Fourteen weeks into the Legacy initiative, Marvel publishes the 53rd and last of its promoted title launches with Charles Soule and Phil Noto’s Astonishing X-Men #7. This book had been one of our favorites when it was launched at the tail-end of RessurXion because of the smart writing, slick art, and excellent team dynamic, and now, wrapping up the glut of Legacy releases, it serves as a good reminder that the future of Marvel Comics may be far more reliant on the marginalized mutant branch of the superhero tree than the company realized, or would care to admit.
There are a precious few of us longing for the return of Reed, Sue, and the Fantastic Four proper (although Zdarsky and Cheung’s new Marvel Two-in-One is keeping us pretty happy). And there are more than a few of us rolling our eyes every time another top-tier character dies or is otherwise melodramatically shown the door (stay dead, Mar-Vell). But there is likely a very large number of casual post-Claremont fans who have either grown up with the X-Men cartoon, discovered the characters in Bryan Singer’s movies, or have a fond remembrance of X-books of the 90’s who don’t understand why there are so many damn mutant books on the stands, with not a one of them featuring a certain bald telepath.
Funny that amidst the storytelling miscues and struggling sales numbers of Marvel’s latest initiative, one book slips under the radar that honestly attempts to honor the history of this beloved fictional universe, without even bothering with the Legacy trade dress. Ed Piskor, the award-winning cartoonist responsible for Hip-Hop Family Tree, now turns his attention to Marvel’s mutant family tree with X-Men: Grand Design. Piskor has taken over fifty years of X-Men comics and crafted a new thirty-year timeline of continuity, with this first issue covering the birth of Charles Xavier through the early formation of his first team.
The series is as much a harmonization of decades of storylines and origin tales as it is a fresh take on what has made this cast of characters so compelling. Obviously, much of the action in this first issue distills the early Stan Lee & Jack Kirby comics, but the chronology ties in work by other important X-scribes, including Chris Claremont and Grant Morrison. So along with classic recruitment stories of the original class, interactions with the likes of Amahl Farouk, Gabby Haller, and even Captain America are woven into the marvelous mutant tapestry.
And the execution is brilliant. My first reaction while reading this book was a flashback to the wonderful Marvel Saga from the 1980’s. That series stitched together classic panels from Marvel’s early days with original narration by Peter Sanderson to bring a young, impressionable comic book fan like myself up to speed. That book represented some of my first exposure to the likes of Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, and John Romita, and it was instrumental in creating the obsessed librarian of superhero history that I am today. Piskor’s book is a much more intensive labor, of course, as he is writing and illustrating the entire series himself. As a result, the book is as beautiful and engaging as it is educational.
X-Men: Gold feels like an X-Men book. That should come as no surprise, but with Marvel’s current emphasis on huge crossovers and Inhuman conflicts, the X-Books have been left on the back burner. As a longtime fan of the most allegorical team in superhero history, it feels amazing to finally have some X-Men comics that feel like the stories of old. From page one, Marc Guggenheim is telling a classic mutant story. The team is in the middle of Manhattan, fighting Terrax, being judged by the crowd of onlookers even after saving their lives, usual X-Men stuff. That’s just it though, usual X-Men stuff has been so thoroughly disregarded that just having an issue begin like one would expect is actually a massive shock. The simplest way to explain why X-Men: Gold is so good is the last page of the first issue. The team is face to face with a mysterious threat, strange beings who reveal themselves with an immortal line, “We’re the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants.”
I really enjoyed the first issues of both Astonishing X-Men and X-Men Gold, but these last few months I’ve seen a consistency in the quality of writing and art in Blue that sets it apart from the other solid X-Men books. While each one has its own roster of celebrity X-Men, Blue’s team hits at something elemental in the franchise, focusing on the original five-person roster from the seminal Kirby/Lee stories. Cyclops, Jean Grey, Beast, Iceman and Angel were all sucked from their original timeline in 2012 as part of the All-New X-Men title, and in Blue, writer Cullen Bunn skillfully juggles the relationship dynamics and Civil Rights commentary that are a signature aspect of good X-men stories, while also dealing with the challenges that arise when time travel and alternate universes are involved. The way all these separate facets of the current X-men universe are combined into something narratively cohesive, as well as the great artwork by Jorge Molina, makes Blue one of the most rewarding capes ‘n’ tights books I’ve read in awhile.
