Tag Archives: Beast

Today’s Super Comic — New X-Men #117 (2001)

Apparently, the first X-Men movie reminded Marvel that Xavier was supposed to be running a school for gifted youngsters, not merely sheltering a team of superheroes trapped in an infinite loop of melodramatic soap operas. Granted, the soap opera approach served the X-Men extraordinarily well at times, resulting in some of the greatest superhero comics ever printed.

But by 2001, yeah, it was time for something different. So along came writer Grant Morrison with a fresh tone and fresh energy. X-Men became ­New X-Men, and it earned that adjective, by gosh and by golly.

Issue #117 is early in the run, though not too early for a major status-quo shift to already have taken place. The world now knows Xavier and his students are mutants, and if you know anything about the X-Men, you know how positively thrilled folks are upon hearing the news.

It’s a great development, though. The X-Men have been a metaphor for persecuted minorities since day one, but being able to easily pretend they’re not mutants doesn’t do the metaphor justice.

Also welcome is the fact that the school is actually a school for more than five people. Xavier’s mansion has extras in the background. The X-Men have expanded from a family into a community, and the main characters have actual jobs—teaching these kids.

Those main characters are also changing. The Beast gets the most focus in this issue. His mutation has evolved, or perhaps devolved. Instead of being a blue, furry man-ape, he’s now a blue, furry man-feline. It’s quite an adjustment, and there’s a lot of pain behind his jolly demeanor.

Meanwhile, Jean Grey is feeling increasingly detached from her husband Cyclops, who seems to be drawing the attention of Emma Frost, the formerly villainous White Queen, so Jean starts flirting with Wolverine, who we all know has been in love with her since the good old days. Yeah, you can’t totally extract the soap opera element from the X-Men. It’s infused in its DNA.

But there’s more going on, and none of it feels like a rehash of your favorite childhood X-stories. It’s exactly what the X-Men needed at the time. (Well, they didn’t need to trade their colorful superhero costumes for lots of black…or maybe Hollywood said they did need to.)

Writer: Grant Morrison

Penciler: Ethan Van Sciver

Inker: Prentiss Rollins

Cover: Frank Quitely

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology; included in New X-Men by Grant Morrison vol. 1 (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 13 and up

Today’s Super Comics — All-New X-Men #1-5 (2012-13)

all-new_x-men_vol_1_1Pop culture, you may have noticed, is locked in a trend of repeatedly resurrecting old stuff in the modern era. Results have varied, but at least with All-New X-Men, nostalgia serves an interesting story.

The original five X-Men are transported from their early days to the much darker present, and these inexperienced teenagers confront the decades’ worth of convoluted backstory that lie ahead of them (decades to us, about one decade to them).

The X-Men had kind of gone off the rails in the time leading up to this—no X-Man more so than Cyclops, who’s basically on his way to becoming the next Magneto. While possessed by the Phoenix force, Cyclops killed Professor Xavier…and yeah, that sentence pretty much sums up the state of affairs.

So the Beast decides to bring their innocent younger selves to the present as the ultimate guilt-trip to Cyclops. Of course, the plan is to send them right back after modern Cyclops comes to his senses, but also of course, things don’t go according to plan, and five very young founding X-Men must integrate with the present.

Young Cyclops must deal with the fact that he grows up to become basically a villain. Young Beast witnesses the hubris his future self has developed. Young Iceman sees how little his future self has achieved. Young Angel observes that his future self is kind of crazy and not at all himself due to Apocalypse-related machinations. And young Jean Grey learns she’s dead and it wasn’t even the first time she died (she’s truly the standout character in this series).

These five issues are just the beginning of a story that’s yet to be resolved, and it’s a strong start. It’s time-travel shenanigans without a reset button in sight, brought about by one X-Man’s misguided good intentions.

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis

Artist: Stuart Immonen

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology; ­All-New X-Men vol. 1: Yesterday’s X-Men (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 12 and up

Today’s Super Comic — X-Men #111 (1978)

x-men_111Chris Claremont and John Byrne’s collaboration on X-Men got off to a solid start several issues before this, but this is the point at which it became consistently great. The best was still to come, but in retrospect, as offbeat as it is, #111 feels like the start of something special indeed.

The story drops us right into the middle of a mystery and places us in the point of view of a character who has been out of the loop for a while—Hank McCoy, the Beast. He has been busy avenging with the Avengers and hasn’t gotten a chance to personally meet the new X-Men yet. So imagine his confusion when he finds people who look like dead ringers for Wolverine, Nightcrawler, Storm, and Colossus performing as carnival freaks. (Well, you don’t have to fully imagine—Byrne renders Beast’s bewilderment rather vividly on the opening splash panel.)

Three X-Men Hank does know—Cyclops, Jean Grey, and Banshee—are also part of this carnival, but they aren’t acting like themselves. Complications ensue as the Beast attempts to unravel this mystery, leading to a terrific final-page reveal that basically commands you to read the next issue.

And that was part of the trick Claremont and Byrne accomplished in this run—incredible storytelling momentum carried directly from issue to issue. Events happen, and they have consequences that don’t get tidied up within twenty pages, thereby setting up the next issue. But this isn’t just one long tease to leave readers salivating in anticipation of some eventual grand payoff. No, each issue provides its own payoff in one way or another. Serialized storytelling at its finest, and X-Men #111 serves as a great starting point.

Writer: Chris Claremont

Penciler: John Byrne

Inker: Terry Austin

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology; Marvel Unlimited; included in Essential X-Men vol. 1 and other collections

Appropriate For: ages 9 and up