Published: July 10th, 2019 Written by: Chris Claremont Art by: Bill Sienkiewicz, Sal Buscema, Bob McLeod
Marvel Comics, 504 Pages
Man, oh man… I forgot how great the Demon Bear story was! It was one of my favorite New Mutants stories when I first discovered this comic series, as a young kid. But I hadn’t actually read it for probably thirty years now.
This beefy Epic Collection release doesn’t just cover that story, though, as it features the events leading up to it and the story after, which is the debut of Legion.
Every story arc in this collection is pretty damn cool. There really wasn’t a dull moment and you get to see these great characters develop even more while also seeing their bond strengthen quite immensely.
This stretch of issues also feature the art of Bill Sienkiewicz, a comic book artist that truly had a unique style that I’ve always thought was one of the most impressive, expressive and coolest. It’s this series that introduced me to Sienkiewicz’s work, which I couldn’t get enough of. In fact, I bought all of his Elektra and Moon Knight stuff that I could find at my local comic shop circa 1990.
This stretch of issues was always one of my favorite runs on any comic book series. Revisiting it for the first time in eons, I still feel that way.
Rating: 9.5/10 Pairs well with: other New Mutants comics, as well as the other X-Men related titles from the ’80s.
Published: March 8th, 2017 Written by: Chris Claremont, Bill Mantlo Art by: John Buscema, Sal Buscema, Ron Frenz, Bob McLeod, Frank Miller, Paul Smith
Marvel Comics, 520 Pages
As big of a fan of The New Mutants as I am, it’s been a damn long time since I’ve read the original graphic novel and their earliest stories. I got into the series around it’s midpoint and because of that, didn’t have all of the earliest issues until more recently. This collects that first year of the regular comic books series, as well as the characters’ appearances before it started.
This was neat to revisit and it brought me back to where I was in the late’80s, as a young kid just discovering comics. Back then, I really liked the youth superhero teams like Teen Titans and New Mutants.
This collection had a few stories I hadn’t read before. It kicked off with Karma’s debut story, which happened in Marvel Team-Up and featured Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four.
Additionally, I had never read the story that served as the debut of the Hellfire Club’s Selene and New Mutants member Magma.
Everything else here I’ve read but it was nice checking it out again and refreshing my memory, as my brain gets older and forgets more than it remembers now.
I loved the art style of this series, early on, and the Chris Claremont and Bill Mantlo stories were solid.
Now I do have to say that this isn’t as good as the series would become. This is early on and it hasn’t found its grove, here.
However, this is the foundation of this group and they would eventually be faced with some really intense, life-altering storylines that would take this from just being a “Junior X-Men” comic to something unique and very much its own series, standing on its own strong legs.
Rating: 7/10 Pairs well with: other New Mutants comics, as well as the other X-Men related titles from the ’80s.
Published: February 1st, 2017 Written by: Brian Michael Bendis Art by: Jim Cheung, Oliver Coipel, David Marquez, Marko Djurdjevic (cover)
Marvel Comics, 317 Pages
Man, this was bewilderingly bad.
Historically, I’ve been pretty 50/50 on Brian Michael Bendis’ writing but man, it’s like when he did this, he already knew he was leaving Marvel. It also reads like he was given orders to use certain characters and he was begrudgingly forced to work them in. Granted, he’s also created some of the terrible modern characters.
While I’ve been well aware of the criticism that the Captain Marvel character gets in modern times, I always liked her when she was Ms. Marvel. But this new, short-haired, suddenly pushed into a leadership role Carol Danvers is not even the same character, remotely.
Based off of how she’s written here, as a self-righteous, fascist, tyrant bitch, I totally see why fans can’t stand her. If this story is an accurate portrayal of how she is post-2015 or so, I have no interest in following her character unless she’s actually made into a permanent villain. But even then, there are so many better villains I’d rather read about.
And I’m not really sure how I’m supposed to interpret her character. Is she supposed to be psychotic, god-powered, tyrannical piece of shit? Or am I supposed to empathize with her point-of-view?
What made the first Civil War so great was that you could emphasize and relate to both points-of-view and it made for a compelling read. Civil War II just made me hate Carol and every character that so easily sided with her. These characters aren’t heroes, as their actions in this story crossed the line into villainy.
Whatever. Fuck this comic. Fuck Bendis. Fuck post-2015 Marvel. But at least the art was really good.
Rating: 4/10 Pairs well with: all the other Civil War II crossover tie-in trade paperbacks.
