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.
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, Ken Leung
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.
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: 1991 Written by: Chris Claremont, Jim Lee, Fabian Nicieza, Whilce Portacio, Peter David, Len Kaminski Art by: Jim Lee, Whilce Portacio, Kirk Jarvinen, Tom Raney, Terry Shoemaker, Paul Smith, Andy Kubert, Jerry DeCaire, Ernie Stiner, Steven Butler, Art Thibert
Marvel Comics, 437 Pages
I’m pretty excited for the current Jonathan Hickman run on the X-Men titles. I haven’t started reading them because the two miniseries that are coming out are doing so just about weekly. So I want to wait to have all twelve issues before giving it a read. But from what I’ve heard, it’s absolutely solid and quite refreshing.
However, before getting into the new stuff, I wanted to travel back to the height of my time reading and buying X-books: 1991.
The reason I wanted to go back there was because it was a transitional period, as the original X-Factor team came to an end, the New Mutants became X-Force and two new X-Men teams formed, each with their own ongoing monthly series. It was also a transition from the Chris Claremont era into the era of Jim Lee.
This thick trade paperback collects multiple story arcs but all of the arcs are unified in their purpose, which was to end an era and to create a new one.
Here we have the final stories of the first X-Factor team, as well as stories involving the newly formed X-Force and New Warriors, Freedom Force and the X-Men team as it existed when Claremont moved on from the series.
This almost feels like an omnibus.
It also features a lot of great creatives on the writing side and art side.
Ultimately, this was a hell of a fun read that flew by despite its meaty 437 pages.
We get dozens of heroes and a whole slew of major X-villains like Magneto, Apocalypse, the Shadow King, Proteus and Fabian Cortez, just to name a few.
While a lot of the ’90s comics I go back to don’t have the same effect on me as they did when I was twelve, this is a solid f’n read. Seriously.
And what’s really surprising is that it has all these creatives working on it and it still turned out to be a really well managed and fully realized vision that brought an era to its end, quite epically, and generated real excitement and enthusiasm for what was to come.
Rating: 10/10 Pairs well with: other major X-Men crossover events from the era: X-Tinction Agenda, X-Cutioner’s Song, etc.
Published: 2016-2017 Written by: Chad Bowers, Chris Sims Art by: Mirati Firmansyah, Coby Hamscher, David Nakayama (cover) Based on: the X-Men animated series by Fox Kids
Marvel Comics, 240 Pages
If you were a kid in the ’90s, you probably watched the X-Men cartoon that used to be on Fox on Saturday mornings. It was solid, did a pretty good job of adapting some of the comic book’s big storylines and introduced a lot of non-comic reading kids to the X-Men franchise.
It ended after a few seasons and never really had a proper follow up. Well, that is until recently, as the show moved into the medium it was born out of: comic books.
Maybe this took its cues from DC Comics and how they came out with Batman ’66, a comic book series that revisited the 1960s Adam West Batman TV series. But one can’t deny that Batman ’66 was a cool comic, a great idea and with that, should have inspired other comic books that continued the stories of comic book characters as they were presented in other mediums. Hell, I’m still waiting for that Batman ’89 comic that was once teased and then had those teases retracted.
But this is about X-Men ’92, which was a decent follow up to the animated series.
Overall, this was a fun read but it didn’t wow me in the same way that Batman ’66 did. Where that Batman comic felt tonally right and as if it was a true continuation of the series, X-Men ’92 throws some weird curveballs and also tries to force in way too many characters just for the sake of the creators trying to give you the animated series’ versions of these characters.
Maybe they knew this series would be short lived and therefore, they wanted to wedge in every character they could but it really becomes too much to process in the second half of this series. Also, I wasn’t a fan of devoting so much time to a Dracula/vampire story. None of that was central to the core of the cartoon and it shouldn’t have been central to the core of this comic.
Also, this feels like it is just borrowing the visual style of the TV show but it doesn’t seem to understand the tone or the spirit of it.
