Tag Archives: Jean Grey

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 Comic — X-Men #133 (1980)

I just saw Logan, and it was amazing—a bit of a downer in some ways, but a fantastic, character-driven movie. So let’s look back at a much more upbeat comic from when creators were just beginning to realize Wolverine’s potential.

X-Men #133 is in the middle of the Dark Phoenix Saga, one of the all-time great comic storylines. The previous issue ended with the Hellfire Club capturing the X-Men after having seduced Jean Grey to the dark side. There was one X-Man they didn’t capture, though—one they assumed they managed to kill by sending him plummeting down through several floors and into the sewer. Silly villains.

But of course they didn’t kill Wolverine. They just made him mad, and in #133, the X-Man’s lone wolf has to fight his way through innumerable minions, without any scrupulous teammates to hold him back. It’s the sort of thing the comics medium conveys very well—awesome character being awesome as he tries to save his teammates.

And meanwhile, old-school villain Mastermind continues his mind games against the X-Men, particularly Cyclops and the brainwashed Phoenix. The whole issue is great, but it’s really Wolverine’s time to shine. He’s still largely a blank slate at this point in the character’s history, but a strong foundation is being laid.

So watch the excellent movie, and then look back at the character’s formative years that made that excellent movie possible.

Writer: Chris Claremont

Penciler/Co-Plotter: John Byrne

Inker: Terry Austin

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology; X-Men: The Dark Phoenix Saga (TPB); The Essential X-Men vol. 2 (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 10 and up

Today’s Super Comic — X-Men #98 (1976)

Allow me to pinpoint the issue where Chris Claremont’s legendary X-Men run started getting great:

X-Men #98. The preceding issues show lots of promise, but here’s where the momentum and excitement begin to kick in.

It opens as many great X-Men stories do—with the team enjoying some downtime, just trying to live their lives, until the world’s fear and hatred get in their way. In this case, that fear and hatred manifest in the form of the robotic, mutant-hunting Sentinels.

(Coincidentally, one of the strongest ‘60s X-Men stories was the Sentinels’ debut, and here their return coincides with the book’s tremendous increase in quality. Makes sense, then, that the ‘90s cartoon used them in the pilot episode.)

The Sentinels capture Jean Grey, Wolverine, and Banshee, who then must fight their way through bigots and robots. They’ve been abducted to a facility at an unknown location, and when they learn exactly where they are…yeah, that’s going to pose some new challenges.

Part of the X-Men’s success has involved mixing and matching great characters and watching them play off each other. This issue gives an early example of that by pulling together three X-Men who had hardly ever functioned as a team, and certainly not with just the three of them.

It’s especially interesting to read this early-draft version of Wolverine. He’s acquired quite the convoluted backstory over the years, but none of that’s known at this point. He’s basically an irritable mystery man, and the script hints that there’s more to his past than we may suspect. It’s even suggested he might not be a mutant, and Cyclops questions whether he’ll work out as an X-Man. Both of those proved to be absolutely wrong, but one thing that did take hold—we get some of the earliest signs of Wolverine’s burgeoning crush on Jean.

The X-Men are definitely in their formative years here. The best is yet to come, but this issue offers up a great start.

Writer: Chris Claremont

Penciler: Dave Cockrum

Inker: Sam Grainger

Publisher: Marvel Comics

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

Appropriate For: ages 9 and up

Today’s Super Comic — All-New X-Men #40 (2015)

all-new_x-men_vol_1_40Late in the original run of ­All-New X-Men, we get a quiet, talky issue, which provides a good opportunity to check in with how extended time-displacement is affecting some of the teenaged original X-Men trapped in the present. The experience is changing some of them, and others are trying to change as a result of what they’ve learned about their futures.

A good chunk of issue #40 focuses on Iceman during a revelatory heart-to-heart with Jean Grey, and also on Angel as he shares a moment with X-23, the young female Wolverine clone. The issue comes after a big cosmic storyline, so pacing-wise, it’s an excellent way to bring us back down to Earth.

Writer Brian Michael Bendis also works in several comedic beats that keep everything fun, while artist Mahmud Asrar deftly handles the shifting facial expressions—which is essential in making a talking-heads issue work in a visual medium.

Remarkably, this time-travel premise was not running out of gas 40 issues in.

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis

Artist: Mahmud Asrar

Cover: Andrea Sorrentino and Marcelo Maiolo

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology; included in All-New X-Men vol. 7: The Utopians (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 12 and up

Today’s Super Comic — X-Factor #13 (1986)

x-factor_vol_1_13Comics have been playing the nostalgia card for a long time. The first X-Men spinoff series to reunite the original five members was the original X-Factor in the mid-80s. It was fun from the start, as it’s always enjoyable to see these five X-Men together, but the initial premise had some major problems.

Cyclops, Beast, Iceman, Angel, and the recently resurrected Jean Grey (then Marvel Girl for the last time) were posing as specially trained humans who hunted mutants. Their marketing was anti-mutant to the point of contributing to the public’s fears, but of course, instead of “capturing” their targets, they were actually saving and training them. Still, not the most well-thought-out plan.

And then there was the fact that at this time, Cyclops was creepily married to a woman who looked exactly like dead former lover, and he had a son with this woman, but when he learns his dead former lover is no longer dead, he skips out on his wife and kid to join a team with her. Scott has never been more of a jerk, and that’s saying something.