Also known as: X-Men 3, X-Men 3: The Last Stand (working titles), X3, X III: The Last Stand (alternative titles) Release Date: May 22nd, 2006 (Cannes) Directed by: Brett Ratner Written by: Simon Kinberg, Zak Penn Based on:X-Men by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby Music by: John Powell Cast: Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Ian McKellen, Famke Janssen, Anna Paquin, Kelsey Grammer, James Marsden, Rebecca Romijn, Shawn Ashmore, Aaron Stanford, Vinnie Jones, Patrick Stewart, Ben Foster, Ellen Page, Dania Ramirez, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Bill Duke, Daniel Cudmore, Eric Dane, R. Lee Ermey
The Donners’ Company, Marvel Enterprises, Twentieth Century Fox, 104 Minutes
“Charles Xavier did more for mutants than you will ever know. My single greatest regret is that he had to die for our dream to live.” – Magneto
From memory, this was the worst X-Men film of the lot. Well, after about a dozen movies with spinoffs and whatnot, this one still takes the cake in that regard.
This really killed the film franchise, at least for its time. It wouldn’t bounce back until First Class rolled around and gave the series a bit of a soft reboot.
Here, we see the original trilogy of films come to an end and unfortunately, that end is a very unsatisfactory one. Granted, none of these films have aged particularly well and they actually feel quite dated now.
That’s not to say that some of the performances aren’t great or iconic, a few of them are. Specifically, Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen. This is probably also why they tried to find ways to include these guys in the X-Men films that followed during the reboot era.
The plot for this is pretty fucking atrocious and the film spends more time killing off beloved characters than trying to tell a good story. It’s like it went for shock and cheap emotional grabs but it failed in generating any real emotion because it all felt soulless and cheap.
I think the biggest issue with the film was that Bryan Singer left to make that big bust, Superman Returns. While Brett Ratner probably wasn’t a bad choice, the final product makes me feel like he was sort of just inserted into a movie that was already well into production and found himself in over his head.
The film is also pretty short when compared to the two chapter before it. It makes me wonder if a lot was left out of the final movie. It certainly feels like it’s lacking story, context and depth.
In the end, this is okay if you want to spend a little more time with these characters and if you turn your brain off, it has some neat moments, but overall, it’s a sloppy misfire.
Rating: 5.5/10 Pairs well with: the other films in the original X-Men trilogy.
Also known as: X2 (original title), X-Men II (working title), X² (alternative spelling) Release Date: April 24th, 2003 (UK premiere) Directed by: Bryan Singer Written by: Michael Dougherty, Dan Harris, David Hayter, Zak Penn, Bryan Singer Based on:X-Men by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby Music by: John Ottman Cast: Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman, Ian McKellen, Halle Berry, Famke Janssen, James Marsden, Bruce Davison, Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, Anna Paquin, Shawn Ashmore, Alan Cumming, Brian Cox, Aaron Stanford, Kelly Hu, Daniel Cudmore
Marvel Enterprises, Donners’ Company, Twentieth Century Fox, 134 Minutes
“You know, outside the circus, most people were afraid of me. But I didn’t hate them. I pitied them. Do you know why? Because most people will never know anything beyond what they see with their own two eyes.” – Nightcrawler
When this came out, I was pretty much blown away by it. Seeing it seventeen years later, not so much.
X2 is a film riddled with problems but it’s still good for what it is and for its era. It’s slightly better than its predecessor but after having just watched the Sam Raimi Spider-Man trilogy, it pales in comparison to the first two films in that series. In fact, I like the wonky Spider-Man 3 a hair bit more than this.
That being said, this does still have one of the greatest sequences in comic book movie history and that’s the part where the military squad attacks the X-Mansion, abducting the children and sending Wolverine and a few of the younger mutants fleeing into the night. I especially liked the inclusion of Colossus in this scene but that also made me wonder why he didn’t come back into the picture because he would’ve been helpful during the final battle. But I guess someone’s got to protect the kids hiding out who knows where.
Anyway, this is a film that is too driven by plot convenience and poor execution of those conveniences.
For instance, Storm can unleash dozens of tornadoes on military fighter jets but no one is worried about the innocent people living on the ground? And she does this while flying a high tech jet. Where was this immense wind power when the jet was going to be hit by raging water?
Which brings me to another poor plot convenience moment that saw Jean Grey have to push back a raging river while trying to lift the parked jet in an effort to save her friends. She’s powerful as fuck, why couldn’t she have just lifted the jet? An hour earlier, she stopped a missile with her mind. And getting back to Storm, where’s that wind power in this scene? Did you not pick up your power-ups in the final level?
