martial artists can destroy robots.

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  2. I'm one of those "new readers" who this issue hooked. I was 9 at the time and I saw this on the rack at the mom and pop bookstore near our house. I had the Cyclops and Wolverine cover and it blew me away. I learned about shipping schedules because of this and the X-Cutioner's song, as I didn't want to miss any issues.

    I think you hit the nail on the head: This is a celebration of all things X-Men. It paves the way for the future, but by incorporating parts from the whole history of the series it feels like a continuation of the previous series. I think it's to this storyline's credit that all the references didn't confuse me, they only made me want to go back and explore this world even more (I have a feeling that was a pretty common experience considering how much back issues rocketed up in price after this issue). I mean a major plot point is about the time Magneto was a baby!

    This will probably always be my favorite X-Men comic and I realize nostalgia has a lot to do with that, but man, there really may not be a better introduction to the concept than this issue. Much the same way my first two issues of Spider-Man ever (Amazing #349 & #350, also from 1991) take me right back to being a kid again when I read them.

    For the record, I'm with Matt: Psylocke punching the head off that robot didn't bother me at all. The Wolverine thing is a bit more problematic, but hey, he's a berserker.

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  3. Also the Delgado thing totally reads like Jim Lee drew two separate giant bearded guys to me but they looked too much alike and threw off Claremont, but I have no proof of that.

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  4. Ah, maybe the last great issue, for a long, long while. I, like everyone else, loved it. Even as I consider selling off my collection, Mutant Genesis is a story I'll likely always have a copy of. (Though I may sell off the originals in favor of a TPB.) I'm not sure I even knew Claremont was leaving, let alone already gone, but he managed to go out on a helluva high note.

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  5. Note that Rogue is knocked out over Russia but somehow winds up in Genosha.

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  6. Man, it's been 4 and a half years since I began reading the X-Men reviews on this blog, and here we are at the dawn of what I'd consider *MY* X-Men. I was born in 1986 and introduced to the team through the cartoon show in 1992, so whenever I think of the X-Men this is the Golden Age for me, and what I view them as.

    However, as I've gotten older and re-read most of the issues post-Giant Size #1 I have to say that the older issues have grown on me, to the point that I prefer them to anything post-Vol. 2. I view the X-Men as having gone through multiple "seasons" as if they were in a TV show, with each season putting a new spin on the team. From issue #1 to #63 is the first, focusing on the original team. From Giant-Size #1 to #175 is the second season, focusing on the new team coming to grips. #176-247 was the third season, which dealt less with superheroics and more with human/mutant interactions as well as adding TONS of character development and really making the characters feel like real people (Such as allowing Cyclops to get married, have a kid, and retire.....For a bit). #248-280 was the fourth season, after some of the characters went through the Siege Perilous and the team disbanded.

    Then Vol. 2 #1 was.......More of the same.

    This isn't to say it's bad, but once Claremont left it was like each subsequent writer tried to undo what the writers previous to them did and just bring it all back to Claremont's run. Even though Claremont's writing did get a bit trite towards the end, the fact that he was able to write these characters continuously for 16 years meant he could take the time to develop them in ways that no other team book could. From building up subplots over 20 issues to allowing characters to mature to even destroying the team it kept the book from getting too stale. While I wasn't a huge fan of the Outback era, it was so far removed from what Claremont's run started out as that it feels anticlimactic to have this era end with essentially a re-telling of Uncanny #1. Claremont also stated that as soon as Lee was on Uncanny he wanted to draw Sentinels and Magneto and Sauron, to which Claremont replied that they had already done that and he had no interest of re-visiting the past unless it absolutely made sense to the narrative. From Claremont's departure on the books just felt like everything was harkening back to his run, and even the new stuff felt like it had been done before.

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    1. I like to break the series down by "season", too, but I go in 50 issue chunks:

      Season One #1 to #63: Original 5
      Season Two Giant-Size #1 to #138: Phoenix/Dark Phoenix Saga
      Season Three #139 to #200: Magneto's reform
      Season Four #201 to #243: Mutant Massacre/Outback/Inferno
      Season Five #244 to #280: No team phase

      I continue up through Volume 2 though, I think there's still some value there:

      Season Six #1 to #44: Blue/Gold/X-Cutioner's Song/Age of Apocalypse
      Issues #45 to 113: Bunch of crap
      Season Seven #114 to #154: Morrison awesome sauce.

      After that there get to be too many titles to follow the characters, which is kind of sad. But I think there's some decent quality up through AoA, although lows are lower. And I love Morrison's run.

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    2. Claremont also stated that as soon as Lee was on Uncanny he wanted to draw Sentinels and Magneto and Sauron

      Ha, must be contagious, because that's like recapping the upcoming short stint of Dwayne Turner on WOLVERINE.

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    3. Man, it's been 4 and a half years since I began reading the X-Men reviews on this blog

      Don't make me stop and think how long I've been doing this. :P

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  7. Now to comment on the art. Growing up, Jim Lee was definitely my favorite comic artist, and this issue is easily the most beautiful thing he's ever drawn. So many panels are just iconic images of the characters that were used on licensing or are just part of the shared consciousness of X-Men fans.

