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Sunday, October 15, 2006

A Bold New Era!

Despite the fact that it was thoroughly accurate, I was a little surprised a few months ago when I saw my blog described as providing commentary on "mostly older" comics. Admittedly, I post about the Silver Age like I think I'm the only one to notice that the Legion of Super-Heroes were jerks, but I always figured I had my fingers directly on the pulse of what's "hip" or "mod" in today's modern funnybooks.

So tonight, the ISB says NO! to the four-color delights of the sixties and seventies, and instead sets its sights on a bold new era of graphic storytelling! Because in the annals of sequential art, there is nothing more diametrically antithetical to Silver-Age DC than...


And yes, I'm well aware of the irony that this comic is now fifteen years old.

Anyway, X-Men #1 hit the stands in 1991 and sold over seven million copies to become the best-selling comic book of all time. Unfortunately, those seven million copies were all bought by what essentially amounts to thirty guys, and I'm reasonably certain that no one has ever read it all the way through. Why?

Because this comic book is incomprehensible.

Written at one of the high points of Chris Claremont's growing dementia, it's got more words per page than your average copy of, say, The Bible, and features inexplicable fan-favorite Jim Lee drawing Archie-esque crosshatching on Professor X's head and the kind of storytelling that would leave you wondering where the hell Gambit went, assuming that you could be bothered to care about Gambit at all. And since you're reading this here, I'm going to go ahead and assume that you can't.

To be fair, though, it's very well-colored and the paper quality is top-notch.

It all starts with a prologue involving a few Spaceships blasting at each other until Magneto, the crotchetiest of all mutants, shows up and tells everyone to quit screwin' around on his lawn.

Please note, for future reference, that Magneto's just kicking it out there in space with no protection from the harsh vacuum beyond that absolutely devastating head of hair. And yet, he's holding a five-minute conversation in space with the ill-defined Anne-Marie Cortez.

In space.

Needless to say, this spooks the folks back home pretty thoroughly, and they end up trying to get a handle on the situation by loading up a picture of Magneto that, assuming the dudes hanging around at the bottom of the panel are of average height, is well over two-hundred feet tall from the top of his head to the bottom of his pointy, diamond-shaped feet.

What exactly they can learn from a picture the size of a large yacht that couldn't quite be conveyed by an eight-by-ten glossy, I'll never know. Perhaps it's best if we just move on.

Finally, at around page six, the X-Men finally decide to show up, and, well, for sixteen years, there were only two ways to kick off a new story, and since they're not playing baseball, it's time for a trip to the Danger Room. In this case, most of the team was divided into two groups to assault the mansion and "tag" Professor X, which Wolverine does after ten full pages of Gambit making out with explosive robot Jean Greys, longwinded explanations of how everyone's powers work, and Cyclops desperately trying to display any sort of personality.

And then we get this...

...and that was about the time when I was reading this in seventh grade that I decided I fucking hate Cyclops.

Eventually, after a scuffle between humans and mutants up on Asteroid M--brought on, I suspect, by the fact that Magneto was kicking it in what essentially amounts to flowing silk footie pajamas--Magneto decides that his policy of isolationism isn't really getting him anywhere, and so decides to grab a few nuclear missiles from that submarine he sunk back in Uncanny X-Men #150. Because if there's anything recent events have taught us, nothing says "Peaceful Intentions" like getting ahold of some high-yeild nuclear missiles.

As you might expect, this aggression will not stand, man, and so the X-Men fly out to confront him in the middle of the ocean. Dynamic Fight Scene Action Action Go!

Psylocke leaps vagina-first into the fray!

Cyclops reminds us why nobody likes him!

Magneto speaks AN ENTIRE NOVELLA!

And mercifully, it ends there.

You know, just in case you were wondering why I usually stick to Bob Haney.


Blogger Evan Waters said...

I can't even work out what order I'm supposed to read those balloons in.

10/15/2006 2:26 AM

Blogger Ragnell said...

Thanks, Chris, you've just reminded me of that humiliating period when I thought Psylocke was cool.

I say period because it first occured when I was 13 and lasted 3-5 days. Never returned, thankfully.

10/15/2006 2:29 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I loved that story arc, I was gutted when Magneto sacrifices himself at the end.

My favourite ever Xmen however was the next set, where they go up against Sabretooth and Omega Red, best splash panels ever, worst convoluted psychic link. Still, I had this fugly tshirt one size two big that had panels from the comic wrapped around with Wolvie in colour on the Front and Psylocke around the back.

I loved that heinous Tshirt and I loved those crazy 90s mutants...
...but of course you're right, it was essentailly shit. Still, it was the 90's baby.

10/15/2006 4:30 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I... uh... really like this issue and still own it.


Objectively, I know this is a bad comic, but man, is it still a blast to read despite itself.

I think a lot of it is that it has enough sheer energy and inertia that the story works despite all the ridiculous claptrap going on.

It may be the model of excess, but it's suitably epic, has pretty much every X-character ever for that time (with the exception of the ones who were off in Excalibur), and in classic Claremont style takes freaking forever to read.

Gotta say, it ain't great, but I wish modern #1 isues worked as hard to impress you as X-Men #1 did.