I know I’m being pretty nitpicky here but these moments could’ve been shot better, explained better and just not been as stupid and devoid of logic. It seems like really lazy writing and if you needed to kill off Jean for the story, there are better ways to do it and they still could’ve had her sacrifice herself for those she loves. It just felt cheap and baffling.
This also must’ve been made in the era where they didn’t sign actors to multi-film deals because they spent so much time developing Nightcrawler but then he’s nowhere to be seen in the third film. His arc from the original X-Men trilogy is left incomplete. That just adds to the overall sloppiness of this film franchise. And it sucks because Alan Cumming was great as Nightcrawler and he was one of the high points in this trilogy.
The overall story in the film is pretty good though. I thought that the big finale was too long and could’ve been whittled down somewhat but it moves at a good, brisk pace.
Also, the set design, cinematography and overall look of the picture was a big step up from the previous one.
Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellan and Hugh Jackman kill it in just about every scene but Jackman really is the scene stealer, which is impressive when you think about where he was at in his film career in 2003 versus Stewart and McKellan.
In the end, this is still a decent way to waste a few hours but it’s not the great, epic film I saw it as when I was young and didn’t have such refined taste. Also, its since been overshadowed by the Raimi Spider-Man pictures, Nolan’s Batman movies and the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Rating: 7.25/10 Pairs well with: the other films in the original X-Men trilogy.
Also known as: X-Men: The Movie (working title), X-Men 1.5 (longer cut) Release Date: July 12th, 2000 (Ellis Island premiere) Directed by: Bryan Singer Written by: David Hayter, Tom DeSanto, Bryan Singer Based on:X-Men by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby Music by: Michael Kamen Cast: Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman, Ian McKellen, Halle Berry, Famke Janssen, James Marsden, Bruce Davison, Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, Ray Park, Tyler Mane, Anna Paquin, Shawn Ashmore
Marvel Enterprises, Donners’ Company, Twentieth Century Fox, 104 Minutes
“[to Senator Kelly] You know, people like you are the reason I was afraid to go to school as a child.” – Mystique
This was the movie that really got modern superhero films off the ground. It became the launching pad for several sequels, spin offs and what eventually became the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
It’s been a really long time since I’ve sat down and watched this one though. Compared to what is the norm today, twenty years later, this one feels really small and you can immediately tell that it had a smaller budget than what similar films today have.
That’s because this movie was a big risk in 1999 when it was filmed. Comic book movies other than the two Tim Burton Batman films and the first two Christopher Reeve starring Superman pictures just didn’t have a great track record and most of them were made deliberately cheesy and campy. The sequels to the films I just mentioned also fell victim to this creative misstep.
X-Men, however, took itself seriously and it succeeded because of that.
Granted, it’s a pretty flawed film with a lot of creative choices I wasn’t a fan of. These choices would actually go on to hinder the rest of the X-Men movies that Fox made but I think it was probably hard to see anything beyond just this movie when it was being made.
The acting is pretty solid for the most part but the heavy lifting in this chapter is primarily done by Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen and Anna Paquin. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t bad dialogue and bad acting, there is, but the high points greatly outshine the low ones.
Still, this is a weak adaptation. It chose a strange mix of characters to start with and by choosing these characters, the series sort of fucked itself going forward. It also altered the origins of most of the characters pretty drastically and it set some things in stone that would later lead to the film series’ continuity getting really screwed up. Some of these problems became even more clear after revisiting this.
The general plot is also wonky and weird and I’m not a big fan of it. The whole MacGuffin machine that Magneto wants to use to turn people into mutants was goofy as hell and it sabotaged the initial realism that this picture seemed to have. Well, it was as realistic as a film about superhero mutants could be before we got a hokey old timey comic book superweapon introduced.
From memory, but I’ll find out in a week or so, the sequel was much better. It delved deeper into the lore and tried to get past some of the missteps here.
In the end, this isn’t bad, by any means, it just isn’t as great as I felt that it was in 2000. Sure, it has issues but it also opened the floodgates for the superhero genre to enter the cinematic medium in a more serious way.
Rating: 7/10 Pairs well with: the other films in the original X-Men trilogy.
Published: December 10th, 2014 Written by: Chris Claremont, Peter David Art by: John Buscema, Gene Colan
Marvel Comics, 495 Pages
As big of a Wolverine fan as I am, I have never read his earliest solo stories that revolved around his time in Madripoor when he was going by the name of “Patch”. I knew enough about this era but nothing is ever as good as reading it for yourself.