    With that being said, as a kid I had no idea what the fuck was going on in the panels half the time, and even today the storytelling is just bad to me. This is really the point where he began focusing more on KEWL and X-TREME poses for characters that looked great but didn't help with the visual storytelling. It seems like Claremont had to work overtime to add dialog and captions to explain what the hell was going on (As he had done with Lee in the past).

    And while the new costumes are what I'd consider to be their "classic" looks, there are way too many X's on them. It didn't occur to me till recently that up until this relaunch the characters never had X's on their costumes (Minus the belt X's on the original 5, the X-Factor uniforms, and the New Mutants). In my mind I pictured Wolverine, Colossus, Iceman, and Beast ALWAYS having had X belts. Turns out that was only a development when this series came out. This is weird because I always viewed them as more of a team than the Avengers or JLA and assumed they had to have some kind of similar costume element among them.

    Of course the X's went into overdrive as the years went on. It was its absolute worst during Grant Morrison's run when the leather outfits the X-Men wore had X's on almost every single surface (I count 8 here: https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/236x/01/2b/07/012b07f80051746fb3db00a57ed1c50c.jpg).

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  8. Did your favorite band ever release a "best of" album, the kind that featured all the hits, plus one or two new songs that are kinda ok but really don't belong in the same discussion with all their really GREAT work?

    Those lackluster tracks are basically what "X-Men" #1-3 feel like for Chris Claremont fans. They're not bad (especially, as mentioned, compared to what was happening over in "Uncanny"), but Claremont is clearly checked-out and coasting along on auto-pilot here, and it was a terribly disappointing way for the best superhero writer (hell, one of the best comics writers, period) of the Bronze Age to go out. It's always been kind of a bummer to see the book that helped launch X-Men into the stratosphere was possibly the emptiest, most blandly by-the-numbers story of the guy's decades-spanning run. I mentioned elsewhere that the wrap-up to the Muir Island Saga felt like the writers were essentially a Claremont cover band, and similarly these issues feel like someone at Marvel had written a computer program capable of combining all of those vaunted "Claremontisms" into a single story, only without any of the heart, nuance, or charisma that made his character endearing despite their questionable decisions and odd vocal quirks. For my money, only Rogue's appeal to Magneto feels like a genuine continuation of any previous character interactions. Everything else feels like a big, huge "reset" button being pushed as he was ushered out the door.


    And the crazy thing is, it still kinda works. I totally get why people love this story and this issue in particular: it's a dogpile of everything that made the X-Men popular in the first place, only with super-pretty art and the promise from retailers that the book you buy will somehow be worth MORE after you read it. Who wouldn't want to hop on that train?

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    1. I can relate to what you say; I hopped in mid-JRjr run, and afterwards I've found out the online consensus of the old readers seem to have been that it just got repetitive for them and they bailed out soon after #174. And then there's me, freshly coming in ~25 issues later and utterly gobsmacked how can a comic book be so great and awesome.

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    2. It's like: what a first-time reader of the X-Men gets is the story and the backstory. The story may be what it is depending on the randomness of what is anyone's first issue, but the backstory blasts you like an atomic detonation in distance and you can't but spead your arms, close your eyes and let the ripping wind throw your hair back.

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    3. "I hopped in mid-JRjr run, and afterwards I've found out the online consensus of the old readers seem to have been that it just got repetitive for them and they bailed out soon after #174."

      I love hearing stories like this, because it makes everything relative to a person's experience. I've heard people say they stopped reading after Byrne left, or they quit when Cockrum first left the book. And I'm amazed because, in my mind, the books had barely gotten revved up. Hell, I'm sure there are readers who swore by the Silver Age stuff and, to this day, absolutely hate everything after Giant-Size #1.

      For me, I can completely understand why readers would've jumped off at a point around the Mutant Massacre, where the book took on a REALLY dark tone and continued that way until the Vol. 2 relaunch. But to me THIS is the X-Men to me, as it all occurred around the year I was born and wrapped up into the Blue/Gold era, which is the team as I was introduced to them. Likewise, aside from Astonishing X-Men I really haven't cared about the books since 2004. Meanwhile, there might be a new generation of readers who think Avengers vs. X-Men is the greatest thing ever and I'm a nut for not giving a shit.

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    4. "I really haven't cared about the books since 2004."

      This. Can we all agree No More Mutants basically killed the X-Men as a comic franchise?

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    5. Well, a popular one at least.

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    8. I remember when I discovered the internet/AOL somewhere around 1996, in the midst of "Onslaught" and so forth, stuff I was rabidly eating up, and I was surprised to find so many older fans who couldn't stand what the X-Men (and Marvel in general) had become.

      Now I am one of those older fans who can't stand what Marvel has become, and who pines for the simpler days of the nineties.