It’s still entertaining for fans of the source material but I wouldn’t call it a must read or all that necessary. Die hards should check it out but I can see why this didn’t make it a year where Batman ’66 has still been hanging on for quite awhile with a long running series and several crossovers.
Rating: 6.75/10 Pairs well with: the animated series it’s based on, as well as ’90s X-Men comics and various spinoffs.
Published: 1992-1993 Written by: Scott Lobdell, Fabian Nicieza, Peter David Art by: Brandon Peterson, Andy Kubert, Jae Lee, Greg Capullo
Marvel Comics, 336 Pages
This was one of my favorite big crossover events when I was really just getting deep into comics. This blew my middle school mind at the time and it had a lot of influence over my creative output in the comic book medium.
I was worried that revisiting this story would be a big disappointment. A lot of the stuff from this era that I reread now, usually lets me down, as my palate is more discriminatory than it was at thirteen years-old.
I’m happy to say that this was still pretty f’n solid!
In fact, I think it is slightly better than X-Tinction Agenda, which I used to place ahead of this one.
What I really liked about it, is that it features three of my absolute favorite villains: Apocalypse, Mister Sinister and Stryfe. They are all well balanced and they aren’t here to come together in an effort to finally take out the X-Men, X-Factor and X-Force (formerly the New Mutants). Each one of these baddies has their own purpose and agenda within the story and it all just comes together in a really cool way that even sees the X-Men have to turn to Apocalypse in order to stop Stryfe’s chaos.
This is the best big story to come after the epic Chris Claremont run on X-Men. But if I’m being honest and this certainly isn’t a dig at the legendary Claremont, whose work I love, X-Cutioner’s Song was really refreshing and it showed that new blood could liven things up. Granted, Peter David didn’t hang around too long, Scott Lobdell and Fabian Nicieza also moved on to other things, but this was a weirdly perfect storm considering all the changes happening on Marvel’s X-books following Claremont’s departure and many of the top creatives leaving for the newly formed Image Comics.
The art is also top notch, but Brandon Peterson, Andy Kubert, Jae Lee and Greg Capullo are all fantastic and three of those men have become somewhat legendary in their own right.
X-Cutioner’s Song is well crafted, well balanced and it should be a primer on how to write massive crossovers featuring dozens of characters all competing for their moment.
Rating: 9.25/10 Pairs well with: previous big X-Men crossover events like X-Tinction Agenda, Muir Island Saga, Inferno and Fall of the Mutants.
Published: 1980 Written by: Chris Claremont Art by: John Byrne
Marvel Comics, 200 Pages
Does it make me a terrible X-Men fan that I have never actually read The Dark Phoenix Saga?
I’ve tried to round up all the single issues over the years but some of them are pricey and there’s nine issues that make up this arc. But in my defense, I know the story very well, as it has been referenced a million times over throughout X-Men history. I’ve also seen various interpretations and adaptations of the plot. Granted, none of them are really accurate in regards to this, the source material.
This is free for Comixology Unlimited subscribers though, so I thought that delving into it was long overdue and that I really didn’t have an excuse anymore.
I expected this to be enjoyable but it still took me by surprise, as it was better than what I anticipated and all the years of hype I’ve experienced, didn’t diminish it in anyway.
The Dark PhoenixSaga is quintessential Chris Claremont. I can’t say that this is where he peaked but this is certainly a very elevated highpoint in his long run writing X-Men related stories.
This also came out in a time when Marvel wasn’t addicted to big crossover mega-events. This was a mega-event for its time but it wasn’t marketed or structured in the way that these things are now. It was just a good, lengthy story, limited to one already existing comic that found a way to utilize a lot of characters but in a way that balanced them all out and made them all useful to the plot.
One cool thing about this arc, is it also features the first appearances of Kitty Pryde, Emma Frost, Sebastian Shaw, the Hellfire Club and Dazzler. There’s a bunch of stuff going on within this story but it doesn’t off track and still builds towards the big battle between Jean Grey as Dark Phoenix and her X-Men family. It’s, at times, heartbreaking and tragic but it also makes you love all these people all over again in an organic, natural and emotional way. This hits emotional notes in the reader in ways that comic books never seem to come close to in 2019.