I read this on Comixology after buying it pretty cheap during a Wolverine sale. Normally, it’s like $30 but I know I got it for less than $10 and it was well worth that price tag.
This is a beefy collection that covers the first 16 issues of his solo comic, as well as the story that came out just before it and another comic that takes place within the same time frame. It makes for one nice long epic of Logan’s life in Madripoor. I’m not sure if he sticks around there after this collection and for how long but this really gives you the important stuff from that era.
I also knew that Jessica Drew a.k.a. Spider-Woman was around for some of this but I didn’t realize that she wasn’t Spider-Woman here and that she was pretty much just herself, as a ninja badass. I also didn’t realize that she was actually a big part of the Wolverine Madripoor stuff.
We also get a cool plot that teams Wolverine up with the Gray Hulk a.k.a. Mr. Joe Fix-It for the first time. It’s a pretty cool tale and it also fits well within the larger tapestry that sees Logan trying to fight the criminal underworld in this fictitious Asian island nation.
Almost everything here is written by the great Chris Claremont, who probably knows Wolverine the best. Some of this is also written by Peter David but he’s a legend too and he knows how to write a story with great energy.
Ultimately, this wasn’t close to being my favorite Wolverine story, and it may actually be a bit underwhelming because of that, but it is still damn entertaining and really reflects a truly unique time in the character’s mythos.
Rating: 7.5/10 Pairs well with: other Wolverine solo stories from the late ’80s into the early ’90s.
Published: December 14th, 2005 Written by: Greg Pak Art by: Greg Land
Marvel Comics, 123 Pages
After reading the Grant Morrison Dark Phoenix story, I didn’t have much hope for this one, which follows it pretty closely. However, this was a big step up and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
The Phoenix Force comes back to Earth in an effort to rejoin Jean Grey but it discovers that Jean is dead. So it reanimates her corpse and poses as her, making for some painful moments with Wolverine and Cyclops. But this is also where Emma Frost has to step up and become a real leader on the X-Men team, after she had spent years as one of their greatest villains.
The thing that I loved most about this is that the stakes were real and you got a sense of the immensity of the terrible situation the heroes were in. However, the story stayed fairly small and close knit to a small group of X-Men members, as opposed to trying to make this a mega event that pulled in every character from the Marvel universe.
Greg Pak did a superb job in writing this and I’d say it’s my favorite story of his that I’ve read after the masterpiece that was Planet Hulk.
While Greg Land is a somewhat controversial artist that’s been accused of tracing photos, which there is actually a lot of evidence to back that up, I still really liked his art here and it felt top notch. I’m not as “offended” as some within the comic industry and its fans have been about the possibility of the man not being a “legit” artist. That’s because the finished product is still spectacular and he truly understands how to stage and set a scene, whether it’s slice of life moments or action. For more on Land, Comic Tropes did a good video on the guy here.
Overall, this was a really good, refreshing read that took the messy Phoenix story that preceded it and sort of fixed it. This was a satisfying conclusion to the string of Phoenix sagas that led up to this. Granted, it wasn’t the last Phoenix tale but this still brought things to a gratifying close for a short time, anyway.
Rating: 8.75/10 Pairs well with: other story arcs about Jean Grey as Phoenix.
Published: 1995-1996 Written by: Scott Lobdell, Jeph Loeb, John Francis Moore, Mark Waid, Warren Ellis, Fabian Nicieza, Larry Hama, Howard Mackie, Terry Kavanagh Art by: Roger Cruz, Terry Dodson, Steve Epting, Andy Kubert, Adam Kubert, Carlos Pacheco, Joe Madureira, Tony Daniel, Salvador Larroca, Chris Bachalo, Ken Lashley, Steve Skroce, Ian Churchill, Joe Bennett
Marvel Comics, 1462 Pages
I’ve really only heard great things about The Age of Apocalypse storyline since it started back in 1995, an era where I wasn’t really reading comics for awhile, except for Dark Horse’s Star Wars stuff.
In fact, the last major X-Men related event that I had read before this was X-Cutioner’s Song, a pretty good epic. But shortly after that, I got pretty burnt out once the top Marvel guys went off to form Image and then those comics were constantly hindered by delays and irregular schedules.
Based off of all the praise I heard, I always wanted to read this but it was such a massive story, spread over multiple collected volumes that I never really wanted to fork out the over $100 it would cost to buy the whole shebang. So, all these years later, I took advantage of a massive X-Men sale on Comixology and got the entire saga with its prelude for about $20.