      Jeff -- "Can we all agree No More Mutants basically killed the X-Men as a comic franchise?"

      I actually really liked "no more mutants" in concept, if not execution. Even setting aside the explosion of mutant characters in the eighties and nineties, by 2004, Grant Morrision had decided there should be hundreds of thousands of mutants in the world and it really made them feel less special as a result. So I was really happy when Marvel stepped that back and gave us the 198 or whatever it was. I just wish the stories that followed "House of M" had been any good.

      (I did think Claremont's UNCANNY run with Alan Davis was all right, but everything else in the X-universe left me pretty cold, including Whedon's ASTONISHING, and it wasn't much later that I dropped the X-Men line altogether after having already been driven mostly away by Grant Morrison, Joe Casey, and Chuck Austen.)

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    9. "I did think Claremont's UNCANNY run with Alan Davis was all right, but everything else in the X-universe left me pretty cold, including Whedon's ASTONISHING, and it wasn't much later that I dropped the X-Men line altogether after having already been driven mostly away by Grant Morrison, Joe Casey, and Chuck Austen."

      My thoughts exactly. Call it heresy, but I think Grant Morrison ruined the X-Men. He did take it in new directions it had never been before, but I always had the feeling that he hated the X-Men and wanted to fuck the book up as much as possible. I've been thinking of re-reading his run now that I'm more mature in my tastes, but at the time when I was a teenager I absolutely hated it. In fact, this was the impetus for me to go on eBay and buy tons of back issues of X-Men, the New Mutants, X-Factor, X-Force, etc. - If I didn't like any X-Men stuff that was coming out then I might as well go backwards and see what came before.

      I honestly think Whedon did a modern Claremont-esque take on the X-Men better than Claremont did at the time (Until you mentioned it I completely forgot Claremont was brought back for a run). Claremont's magnum opus was the 16 years he worked on the book continuously. Once he left he lost that momentum, and any time he was brought back he'd try and wrap up loose ends from his original run or shoehorning in pet characters, which ended up killing a lot of the momentum that the books had up until that point.

      For example, Destiny was dead for 150 issues when suddenly he came up with the X-Treme X-Men searching for her diaries. Then in his 2004 run on Uncanny I remember he suddenly made this weird love triangle between Storm/Wolverine/Nightcrawler that had never been hinted at before and just seemed extremely forced.

      Much like Teebore said that #175 was the "series finale" of the initial iteration of the X-Men, the Muir Island Saga was the series finale of the next iteration. From here on out there's some cool stuff, but I don't think it ever reaches the greatness of Claremont at his peak.

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    10. The weird thing about Morrison is that he said in an interview at the time that NEW X-MEN was his "love letter" to the Claremont/Byrne era. I was in my early twenties when NXM was coming out, and I had already read Claremont/Byrne probably about three times in its entirety over the preceding eight or so years, and I couldn't find a speck of anything resembling their work in Morrison's stuff.

      You mention Claremont and his peak, and I think it's funny that pretty much every X-Men fan agrees Claremont had a peak, and we all agree that the X-Men were never better than Claremont at his peak, but so many of us have different ideas of when the peak was! For me, it was the partnership with Byrne. For Teebore, I believe, it's the Romita Jr. era. For others it's the Outback period. I'm sure some even believe this is his peak. It's really kind of interesting.

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    11. @Matt - The most disappointing thing about Morrison's run was how it ended. This guy was touted as being the greatest X-Men writer ever and everyone was loving what he was doing.....Then his run ends with Xavier being crippled AGAIN, Magneto returning from the dead AGAIN, Jean manifesting the Phoenix AGAIN, Jean dying AGAIN, Magneto seemingly dying AGAIN. In a sense it was like the Claremont/Byrne era because we had seen all this stuff before. Oh yeah, and don't forget the 4 issue epilogue that was basically Days of Future Past.

      As far as Claremont's peak, I think he hit several different peaks. As far as superheroics, the Byrne run was his best as he expanded the boundaries of what a superhero comic could be. As far as character development that definitely happened during the Smith and JRJR runs, where I remember there were a lot more quiet moments and the battles weren't the focus (A great example is the guy's night out where they run into Juggernaut at a bar). Then the characters hit a peak of being super badass in the Outback/Silvestri/Lee eras.

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    12. I agree with Ian Miller^^. Every era of Claremont had peaks, and his legacy is that those peaks touched on different aspects of the X-Men while still maintaining those characters AS recognizable, fairly consistent characters for years and years.

      Chris Rock once made a comment about how your favorite music tends to be the stuff you listened to right around the time you started having sex. I think superhero comics have a similar "universal trigger" age, only it's generally a few years earlier: from junior high up until you get your driver's license. That's the time when you're starting to grow up, but you're still distinctly a child. You can't drive, can't get into R-rated movies or go to live concerts unchaperoned, etc. But you're aching for something that can offer you an escape and freedom from the increasingly burdensome restrictions of youth. For some people (including, I imagine, every single person reading this), nothing fills that void like a good superhero comic.

