Tag Archives: X-Men

Today’s Super Comic — The Uncanny X-Men #319 (1994)

Here’s an excellent example of a mid-‘90s X-Men comic, one of the sort that writer Scott Lobdell excelled at.

Uncanny X-Men #319 features three conversations, each featuring a pair of X-characters and each different in nature. And there’s little in the way of comic booky action.

The cover story is Angel (then Archangel) and Psylocke on a date. Meanwhile, Rogue accompanies Iceman on a visit home to his parents, where he clashes with his bigoted father. And on the astral plane, Professor X chats with someone who appears to be Magneto…or is he????

So these three vignettes entail, respectively, a soapy romance, a message of tolerance, and the setup for the next big storyline. All three are essential ingredients to X-Men comics, but each conversation does something a little different than usual.

The budding Angel/Psylocke romance is refreshingly free of drama at this point, just two teammates growing closer in an organic way. Iceman’s father isn’t building any Sentinels. His bigotry is borne of ignorance rather than evil villainy, and as with most bigoted people, it’s not so simple as labeling them wholly “good” or “evil.” Also, Iceman and Rogue had seldom been paired up before this issue, but they had a good enough rapport that the movies later picked up on what started here. And the usual Professor X/Magneto discussion acquires an interesting subtext here once the twist is revealed.

All good stuff.

Writer: Scott Lobdell

Artist: Steve Epting

Inkers: Dan Green and Tim Townsend

Publisher: Marvel Comics

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

Appropriate For: ages 11 and up

Today’s Super Comic — X-Factor #39 (2009)

The best plot twists are the ones you didn’t see coming but, in hindsight, they should have been obvious.

X-Factor #39 executes exactly that. I don’t want to give this one away—really, if you haven’t already, you need to read Peter David’s phenomenal X-Factor run (both of them, actually). The series that began in 2005, which focuses on Jamie Madrox the Multiple Man leading a terrific ensemble cast, is the greatest X-Men spinoff series I’ve ever read. And I have read many.

I’ll give away the basic setup, though. A while earlier, Madrox had a one-night stand with two women at the same time (his power is he duplicates himself, so he can literally be at two places at once). One of those women got pregnant. Issue #39 is the delivery. And in comic books, childbirth is seldom without complications.

David foreshadows the ending superbly, and yet it still blew me away. Absolutely fantastic storytelling.

Writer: Peter David

Penciler: Valentine De Landro

Inker: Craig Yeung

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology; included in X-Factor vol. 7: Time and a Half (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 13 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Old Man Logan #8 (2016)

The first few issues were not a fluke—Old Man Logan is proving to be the most interesting Wolverine series in quite some time. That likely has something to do with its high-concept approach. This isn’t just the superfluous solo stories of Wolverine and his ever-fattening backstory; it’s about a time-displaced Logan trying to avoid his hellish future.

In issue #8, Young Teenage Jean Grey takes Old Man Logan on a tour of places where disaster had struck (will strike?) in the future, showing him how the present is perfectly fine. The increased age disparity creates a fresh dynamic between them. There’s (thankfully) no unrequited love or any sexual tension whatsoever, just lots of mutual respect and affection.

It’s a surprisingly uplifting issue, even with the flashbacks/forwards to the terrible future this Logan comes from. And that seems to be the issue’s message—bad times may very well be on the way, but maybe they’ll be more bearable with the right company.

Writer: Jeff Lemire

Artist: Andrea Sorrentino

Publisher: Marvel Comics

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

Appropriate For: ages 15 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Marvel Graphic Novel #4 (1982)

Back in 1982, Marvel launched a majority-female team whose members were all of different ethnicities, and as far as I’m aware, there was no special fanfare or controversy surrounding the diversity. The big deal was that this was a spinoff of the super-popular X-Men. Also, it was good and the characters were interesting. That’s what readers cared about.

Professor Xavier and Moira McTaggart assemble a new class of teenage mutants in Marvel Graphic Novel #4. It’s your standard team-gathering issue—we meet the New Mutants one at a time in their respective situations, and a shared threat gradually pulls them all together. We see that each one has much to learn, but also strong potential.

Writer Chris Claremont makes sure we get to know these new characters as people first, not as superhero personas. By the end of the graphic novel, we’re still thinking of them primarily as Xi’an Coy Manh, Samuel Guthrie, Danielle Moonstar, Roberto da Costa, and Rahne Sinclair, not Karma, Cannonball, Mirage, Sunspot, and Wolfsbane. I can’t even remember if they all acquired their codenames in this first appearance or in New Mutants #1, which goes to show how this was more YA fantasy/sci-fi than straight-up superheroes (though they qualify as both super and heroic). The main idea was a group of young people learning to cope with a dangerous world, not necessarily save it.

The X-Men were superheroes. The New Mutants were students who sometimes had to be heroic. If you’re going to do a spinoff, such distinctions are important.

Writer: Chris Claremont

Artist: Bob McLeod

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology; included in New Mutants Classic Vol. 1 (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 10 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Ms. Marvel #10 (2007)

The Ms. Marvel series from ten years ago is largely about Carol Danvers striving to become one of Earth’s greatest superheroes. But to be her best self, she must first confront her own worst self—and do so in very comic booky ways, of course.

In #10, a Carol Danvers from a different reality has come to murder the X-Men’s Rogue. Bit of history: In Rogue’s first appearance way back when, she was a member of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants and attacked Ms. Marvel, permanently absorbing all her powers and memories. Carol hung out with the X-Men for a while as Professor Xavier helped reassemble her memories, but she felt like a stranger in her own head. After she evolved into Binary and the X-Men took Rogue in, Carol ran away from Earth with the Starjammers (and returned at some point, obviously, though I’m not sure when).