But soon, to save the book from itself, the wife-and-husband creative team of writer Louise Simonson and artist Walter Simonson took over the title, and they began to rectify these foundational problems. By issue #13, characters are already getting some comeuppance for their bad judgment.

Millionaire Warren Worthington III, who is publicly known to be the winged mutant Angel, has been outed as the financial benefactor of the mutant-hunting organization, which raises some questions. And Cyclops finally returns home to his wife and child…only to find them missing, with hardly a trace they ever even existed, while the evil giant robot Master Mold is on a warpath toward him. (Not really enough comeuppance for Cyclops.)

There’s also the whole Scott/Jean/Warren romantic triangle thing going on. You know it’s not the ‘60s anymore, because the triangle has an extramarital element this time around. (So maybe it’s a square?)

It’s the X-Men at their most ridiculously soap operatic, but damn if it isn’t fun.

Writer: Louise Simonson

Artist: Walter Simonson

Inker: Dan Green

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues; included in Essential X-Factor vol. 1 (HC)

Appropriate For: ages 10 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 — Extraordinary X-Men #7 (2016)

Extraordinary X-Men 7Once upon a time, this comic’s title might have been X-Traordinary X-Men. Thank goodness we’re not in that time. Well, maybe.

Quite honestly, I haven’t been sure about this series so far. Marvel has decided to make mutants an endangered species for the second time in a decade—I guess that’s what the X-Men get for not being part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But I am sure that Jeff Lemire is a solid writer who knows what he’s doing, and I like the cast he’s using here. So I’ve stuck it out, and issue #7 affirms that decision.

Jean Grey and Storm take an Inception-like journey through Nightcrawler’s mind to figure out what’s traumatized him. Meanwhile, Magik shows a wizard who’s boss. It’s all interesting stuff that teases potentially more interesting stuff.

And artist Victor Ibanez properly exploits the mental landscape for compelling visuals. I particularly enjoyed the upside-down pirate ship.

So yes, I liked it and I’m still on board with this series. But if Marvel would kindly remember that the X-Men work best when they’re fighting intolerance, not extinction, I’d appreciate it.

Writer: Jeff Lemire

Artist: Victor Ibanez

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: recent back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology

Appropriate For: ages 13 and up

Today’s Super Comic — X-Men #137 (1980)

X-Men_Vol_1_137“The Dark Phoenix Saga” gets a lot of attention for two main reasons—it killed a major character at a time when that was seldom done, and it’s pretty darn good. This story climaxes in a death that feels organic and earned, not the result of an editor’s desire to shock readers. It’s the tragic consequence of an X-Man being unable to control her growing power, and it’s a death driven by character.

The extra-sized issue #137 is a great read throughout, with the X-Men fighting the Shi’ar’s Imperial Guard for Jean Grey’s life. This subverts the usual superheroic operating mode, in that the X-Men aren’t fighting to save the world—they’re fighting to save a loved one who actually is the real threat, thereby creating more shades of gray than typically seen in a comic book battle royale.

Though Jean Grey is the central figure, Chris Claremont and John Byrne neglect none of the other X-Men, giving each a turn in the spotlight and plenty to do. It’s an exceptionally well-crafted battle scene bolstered by the emotional stakes, with each X-Man motivated by their love of their friend.

It’s so well done that it’s easy to forget that the Imperial Guard was created as Marvel’s analogues for DC Comics’ Legion of Superheroes. This battle is basically the closest thing to an X-Men vs. Legion fight (even though the Imperial Guard begins to diverge into its own identity at this point).

In any case, this book deserves its status as a classic. No question.

Writer: Chris Claremont

Penciler/Co-Plotter: John Byrne

Inker: Terry Austin

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology; X-Men: The Dark Phoenix Saga (TPB); The Essential X-Men vol. 2 (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 10 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Guardians of the Galaxy #12 (2014)

Guardians of the Galaxy 12The problem with crossovers if sometimes you’re not reading both or all series involved, which then requires a decision. Do you spring for the extra books and potentially feel coerced into buying them? Or do you just skip them and try to make sense of a partial storyline?

I’ve gotten pretty good at the second option over the years. It’s not ideal, but it works well enough. One recent time was when All-New X-Men and Guardians of the Galaxy, both written by Brian Michael Bendis, crossed over for “The Trial of Jean Grey.”

I read the X-Men parts as they came out and enjoyed those issues, even with the other half of the story missing. But thanks to Marvel Unlimited, I’ve finally caught up on the other half, and it’s also full of good stuff.

A particularly strong part was Guardians of the Galaxy #12, during which young, time-displaced Cyclops learns his father is not dead, and present-day Corsair experiences a second difficult reunion with his son. Also, the Shi’ar confront young Jean Grey with the horrors she will someday commit as Phoenix. It’s an interesting sci-fi conundrum—is someone culpable for crimes they haven’t yet committed but are destined to?

My only quibble is that the story demotes the Guardians to guest stars in their own book. But it’s a solid X-Men story.

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis

Pencilers: Sara Pichelli and Stuart Immonen

Inkers: Sara Pichelle and Wade Von Grawbadger

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology; Guardians of the Galaxy/All-New X-Men: The Trial of Jean Grey (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 11 and up