I can’t just give credit to Chris Claremont and his stupendous writing though. The art by John Byrne is absolutely superb and it is just as rich, colorful and meticulously crafted as the story its telling.
The Dark Phoenix Saga is one of the greatest Marvel stories ever told. It’s classic Marvel and truly represents what I loved about the era and how I fell in love with this creative medium in the first place.
Rating: 10/10 Pairs well with: other early Chris Claremont X-Men comics.
Published: June 22nd, 2011 Written by: Craig Kyle, Christopher Yost, Matt Fraction, Zeb Wells, Mike Carey Art by: David Finch, Terry Dodson, Ibraim Roberson, Greg Land, Mike Choi, Rachel Dodson, Sonia Oback
Marvel Comics, 360 Pages
I went into this thinking that I would like it for the most part. The events that precede it were pretty good reads. What I didn’t expect was to be blown away. But in the end, I have to say, this was one of the absolute best X-Men crossover events that I have ever experienced. Seriously, this was nothing short of superb.
More than anything, this story made me love Cable more than ever and it got me to love Hope Summers, who I would say is one of the best characters to come out of the last decade, even though she previously appeared as a baby before this in Messiah Complex.
This had a lot going on in the story but there was room for it all. Plus, all the key players were well balanced throughout and it gave most of the top characters a real purpose and mission.
There are real consequences in this story, as some key X-Men figures die. Granted, one could argue that those consequences are never real because no one truly dies in comics and the two biggest victims of this story are already alive and well, once again. But despite that, it felt like a real blow within this narrative. It didn’t lose its impact knowing that they’d eventually be back.
Second Coming carries all the doom and gloom of Messiah Complex over and it brings more doom and gloom but it ends in a way that finally sees a glimmer of “hope” appear in the darkest time of the X-Men franchise. I don’t want to spoil too much because I’d rather people give this a read.
Being that this is a crossover event, there is a mix of art styles. All of it works for me though, even if there are noticeable style shifts from chapter to chapter. Ultimately, the tone stays about the same from beginning to end.
This is a fairly long read but none of it is boring or filler. It moves at a brisk pace, keeps you engaged and makes you cheer for these heroes in a way that you haven’t since the early ’90s.
Rating: 10/10 Pairs well with: the stories that precede it: Avengers Disassembled, House of M and X-Men: The Messiah Complex, as well as the one this leads up to: Avengers Vs. X-Men.
Published: March 29th, 2008 Written by: various Art by: various
Marvel Comics, 344 Pages
This follows the major event in X-Men and Avengers lore that was House of M, which itself followed Avengers: Disassembled. While the Scarlet Witch is no longer the focal point here, the effects of what she did in the two previous stories is still felt and the central focus of this large crossover event’s plot. This is also an X-Men-centric story as it doesn’t crossover with Avengers characters or titles this time.
In a way this does a good job of closing out what some call the House of M trilogy but it also sets up an event that is a direct sequel to this called Second Coming.
The story is pretty good but it may be hard to follow for someone who just jumps in or for an old school X-Men fan that will be bombarded with a bunch of newer characters, as this came out when The New X-Men was going strong.
Overall, this is pretty good but the story jumps around a lot and if you don’t binge through it fairly quickly, you’ll probably forget some details. Also, some threads within the larger plot aren’t as great as others.
I didn’t care so much for the New X-Men Team and was more intrigued by what was going on with the main X-Men and the Marauders. Although, I had hoped that Mister Sinister would really get his moment to shine brightly and he’s just sort of there, leading the Marauders, and then he’s out of the story. Although, the twist that sees him taken out of the plot was pretty neat and it’s not something that I saw coming.
If you like classic X-Men, this more modern event will still probably resonate with you. It feels more like a ’90s X-Men event than something made within the last decade or so.
Rating: 7.75/10 Pairs well with: Avengers: Disassembled and House of M.