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    13. Ian: Then in his 2004 run on Uncanny I remember he suddenly made this weird love triangle between Storm/Wolverine/Nightcrawler that had never been hinted at before and just seemed extremely forced.

      Oh I don't know. These guys here already ruined my childhood by insinuating that Logan and Ororo were friends with benefits around the post Mutant Massacre/Outback era, and I always read some subtext to Ororo's kissing Kurt on cheek in UXM ~#189 when rising out of the mansion swimming pool (though of course as a four-or-so-grader I was very uncomfortable with the whole girl germs thing which may have affected on my judgement). But then she goes to her African trip, and he goes to existential crisis, and then to coma (while she is crying next to him missing his laughter) and Excalibur.

      Then I don't know anything about what happens because I am only building up courage to really start reading Claremont's second run*, but on the whole it does sound like my X-Men are up to the usual shenanigans to me. :)

      * though I have to say I just loved the twist ending revelation in X-MEN: BLACK SUN.

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    14. @Teemu - Maybe the romantic subplots were hinted on during Claremont's original run, I can't remember. But they sure as hell weren't brought up all that much, if at all, afterwards (Storm and Forge were a thing for a long time, Wolvie lusted after Jean and slept around, etc.). And it's not like they never saw each other again after the MM/outback era, Nightcrawler was on the X-Men again with Storm in the late 90's and Wolverine and Storm were on teams together all throughout the 90's and 2000's. I know Storm was off doing her own thing with the X-Treme team, but was that really enough time for her to be away from Logan, develop feelings for him, and then have Nightcrawler pine for her?

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    15. Claremont and Cockrum had Nightcrawler flirt with Storm way back in UNCANNY X-MEN 101. To the best of my recollection, that was the beginning and end of anything between the two until Claremont brought back a mutual flirtation in UNCANNY 445, thirty years later. And the scene in 445 even makes reference to the scene from 101, so Claremont was obviously looking to pick up something he had long ago put down.

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    16. Did your favorite band ever release a "best of" album, the kind that featured all the hits, plus one or two new songs that are kinda ok but really don't belong in the same discussion with all their really GREAT work?

      I do think that's a really great analogy for these three issues. Especially since so much of what comes after it (in the early post-Claremont goings) really does read like a Claremont cover band.

      @Jeff: This. Can we all agree No More Mutants basically killed the X-Men as a comic franchise?

      Pretty much, yeah. Like Matt, I liked the idea of No More Mutants (around that time, I always liked to say that if I was given the X-Men to write, the first thing I'd do is some kind of event which scales back the number of mutants to make them more of a minority again. And also bring back Ted Roberts, which I would still totally do if given the chance), but thought the execution of it was botched - mainly because it only affected C-listers (at best) with no in-universe explanation for why all the marketable characters retained their powers (or, really, why ANYONE retained their powers. Wanda's command seemed pretty all encompassing).

      It also completely gutted the junior New X-Men team, which I adored.

      @Matt: I couldn't find a speck of anything resembling their work in Morrison's stuff.

      Casandra Nova was pretty much a Morrison thing, but then he did a big space/Shi'ar storyline, a Jean/Emma psychic duel (shades of the first act of DPS), a dive into Wolverine's past (a la UXM #139-140), a big Magneto confrontation that also echoed DPS with the payoff to the building "return of Phoenix" thread that had been running through his entire run, and then finished the whole thing off, like Claremont/Byrne, with a "Days of Future Past" riff (which only seems less notable because DoFP riffs were old hat by then).

      I have some issues with Morrison's run (even beyond the inconsistent art making it difficult to enjoy as a whole), but I can definitely see the Claremont/Byrnes riffs mixed in with the now-standard Morrisonian whackiness.

      For Teebore, I believe, it's the Romita Jr. era.

      That's my personal peek, but I'm hard-pressed to not admit that, objectively, his collaboration with Byrne was his peak. I mean, it's tough to beat Proteus into Dark Phoenix into Days of Future Past just in terms of sheer lasting impact and craft, even if I personally like later eras more.

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    17. "Casandra Nova was pretty much a Morrison thing, but then he did a big space/Shi'ar storyline, a Jean/Emma psychic duel (shades of the first act of DPS), a dive into Wolverine's past (a la UXM #139-140), a big Magneto confrontation that also echoed DPS with the payoff to the building "return of Phoenix" thread that had been running through his entire run, and then finished the whole thing off, like Claremont/Byrne, with a "Days of Future Past" riff (which only seems less notable because DoFP riffs were old hat by then)."

      True, I suppose his tribute is in the form of revisiting scenarios Claremont and Byrne had done with his own spin. I think I take the term "love letter" too literally. To me, a love letter to Byrne and Claremont would involve the same costumes Byrne drew, a similar writing style to Claremont, some of the same villains they used (besides just Magneto and the Shi'ar) and a status quo to mirror the one of the seventies.