So apparently in every reality, Rogue has ruined Carol’s life in this same way, so this alternate Carol (calling herself Warbird, which was the main Carol’s name during her alcoholic period), having failed to save her own world from obliteration, is on a mission to kill every reality’s Rogue and every Carol who has forgiven and befriended Rogue.

Yes, very comic booky. But in a good way. The situation forces the real Carol to question whether she has indeed forgiven Rogue, and it tempts her to run away again. And she has to make a decision to be a better person than she was all those years ago.

Comic booky shenanigans, when executed properly, can indeed lead to character growth.

Writer: Brian Reed

Penciler: Mike Wieringo

Inker: Wade Von Grawbadger

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology; included in Ms. Marvel vol. 2: Civil War (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 12 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Old Man Logan #3 (2016)

And in the category of “totally unnecessary, but damn, it really kind of works” …

The future Wolverine from the acclaimed “Old Man Logan” storyline inexplicably time-travels to the present, and he sees this as his chance to save the world from the horrible future he’s live through.

One of the problems (not a problem?) with popular entertainment is that successful characters and stories don’t get the luxury of stopping while they’re ahead. They’ll be milked for all they’re worth, especially when a related movie is coming out within the next year. The original “Old Man Logan” was perfectly satisfying on its own merits; no need for anything further.

However, if they must…

Three issues in, and I’m enjoying the series. Logan has a strong motive—he wants to redeem himself as well as save the world. How he arrived in the present remains a mystery. And the book is making superb use of guest stars.

In issue #3, Logan meets the other Hawkeye, Kate Bishop, whose youthful energy provides an entertaining foil for the old man who’s lost everything. Their conversation as they’re running across rooftops is particularly fun…and maybe foreshadows plot developments, too.

I’d rather have the proper Wolverine, of course, but I’m on board with this. Fortunately, several more issues are already on Marvel Unlimited.

Writer: Jeff Lemire

Artist: Andrea Sorrentino

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology; included in Old Man Logan vol. 1: Berzerker (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 15 and up

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 #123 (1979)

Fun fact: Colleen Wing, whom you may have met in the new Iron Fist Netflix series, briefly dated Cyclops of the X-Men. Yep—Colleen Wing and Scott Summers. That was a thing for a few seconds a long time ago, during the first interval in which Scott believed Jean Grey was dead.

The Marvel Universe can be a small world indeed, as shown in X-Men #123, which begins as Spider-Man just happens to run into Scott and Colleen strolling along the streets of New York. If your characters are going to share a fictional universe, why not have fun with it? And these sorts of quick guest appearances helped develop the MU as a setting worth visiting—you never knew who you were going to run into (well, unless they announced it on the cover so they could boost sales).

So Spider-Man, Cyclops, and Colleen Wing walk into the panel (or swing in)…and a kidnapping sets the plot in motion. This issue begins a two-parter in which the villainous Arcade captures the X-Men and a few friends and traps them in Murder World (it’s like Disney World, but the attractions try to kill you).

It’s a fun premise that splits up the X-Men and throws them into various death traps. But surviving is only half the battle! They’ll then have to navigate this maze, find their way back to each other, and rescue their friends from a sociopath.

It’s good times. Another classic from the Claremont/Byrne era. (I dare you to find one bad issue from that run. Just one. Can’t do it, can you?)

Writer: Chris Claremont

Penciler/Co-Plotter: John Byrne

Inker: Terry Austin

Publisher: Marvel Comics

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

Appropriate For: ages 10 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 — Wolverine #72 (2009)

Well, that took a turn. (Spoilers ahead.)

Wolverine #72 is the second-to-last part of “Old Man Logan,” with the final part printed in Wolverine: Old Man Logan Giant-Sized Special #1. But I think the story should have ended in #72. (The final part is mostly an ultra-violent bloodbath, and frankly a disgusting one at parts, though it does have an excellent final scene.)

The storyline centered on Logan on a cross-country odyssey with Hawkeye, with the former refusing to unsheathe his claws the entire time despite the many dangerous situations they encounter. Having been tricked into murdering the X-Men fifty years earlier, Logan has vowed never to harm another soul. But his young family needs money to avoid the wrath of the Hulks, so he agrees to help the mostly blind Hawkeye drive across what used to be America.

Things don’t go well, but he never once pops his claws. Even as he battles President Red Skull to the death, he uses the weapons of other, long-dead superheroes to do it. He’s still no longer Wolverine as far as he’s concerned—he just wants to get home to his family.

He indeed gets home with the money he had worked so hard for. But too late. The Hulks got bored and killed his family. And out come the claws.

That would’ve been a perfect ending. You know exactly what happens next: old-fashioned berserker Wolverine on a revenge mission, killing those who killed his family. It’s a foregone conclusion, so story-wise, there’s no need to show it. Those final few pages of #72 say everything about the character—no matter how much pain Logan endures, he always “heals.” Wolverine suffers, but he survives and fights for those he loves.

But even with the final part, it’s still an excellent Wolverine story (but NOT for children). It’s a big story that gets at the heart of character by showing him at his most defeated and building him back up.

There’s no way the movie can follow the plot exactly, but it can capture the spirit of it. I remain optimistic.

Writer: Mark Millar

Penciler: Steve McNiven

Inker: Dexter Vines

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology; included in Wolverine: Old Man Logan (TPB)

Appropriate For: ADULTS ONLY