Now that I’ve read it, I’m glad I only spent $20 because like Game of Thrones, all my friends and all the critics lied to me about how great this was. It’s not, it’s a clusterfuck of biblical proportions showcasing a lot of the things that were wrong with mid-’90s comic book art from the major publishers.
I’ll start with the art and just come out and say that this was mostly an eyesore to look at. The biggest reason was the colors, which relied so heavily on what I assume are digitally created gradients and overly vibrant colors that this was like staring into the asshole of a tropical fruit salad for hours. Everything is too busy, every single issue collected is made to be overly grandiose and if everything is larger than life and overly vivid, then that becomes the norm and thus, makes everything kind of boring.
Additionally, there is such a mix of different artistic styles that it becomes jarring as these collections jump from issue to issue every twenty pages or so. Some of the artists had great pencils but many of them illustrated in a style that didn’t feel like Marvel and instead felt like the artists were trying to emulate indie comics from Image and Valiant. Besides, the stuff that was illustrated well, ended up being wrecked by the primitive gradients and crazy colors that looked like a giallo film puked all over a box of Prismacolor markers.
When it comes to the narrative side of this, that’s also a mess.
This suffers from trying to be way more ambitious than it needed to be. The whole story is comprised of about seven or eight different subplots that are and aren’t intertwined. Some of them merge towards the end into the bigger story but some stuff just happens within this new timeline. But the story jumps around so much that it makes the whole thing hard to follow as a singular body of work. This is the same problem I have, right now, with all the new X-Men related titles that are tied to a bigger narrative but don’t feel connected as much as they should. But this is what happens when you have a half dozen different titles and different writers, all of whom want to explore different territory in their own way while being trapped within a common framework.
In fact, the only plot I actually enjoyed was the one that dealt with the characters that aren’t tied to the X-Men.
There was a two issue miniseries called X-Universe, which focused on what other Marvel characters were up to during this event. We check in on this timeline’s version of Gwen Stacy, some of the Avengers, Fantastic Four, Doctor Doom and a few others. I found this more interesting and it showed me that this alternate timeline could provide the right sort of environment for cool and refreshing takes on old characters.
While I should probably feel the same way about all the X-Men related characters and their stories, it is hard to focus on any of them because of how this jumps around so much. When I got to the non-X-Men characters, it felt like a nice break from the X-clusterfuck I was pushing myself through.
Ultimately, I was really disappointed in this. I kept powering through it because I was hoping that all these subplots and characters would unify into something coherent that clicked at the end but that didn’t happen. We eventually get to a resolution but it’s not all that satisfying.
On a side note (and spoiler alert): the way that Magneto kills Apocalypse is pretty f’n badass.
Rating: 5/10 Pairs well with: other big X-Men crossovers of the ’80s through ’00s.
Published: 1988 Written by: Chris Claremont, Peter David, Louise Simonson, Steve Englehart, Mark Gruenwald, Ann Nocenti Art by: Marc Silvestri, Todd McFarlane, Bret Blevins, June Brigman, Kerry Gammill, Jon Bogdanove, Kieron Dwyer, Keith Pollard, John Romita Jr., Walt Simonson
Marvel Comics, 803 Pages
This was a story so big that it was collected into two massive volumes. But I figured I’d read both and give the whole thing a single review, as one body of work.
But that may have not been the best approach, as this crossover doesn’t really crossover in a way that makes one big story. This is more like an anthology of events that were going on in all the different X-books at the same time. And weirdly, this isn’t collected in chronological order but as separate stories without much overlap or characters meeting.
This big event also has some short stories focused on Hulk, Captain America, Daredevil, Black Widow and the Fantastic Four. In those tales, it shows what they’re up to during the events of what is happening in some of the X-books.
The Fall of the Mutants takes place between Mutant Massacre and Inferno. It is also the last of the ’80s X-Men crossovers that I hadn’t read in its entirety.
Out of all the tales here, I thought the X-Factor one was probably the best as it concludes the Apocalypse and Angel storyline, as it introduces Archangel for the first time. Also, the X-Factor arc showcases Cameron Hodge turning on the team, revealing his true agenda to set up what would eventually be the superb crossover event X-Tinction Agenda.
The New Mutants part was the weirdest but it also featured Hodge’s heel turn and kind of sets things in motion for X-Tinction Agenda and Inferno. This is also where the New Mutants dump Magneto as their teacher and return to the ways of Charles Xavier.
Ultimately, this was kind of a mess when read as one body of work. But it does do a proper job of bridging the gap from Mutant Massacre and the next two big events to follow.
Rating: 5.5/10 Pairs well with: other major X-Men crossover events from the ’80s and ’90s.