      I have to admit I've been burnt more than once by taking creators too literally in that way. When (shudder) Chuck Austen came on UNCANNY, he said in an interview that he warmed up by re-reading the Claremont/Cockrum stuff, because he considered it definitive. I was all set for a return to a Cockrum-esque roster, more classic-looking costumes, some colorful action, maybe a Count Nefaria appearance, and then we got... whatever it was we got.

      Then when DEADLY GENESIS was announced for the thirtieth anniversary of the "All-New, All-Different" X-Men, Ed Brubaker said he'd grown up on Claremont and Byrne, so I was expecting something like an actual reunion of the "new" team, maybe fighting Krakoa or (again) Count Nefaria or something as a tribute. Instead he took a huge steaming dump all over the work of Len Wein, Dave Cockrum, and Chris Claremont. And it got even worse he killed Banshee!

      I just see words and phrases like "homage", "tribute", "love letter", "grew up with it", etc., and I assume that means we'll see... not exactly a straight retread of the past, I guess, but certainly something imitating it to an extent in terms of using classic concepts and set-ups while telling new stories.

      (Probably the best example I can think of to illustrate this point was the Kurt Busiek/George Perez AVENGERS. It moved the franchise forward in terms of storylines, but it did so by wallowing in, and embracing, the glory days of the past. That's what I expect when a new writer comes onto the X-Men and invokes the names of Claremont/Byrne/Cockrum/etc.)

      But like I said, that's probably my fault for taking these buzzwords too literally.

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  9. Wolverine notes that Cortez's scent is familiar, and Cortez seems to know Wolverine; whatever their connection, it has yet to be established or referenced outside this issue.

    Yeah he's Mystique, freshly out of job due to disbandment of the Freedom Force and looking to pull her old trick of filling Magneto's shoes.

    the only weird one is the green, techno-organic-ish woman in the bottom left corner

    Could be Cylla? She's got a skull-face, and the uniform looks a bit in form if not in color the one in UXM #281.

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    1. Could be Cylla?

      Ah, yeah, could be. I hadn't considered that, but I see it.

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  10. I bought all five of these upon release and instantly polybagged four of them, sacrificing one to actually crack open to read. It did seem to have some promise after the sluggish Outback era but unfortunately signaled the end of the line for me in my 5-year subscription of X-Men just less than a year later. I was shocked to see CC exit and never regained any interest in further issues. For me, "my X-Men" ended in 1991, and this new start is a little bittersweet.

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  11. "while Lee sticks around through issue #11 (without any fill-ins, amazingly enough)"

    True, but given the quality of some of the later issues (especially the last few) and the reduced page count, maybe he should have had a fill-in or two.

    "It's a pretty decent team makeup"

    The only thing I might have done differently would have been to maybe switch up Jean and Psylocke, just to give the Blue team another person who can fly and add a bit more raw power, and give the Gold team someone who can add a bit more stealth skills to the team. But, given some of the soap opera elements Lee will give the title, I can see why Jean and Cyclops aren't on the same team, while he and Psylocke are.

    "while Iceman and Beast get an X-logo added to their trunks."

    Technically, Iceman does get a new outfit, though given the nature of his powers, you don't really see it much. Check out his uncannyxmen.net entry (http://uncannyxmen.net/node/5801/page/0/10), his new outfit is #9.

    "presumably, two of them, one for each squad"

    Well, we do see it in the panel, in the upper right corner...

    "Future issues will establish that Forge and Banshee are not assigned to specific squads"

    Which, too bad. CC did some good work with them recently, and it's too bad Lee and Portacio had no place for them.

    "One member who does outlast this story is their leader, Fabian Cortez, who also appears for the first time"

    Unfortunately, it all goes downhill for Cortez after this. Despite his prominence, the guy is more or less portrayed as an idiot, and not very successful either. He never lives up to the potential we see CC giving him here. THIS Cortez could have been a decent player in the franchise, but nobody post CC can ever really make him much of a credible threat.

    "the only weird one is the green, techno-organic-ish woman in the bottom left corner; I believe that is a reference to what will eventually become the "Phalanx Covenant" crossover"

    Really? Interesting that Marvel actually had that planned out that far in advance. Of course, I wonder what the original plan was. I always assumed he/she was somehow related to the Guild/Bella Donna story that just went through some changes.

    "(sans Quicksilver)"

    And Jubilee as well...

    "Rogue lands in Genosha, which is still rebuilding following "X-Tinction Agenda""

    I guess we can also firmly place this issue after X-factor #71.

    "Psylocke thinks to herself that she could take down her foe telepathically, from a distance, but craves the thrill of hand-to-hand combat."

    This was one of the things I alluded to earlier with regards to changes to her and future possible sub-plots CC might have had with her. Except it goes nowhere after CC leaves and what we get is...well, we'll get to that.

    "The shot of Archangel flinging Colossus"

    Unfortunately, it seems like Jim Lee has taken to the ugly Portacio redesign of Warren's wings...