What makes this book stand out from the other X-titles is how the subsequent storylines reinforce the character arcs and themes introduced in the first issue. Magneto’s role as the X-Men’s benefactor is a device that’s been used before to subvert the familiar in X-books, but by pairing the historied Magneto with the team of inexperienced original X-men, Bunn has the opportunity to look at covered ground from a different perspective. Not only is the issue of trust a factor between the former foes, but whether or not people have the power to change and shape their own destiny is a huge question for all of these X-Men. While they struggle with their decision to trust the reformed Magneto, they encounter the future Sentinel, Bastion, who has also changed cosmetically, but is later revealed to have more sinisterly convoluted plans than ever before.
Growing up X-men was my favorite. I don’t know what it was about those mutant storylines, but I couldn’t get enough. Maybe it had something to do with the set of X-men trading cards that MMDG planted on my bookshelf before I was even old enough to read. Needless to say, when ResurrXion was announced I was over the moon.
Ranking a few of these was tough. In fact, after reading the second issue of Astonishing X-Men and looking back, I should have rated this higher on my list. Then again, I wanted my rankings to be based solely on my first impression of each first issue.
I’m getting sidetracked— let’s start with saying Astonishing X-Men DELIVERS. This is a classic X-men story and the first issue sets it up for success in my eyes. It has been a while since I have read anything X-men related and this particular story didn’t leave me feeling like I was missing any large pieces of information in order to appreciate it. We have the powerful Psylocke, and every telepath on the planet, being threatened by an outside force which causes her to reach out to the closest X-men she can count on.
Being a part of these Marvel continuity projects can be both fun and challenging at the same time. Serving as the very part-time comics reader of the group, I sometimes get overwhelmed by the intersecting storylines and character arcs of heroes and villains I don’t know much about. X-Men though? X-Men I can handle.
While I’m pretty familiar with most of the original characters (like the rest of the group, I loved Blue and Gold), I was most excited to read some of these X-books that I was less familiar with, and Weapon X by Greg Pak and Greg Land turned out to be one the best.
No humor whatsoever would be preferable to what passes for jokes in Iceman. And acknowledging that something is a “dad joke” doesn’t make the inclusion of one acceptable. Everything in Iceman falls flat. Dumb art? Check. Constant hamfisted reminders of Bobby’s homosexuality starting on page 1? Check. Way too much dialogue in unimportant scenes to the point where half the page is dialogue bubbles? Check. Overused devices like starting a book out with someone questioning themselves before answering “check”? Check. This book is terrible. Read anything else. – IP
This book misses every pitch. I get why someone would want to make a Classic X-man that has been retroactively written as gay more appealing to contemporary audiences, but the whole “dating-profile” device is super lame. Iceman is both literally and figuratively cool. Dude would be on Grindr or Tinder or something. If you’re gonna do it, fucking commit. Seeing Iceman go on an awkward Grindr date could be much more effective at getting these themes across, rather than traversing the typical tropes of disapproving parents and self-discomfort. After Bobby trains himself, why doesn’t he ask younger Bobby some questions about being gay? There’s an interesting conversation. And are we just gonna avoid the whole masturbating question? If young Bobby and future Bobby were to mess around….what would it be considered? Where’s that joke? – tyrannofloresrex
Collection: Iceman, Vol. 1 (January 2018)
12 All-New Wolverine
Tom Taylor & Leonard Kirk beginning with #19
I really like the dynamic of Laura and her clone Gabby as a team. The alien virus crash-landing on Roosevelt Island was a little unoriginal, but the fact that the virus was transmitted by an innocent child with some kind of connection to Laura, made it a bit more intriguing. I’d want to keep reading this. Also, Governor’s Ball is definitely cancelled. – hltchk
I really like Laura, but she seems to be stuck in a recycle. Wolverine built a huge fanbase off of solo books as a mentor to younger, equally deadly characters, including X-23, and it just seems really uninventive to throw Laura in the same situation so soon. – tyrannofloresrex
Despite receiving considerably less fanfare than any of their regularly scheduled publishing initiatives, like All-New All-Different or the forthcoming Legacy, Marvel’s recent refresh on their mutant and Inhuman books has not only shown some sorely needed love to these teams and characters, but produced some wholly entertaining titles as well. The first few months of ResurrXion, rising out of the ashes of Death of X and Inhumans vs. X-Men, has given us thirteen new series or storyline kickoffs.
