Tag Archives: X-Men

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

Today’s Super Comic — Wolverine #66 (2008)

I never read “Old Man Logan.” Considering how the storyline is critically acclaimed and the inspiration for the new Wolverine movie that comes out this week, I better get to it.

So far, I’ve just read the first part, in Wolverine #66, and why did I overlook this for so long? Set in a future Marvel Universe in which the good guys lost, Logan is trying to put his superhero days behind him and focus on his family. Yes, the former Wolverine is in a family way, with a wife and two kids. And he’s got no fight left in him, which is a highly unusual—and therefore interesting—state for this character to be in.

I’m surprised this was printed in the regular Wolverine series rather than as a separate miniseries. It certainly feels distinctive enough to stand on its own, especially with the big-name talent behind it (writer Mark Millar and artist Steve McNiven).

This story is building its own world with its own rules, using the Marvel Universe we know merely as a starting point. The inclusion of an old, blind Hawkeye and the grandchildren of the Hulk suggests this story will be playing in a rather large sandbox.

After reading the first part, I want to know what exactly happened and what will happen to make Wolvie get his groove back. I’m assuming that will be the case, anyway … it will be really depressing if it’s not. On to part two, then…

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: ages 15 and up

Today’s Super Comics — X-Men #188-193 (2006)

And now—Rogue’s turn to head an X-Men squad! X-Men #188-193 sets up her unconventional team with her as their unconventional leader, and it was a promising start that regrettably didn’t last long. But during that short span of time, writer Mike Carey and artist Chris Bachalo did some of their best X-work.

Mutants were facing extinction (kind of like now, but this was another time they were facing extinction), so another, long-dormant race of super-powered people arises to supplant both mutants and humans. But that’s not really the interesting part. As is often the case with the X-Men, it’s all about interesting characters bouncing off each other.

Carey handles Rogue’s characterization well. She’s matured quite a bit since desperation first drove her to the X-Men years ago…and since Mystique brought her into the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants before that. Rogue is presented here as a creative thinker who’s comfortable with moral ambiguity, leading to assemble a team that mixes X-Men stalwarts like Iceman and Cannonball with potentially reformed enemies like Mystique and at least one definitely not reformed enemy like Sabretooth.

It’s a natural evolution for the character, and Rogue can certainly carry the top spot. Plus, Carey injects just the right amount of humor throughout to keep things fun. A solid X-book all around.

Writer: Mike Carey

Penciler: Chris Bachalo

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology; included in X-Men: Supernovas (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 13 and up

Today’s Super Comic — New Mutants #27 (2011)

While it can be lots of fun to mix and match various members of the X-Men’s extended cast, there are some established groupings that are always great together. One, naturally, is the X-Men’s original spinoff team, the New Mutants. The ‘80s lineup made a comeback in the last decade, and the cast chemistry remained intact.

Of course, they’re not kids anymore, nor are they Xavier’s students. When Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning took over the writing, they laid out a new mission statement for the team: Cyclops has tasked the New Mutants with taking care of the X-Men’s numerous loose ends (Cyclops was basically the X-Men’s general in this era).

Their first order of business is to find X-Man, an alternate-reality version of Cable from the “Age of Apocalypse” timeline who migrated to the main Marvel timeline (you can see why the X-Men might have a few loose ends here and there). To prevent things from being too easy, X-Man is a captive of the amoral Sugar Man, another “Age of Apocalypse” émigré, but one who just wants to find his way back.

In #27, we get to see the grown-up classic team in action, but one founding member in particular gets to shine. Dani Moonstar, depowered mutant and current team leader, has a lengthy one-on-one (and interdimensional) battle with the vicious Sugar Man, proving she’s a formidable fighter even without the aid of super-powers.

Much of the issue’s appeal boils down to “likeable character being awesome.” It’s not deep, but it absolutely works.

Writers: Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning

Artist: Leandro Fernandez

Publisher: Marvel Comics

Cover: Marko Djurdjevic

How to Read It: back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology; included in New Mutants vol. 4: Unfinished Business (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 12 and up

Today’s Super Comics — Wolverine #62-65 (2008)

Wolverine pursues Mystique for four issues. It makes for quite the cat-and-mouse game, and it works because of the long history between the characters—a history that gets embellished via flashbacks here.

Before Wolverine #62, Mystique had recently betrayed the X-Men yet again, and she’s on the run. Cyclops tasks Wolverine with bringing her in, preferably dead (Cyclops had gotten into a dark period—and never really found his way out, come to think of it). Wolverine tracks her across countries while flashbacks show us how he first met Mystique back in 1921 and how they became allies (and a bit more) for a while.

Writer Jason Aaron does a great job adding some depth to Wolverine’s motivation, and he sets up Mystique as an opposite number to Logan. Both are old loners, but whereas Wolverine eventually settled down with his family of X-Men, Mystique has repeatedly rejected that same family.

Another nice touch: Aaron really drills into Wolverine’s head regarding his healing power and how he experiences it. He gives us a clear picture of someone who looks invincible on the outside but is actually in constant physical pain.

These four issues are as violent as you would expect of a Wolverine comic, but there’s a solid story and solid characters beneath it all.

Writer: Jason Aaron

Artist: Ron Garney

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology; Wolverine: Get Mystique (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 15 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 — Excalibur #85 (1995)

Ah, the good old days when you could slap Wolverine on a cover and sell more comics, regardless of how little he was actually in the issue.

In the case of Excalibur #85, Wolverine appears only in flashback to dispense advice to the true star of the issue—Kitty Pryde, a.k.a. Shadowcat.

Two magicians want to kill her on account of a magical sword that belonged to Kitty’s late best friend, Illyana (Magick of the New Mutants). The Soulsword is presently bonded to Kitty, making her a target. (What better plot device for a book named “Excalibur” than a magical sword?) One of those crazy magicians has possessed Nightcrawler, and the rest of the team is out of commission. So Kitty has to outwit and outfight a madman who’s wearing the body of one of her closest friends.

The battle shows how far she’s come since her early days as the X-Men’s annoying teen sidekick. In the present, out of all the many X-related characters that have accumulated over the years, Kitty stands out as one of the best…thanks in part to the growing up she did in the pages of Excalibur.

Some time abroad is good for the soul, I suppose.

Writer: Warren Ellis

Penciler: Ken Lashley

Inker: Tom Wegrzyn

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology; included in Excalibur Visionaries – Warren Ellis, vol. 1 (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 12 and up