    "Colossus was always my preferred character to play in that game"

    Me too! Mainly because his special attack, unlike the others, hit enemies in a 360 direction, whereas the others only had attacks that fired in a forward direction.

    "Wolverine notes that Cortez's scent is familiar, and Cortez seems to know Wolverine; whatever their connection, it has yet to be established or referenced outside this issue."

    Even at the last minute, CC throws in one last dangler...

    "We have four X-books already: X-Men, Wolverine, New Mutants and X-Factor.'"

    Ouch. I mean, for Excaliber. Then again, given how it rarely crosses over with any of the other titles, I guess it's expected. Though still funny to see that it isn't seen as a "mutant title" at this point.



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    1. Technically, Iceman does get a new outfit, though given the nature of his powers, you don't really see it much.

      Ah, yeah, I forgot about that one. I think because it doesn't first show up until later (maybe circa UXM #284?) and then, as you say, not very often, I tend to forget it as one of the new Lee-designed ones.

      CC did some good work with them recently, and it's too bad Lee and Portacio had no place for them.

      Yeah. Banshee comes out okay, getting the Generation X headmaster gig eventually, while Forge is okay in X-FACTOR post-AoA while that series goes to pot, but there's no reason both couldn't have hung around longer and done more.

      Really? Interesting that Marvel actually had that planned out that far in advance.

      To be clear, I don't know that for sure. I've seen it suggested in a few places, and it kind of fits, but I've never seen an official explanation of that figure.

      I guess we can also firmly place this issue after X-factor #71.

      Yeah, there's a footnote in XF #71 that confirms as much.

      Unfortunately, it seems like Jim Lee has taken to the ugly Portacio redesign of Warren's wings...

      That does seem to be the standard, even after they leave, until...maybe Madureira?

      Mainly because his special attack, unlike the others, hit enemies in a 360 direction, whereas the others only had attacks that fired in a forward direction.

      Exactly! If guys came at you from behind, you could defend without turning around.

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  12. Overall, this is a good issue. Not great, mind you, but a good issue. It holds up much better than some of the other titles at the time, and is a decent swan song for CC's final (at the time) work on the title, even without the added appeal of nostalgia goggles.

    While CC and Lee both do good work, the issue does have some points against it. CC's over done tics, and yes, some disconnect between him and Lee that does need to be "corrected" (Psylocke and the robots, Delgado, etc). And looking down the line, what comes after doesn't live up to what this issue establishes.

    But, taken is isolation, it works well on it's own. Every character seems to have the right voice, it sets up the status quo nicely for new and older readers, Lee's art is still dynamic, has lots of energy, and is storyboarded rather well, there is a general checklist of past CC stories and concepts, and as usual CC does a great job with Magneto as well, and serves as a nice coda for what CC has been doing with Magneto since #150.

    So overall, the pluses do outweigh the minuses. Again, it isn't a great issue, but it is a good one, and is certainly one of the most important X-men issue published...ever.

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  13. Ouch. I mean, for Excaliber. Then again, given how it rarely crosses over with any of the other titles, I guess it's expected. Though still funny to see that it isn't seen as a "mutant title" at this point.

    It's Bob Harras speaking I guess, from his POV that doesn't include the editorial duties of EXCALIBUR which belongs to Terry Kavanaugh.

    I wonder if the Fabian Cortez dangler gets addressed on Claremont's 2009 book X-MEN FOREVER that picks up from where X-MEN #3 left.

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    1. But Excalibur was considered something of a mutant title. It was part of the Mutant Genesis ads at the time...

      http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-WTMvioP2NpU/UQg_de6GXbI/AAAAAAAAB1k/Sd-l0DWzp-c/s1600/mutantgenesiscardfront.png

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    2. Good point about EXCALIBUR being editorially-cutoff from the other X-books. I never really considered that before, but that does explain a lot of why EXCALIBUR seemed like the forgotten X-book for a good chunk of its history.

      I wonder if the Fabian Cortez dangler gets addressed on Claremont's 2009 book X-MEN FOREVER that picks up from where X-MEN #3 left.

      Not really, as I recall. The first issue opens with the X-Men (consisting of a roster that doesn't at all match the roster of X-MEN #3 (ie Shadowcat and Nightcrawler are there, Colossus isn't) hunting down Cortez, but then it segues pretty quickly into Claremont's whole "Wolverine is killed" plot and the return of Kid Storm.

      @wwk5d: It was part of the Mutant Genesis ads at the time...

      Any idea where that ad came from? I've never seen it before!

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  14. // and reaching this point in my survey of the X-books feels like a big deal //

    It should. Congrats! While it’s not the milestone for me, personally, that it is for the franchise as a whole and for most of the other commenters here — on whom I seem to have 8-10 years at least — yeah, it’s a big deal indeed and something that seemed unquantifiably far in the future even when we did reach Giant-Size X-Men #1 or the launch of New Mutants.