It’s a good time to shine a spotlight on these two venerable Marvel properties. Fox’s X-movies are still popular as hell, with current buzz building for the Deadpool sequel. FX’s Legion series was fantastic, and their network mutant show, The Gifted, looks promising. Marvel Studios has been forcing Inhumanity down our throats for a few years now, but with the highly anticipated debut of ABC’s Inhumans show this fall, the royal family finally takes center stage. Nothing against Daisy Johnson or that creepy porcupine monster that Ruth Negga turned into, but we want to see Black Bolt and Lockjaw! Continue reading Marvel’s ResurrXion Ranked→
Both Marvel and DC have engaged a number of prominent novelists and screenwriters over the last few years, giving these writers their first opportunity to pilot a monthly comic book series. Invariably, every one of them opens a press conference or interview with the same caveat: I don’t know what I’m doing, but I love comics and I love these characters. It’s been hit or miss for the most part; comics is its own storytelling medium, and it often takes time for a writer to ably adapt his or her voice to accommodate the differences. But once in a great while, an author really figures things out. No growing pains, no collaboration difficulties, and no real sense of inexperience. A year ago, Ta-Nehisi Coates took the reins of a heralded Black Panther relaunch and delivered one of the best superhero comics on the shelf. But he hasn’t stopped there: there’s an entire corner of the Marvel Universe that has expanded and thrived under his direction. First with a further exploration of Panther‘s supporting cast members and Wakandan folklore in World of Wakanda, and now, this week, Coates flexes his muscles beyond the homeland in Black Panther & The Crew #1.
Inspired by the orignal “Crew” story from Christopher Priest’s Panther run, Coates has partnered with Yona Harvey (another esteemed writer from a different medium quickly proving her mettle in the comics biz) and veteran artist Butch Guice to showcase street-level superheroics in a very different jungle: New York City.
Edit, 4/10: This isn’t how Marvel Comics should be making the news. After all the outstanding progress and forward thinking that has become a hallmark of the company’s titles in the last few years – a number of all-female creative teams, that totally Asian Totally Awesome Hulk, Kamala Khan, America fer crying out loud – this controversy is a major setback. And to have it take place in a relaunch of the X-Men of all things, a comic that has, for generations, stood for abolishing bigotry and promoting acceptance, is particularly disappointing. Hopefully we’ve seen the last of Marvel’s –
or any comic book publisher’s – relationship with this particular artist.
As promised, Marc Guggenheim is going back to basics in X-Men: Gold #1, the first new ongoing X-book in Marvel’s ResurrXion initiative. Following the events of Inhumans vs. X-Men, and, really, all the second-rate treatment given to mutants not named Deadpool over the last few years, this new team with a classic feel is just what the comics world needs right now. Kitty Pryde is back, leading a group comprised of Colossus, Storm, Rachel Grey (Prestige), Old Man Logan, and Nightcrawler. And it’s not just the team’s composition that hearkens back to the Claremont/Cockrum/Byrne glory days. This is the first X-launch in years that feels like those great stories so many of us grew up with. No disrespect to Lee & Kirby, but the X-Men – as a series and as an institution – didn’t reach their full potential until that first reset in the late 70’s and early 80’s.
The comic opens, appropriately, with a supervillain bout, wherein this team gets a chance to showcase its battle-tested dynamic. Also, a little reminder that Kitty Pryde, codename or not, is a legitimate badass. And then the battle segues quickly into an all-too familiar statement. What makes the X-Men heroes – perhaps even more heroic than any assemblage of Avengers or Justice Leaguers – is that these mutants have forever worked to protect and save a society that hates and fears them. It’s the enduring X-Men theme; in Guggenheim’s hands the selflessness and courage still seems fresh.