    // I actually had to pay more for #2 //

    Given that second issues have long had notoriously smaller print runs, especially in the days before pull lists at shops (or the likes of Westfield and now Internet mail-order subscriptions) were very common, that’s not surprising. There’s no real sell-through data to inform orders on a monthly title until the second or even third issue is out, never mind where things will level off, and ordering’s all the crazier after a first issue that has multiple covers or some other gimmick. Even with the big deal X-Men was, I’d assume that stores didn’t order much beyond what their usual math of regular buyers plus extras to shelve and later bag for the bins dictated, so unlike the first issue you wouldn’t have either store overages or sold-back variants/duplicates from disappointed “collectors” on hand; readers simply bought a copy of the second issue to read and keep until they were ready to sell the run, unless they were savvy enough to know that second issues tend to pay out much better in the speculation game.

    // [Rogue] going from Soviet airspace, albeit in high orbit, and landing in Genosha, which is near Madagascar, is dubious //

    Just a few degrees that high up can translate to a massive distance on the ground. It actually bugs me whenever comics — and now TV/movies — show a character reaching the upper atmosphere only to fall, as opposed to intentionally fly, straight back down to the same city block from which they took off. Maybe this instance does go too far in the other direction, though.

    // Gambit is able to catch a bullet in midair. //

    Is he able to instantaneously absorb or negate an object’s kinetic energy in addition to activating potential energy in an object at rest — or is this just Lee making him so kewl with skill that he don’t need no power to explain it?

    // It's a primer on the X-Men, but also on the fact that these characters aren't brand new, and come with history. //

    What you write about it being the gateway and transition point between history and the new stuff is all very nicely put. And I have to say that it’s exactly that sort of thing which intrigued me as a kid discovering comics, be it through dialogue and flashbacks in landmark introductory issues like this or, more prevalent in that era, themed reprint collections like DC’s 100-Page Super Spectacular issues or the Fireside Origins of Marvel Comics books.

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    1. Just a few degrees that high up can translate to a massive distance on the ground

      Actually isn't going the same amount in degrees high up there going to need you to cover a lot more distance than it would on the ground?

      Anyway, Jimmy Hudson had that fancy trick of "stopping" himself in relation to Earth's turning, effectively nigh-instantry transfering him a considerable distance to... westwards? in relation to Earth surface. I also vaguely remember there is some sort of Physics-related thingy to prevent that effect happening if you for example jump in a moving bus.

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    2. Me: // Just a few degrees that high up can translate to a massive distance on the ground //

      Teemu: // Actually isn't going the same amount in degrees high up there going to need you to cover a lot more distance than it would on the ground? //

      Yeah. Unless you’re so high that you’re breaking the “sphere of influence” — sorry; the physics term escapes me right now — Earth holds on you through gravity and other vectors, allowing the planet to rotate beneath you. So it was a poor or incomplete choice of words on my part; I merely said “that high” when I meant “so high you’re not geosynchronous by default”. The jumping in a bus is a popular expression of relative motion, as is tossing a ball in the air on the back of a pickup truck and having it land back in your hand even though the truck has covered a fair bit of road while it was up — but if you toss the ball high enough to escape your cocoon of relative velocity it will indeed end up back down on the road behind you. And I should point out that I’m no physicist or I'd be explaining this better assuming I’m not outright screwing it up.

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    3. The damned Comics Code should have made it mandatory that when there are too many of these concepts of Physics in play, there would be a first page exposory with graphic diagrams and Dr. Val Cooper explaining these things to a bunch of generals and UN apppointees like to children.

      Sure I can nowadays look it up from internet that "near-space", or Upper Atmosphere, is 20 to 100 km from the Earth surface, but good luck with that in 1991 (well 1993 in my case). You'd need books! (I did have a spectacularly good series of ones under the title of "TOP - School Student's Know Books, but that's besides the point here)

      Claremont has to choose this moment to fail me by not applying any yellow box plane porn prosa to the scenes with MiGs. I would so look up their ceilings if I had the identification. Mainly because I started thinking that with the Earth radius of 6,371 km, even a hundred km on top of that would be pretty negligible for the difference in distance as the degrees go, and them fighters get capped at, what, 20k meters? Them Acolutes must've dragged unconscious Rogue with them to Genosha to make a point or something; her ending there otherwise would demand that the nukular detonation threw her thousands of miles and by coincidence to the place of the next fight.

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    4. I just went and looked at the issue again, which I should’ve done the first time, and you can pretty much ignore everything I wrote. Like you say, Rogue and Magneto are still within the atmosphere — even "low enough to have a decent conversation". For some reason I pictured them at the height of Asteroid M like the ships in the opening scene. Maybe because Teebore used the words “high orbit” and maybe because it doesn’t even seem like a scene transition when the first panel after the detonation — which is just one panel after Rogue falls — Magneto is back on Asteroid M. So while I stand by what I said in general, as it applies to stuff I had in mind when I first replied to the post, mea culpa on both the faulty memory and not going back to check the actual text.

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    5. The next issue states the altitude of Asteroid M to be 250 km, so I guess it's pretty much the same difference. I don't know how sensible altitude that is supposed to be for an orbital construct, but the ISS is about 355–368 km high.

      Everyone knows new crap now, we can chalk this up as a victory anyway.

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    6. Just a few degrees that high up can translate to a massive distance on the ground.

      I know you've managed to talk yourself out of that explanation, but I do think there's still some truth to it. They weren't orbital, but they were high up, and while it may not have been a steep enough angle to account for Rogue's landing spot, it was probably enough to make it a little less egregious.

      Is he able to instantaneously absorb or negate an object’s kinetic energy in addition to activating potential energy in an object at rest — or is this just Lee making him so kewl with skill that he don’t need no power to explain it?

      The latter, I believe, but the former makes for a nifty No-Prize explanation.

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  15. I just love how on Pg. 5 the Russians have put a 200-foot-high image of Magneto onscreen at the Cosmodrome, so everyone knows what’s under discussion — and how it understandably freaks out the crewmen in the foreground.

    Also, Cyclops’ and Wolverine’s faces, as well as Wolverine’s bicep, in the last panel on Pg. 15 look awfully like Byrne.

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    1. But what's not to love there? It's Magneto wearing his big M here costume, most popular in-universe from his trial in #200, and the Soviet folks are still horrified, as they justifiably should be. I love the special bad blood between Mags and the Soviets, that probably started for Mags with the Vinnitsa incident, which in turn may have had something to do with Mags' staunch response to the attack in #150, which the Soviets in their turn didn't take at all well and probably have on some level pinned what happened to their Vostok 3 base in Antarctica in #275 on him too.

      The Soviets won't be at all happy of Mags going to meddle with the wreck of the submarine Leningrad. It's awesome interplay between real-world folks who make great comic book villains, and perhaps the greatest comic book villain.

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  16. No one going to comment that Cyclops looks like he went on a steroid binge during the "six-month gap"? So much for "Slim" Summers, huh?

    I LOVED this issue when it first came out. Even now, I still think the writting and art holds up well, even with Claremont's tics and Lee's over-dynamic sexualization (nice "brokeback pose" there, Storm")

    Speaking of which, I find the "X-Men Pool Party" kinda amusing, since this is around the SAME time Marvel was putting out swimsuit specials, correct?

    Magneto's comments about Wolverine and Cyclops would become incredibly ironic about 20 years later.

    Finally, while i don't care for many of their actual members, I kinda liked the Acolytes as a group, a concept. As we'll see, fanatical devotion and symbolic reverence to Magneto will be a big sub-theme in a lot of X-Men stories which makes a bit of sense given Magneto's statsus as rebellious mutant leader and all. That type of person typically inspires cult-like worship.

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    1. No one going to comment that Cyclops looks like he went on a steroid binge during the "six-month gap"? So much for "Slim" Summers, huh?

      Heh. True story: for the longest time, I never "got" the Slim nickname, since my first introduction to the character was the 'roided up Lee version - and really, while previous iterations weren't as bad, it's not like the Simonson or Romita Jr. Cyclops were noticeably slimmer than anyone else. It wasn't until I read some of the earliest 60s issues that I got the idea that he's supposed to be skinnier than average.

      All that said, yeah, the general 'roiding up of everyone that happens as part of Lee's designs probably warranted a mention. I think I overlooked it just because I'm so used to it by now. :)

      Speaking of which, I find the "X-Men Pool Party" kinda amusing, since this is around the SAME time Marvel was putting out swimsuit specials, correct?

      Pretty much, yeah. Maybe the early days of those issues, but certainly of a piece.

      Finally, while i don't care for many of their actual members, I kinda liked the Acolytes as a group, a concept.

      Me too. And I do like some of the members of the later iteration: I like that Frenzy is one, just for having at least one member be an existing character (and I always appreciate callbacks to pre-PAD X-FACTOR), Amelia Voght gets some nice backstory in UNCANNY #309, and having Unuscione be Unus the Untouchable's daughter was a nice (heh) touch, even if that idea kinda came out of nowhere and never really got addressed.

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  17. Harry Delgado is introduced in this issue as one of the SHIELD agents chasing the future Acolytes; then he shows up as an Acolyte, complete with powers.

    The Acolytes are a righteous mess here. There are three SHIELD agents who end up to Asteroid M, and one of them, Deke, gets killed, leaving Harry Delgado and Nance. Then we see a moustached agent who must be H. Delgado on same panel with the big bearded Acolyte who is later called Delgado, and they don't seem to know each other so they're not brothers or anything.

    Anne-Marie obviously dies first, but then she apparently gets later healed by Fabian Cortez who already spoke of her as "was" before that. He speaks her as "sister" like he would rather mean "one of mutantkind", but everyone seems to take them as siblings as the character gets named Anne-Marie Cortez.

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    1. Also, as Paul O'Brien points out in his X-Axis review, it's a major plot point that Cortez's power is actually not the ability to heal someone, so how does Anne-Marie get healed in the first place?

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