10/15/2006 5:02 AM

Blogger Mike Haseloff said...

I wouldn't want to cross any kind of line here, but, as practical as the vagina is, you'd think the penis would surely make the more effective offensive weapon.

Afterall, it has offended many-a-person, to be sure.

10/15/2006 6:45 AM

Blogger Phil Looney said...

I re-read thos X-Men issues about a year or so ago, and I was surprised at how bad they were. It kills me that my 11 year old mind loved that thing, but my 25 year old mind says "this is crap."

10/15/2006 10:20 AM

Blogger sean witzke said...

Yeah, but the gatefold poster on the inside - which had pretty much every XMen character evar! - was freaking awesome.

As a six-year old it was the coolest comic I owned just for that.

10/15/2006 10:51 AM

Blogger Unknown said...

I just love that you have Wolverine pausing from eviscerating an acolyte to discuss the Divine Right of Kings.

Sure he's a berserker -- but he's a berserker who's historically grounded.

10/15/2006 11:50 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

So lemme see if I understand this.

Judging by the scans you've presented and going solely by the art, I'm going to assume the following hypothesis:

X-Men #1 is all about groins. Especially Magneto's. Seriously, he's constantly posed in that, "Here are my genitals, please kick them" pose.

10/15/2006 12:20 PM

Blogger Mark Kardwell said...

This came out when I was a student, living in a shared house that was impossible to heat and always out of toilet paper.

At the time, I either used this issue to light a fire or wipe my ass. I can't remember which.

10/15/2006 12:37 PM

Blogger Brandon Bragg said...

I remember back in middle school when a friend of mine desperately wanted my copy of this issue. He traded me his entire run of "Warlock and the Infinity Watch" to get it.

I'm still not sure who got the bad end of that deal.

10/15/2006 12:37 PM

Blogger SallyP said...

Oh Chris, this is certainly a trip down memory lane. And a scary memory it is, to be sure. At the time however, I'm sure that I thought this was just the bee's knees. Of course when I was 13, I thought that John Denver was just the ginchiest, so make of that what you will.

But there is nothing quite like the horror of a Claremont/Lee X-men comic book. Except perhaps a Lobdell/Lee or Liefeld X-men comic book. Gahhhh!

10/15/2006 1:45 PM

Blogger Trent Jensen said...

I like Cyclops....

Well, not this Cyclops.

10/15/2006 2:26 PM

Blogger Cullen Waters said...

That was my first X-men comic. It's what made me a fan.

I am probably a sad, sad little man.

10/15/2006 3:36 PM

Blogger Chris Sims said...

I can't even work out what order I'm supposed to read those balloons in.

To be honest with you, Evan, I'm pretty sure it doesn't really matter.

10/15/2006 4:01 PM

Blogger Steven Hardina said...

Marvel needs to give this thing the Marvel Romance Redux treatment so bad. With Ellis on rewriting duty.

10/15/2006 4:50 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

What kills me is, assuming Magneto is talking in a slow regal diction, and he takes proper pauses to let the X-Men ask him questions, everyone is spending somewhere in the neighborhood of two minutes in their LEAP INTO ACTION poses while this exchange is going on.

10/15/2006 5:54 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Never realized how much of Claremont's off-the-wall speech existed back then. Always assumed that was something he picked up during his time away from Marvel.

10/15/2006 6:50 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I did a word count!

Cyclops: 28

Wolverine: 30

Magneto: 251

That is the wildest crap I have ever seen, he doesn't even say anything!


10/16/2006 3:27 AM

Blogger Unknown said...

Long rambling prose isn't just a 90s Claremont thing though. The original X-Men in the 60s used to witter on during a fight scene like nobody's business.

And, I'm sorry, but I like Jim Lee's art. Sure it's far from perfect but it's better than a lot of stuff you see on the shelves. At least it looks like he's put some time into his work.

Some (all?) of the poses are over the top but, then, this is a comic book. It's all about all-the-top-ness.

And having a conversion in space is obviously not possible. Just as moving metallic items with one's mind - including controlling people by manipulating the iron in their blood and levitating oneself - is.

10/16/2006 5:01 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cyclops is actually my favorite superhero...but really more recently than earlier, and I can't help but wonder what tool store they bought him from to get him in those panels.

10/16/2006 7:56 AM

Blogger Alex Hopkinson said...

Excellent. I'd like to request you follow up the horror of X-Men #1 with the equivalent Uncanny issue and X-Force #1 (I'd suggest X-Factor #71 but that was, y'know, actually good).

10/16/2006 8:06 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's kind of sad that he ended up making such a fool of himself; I recently read the first three or four Essential X-Men trades, up to Cyclops marrying Madelyne Pryor, and it's pretty good by '70s-early '80s standards. Now, though... well, let's just say this issue doesn't even come close to the nadir he eventually hit.

10/16/2006 11:17 AM

Blogger Chris Sims said...

Don't get me wrong--Claremont's not all bad. With the exception of v.3 (the return of Dave Cockrum and about four stories where a Dracula, Dr. Doom, AND Magneto kick the X-Men's asses until they decide that Storm is really, really hot), every volume of Essential X-Men is fantastic.

It's just that, you know, there's a definite peak there. And a very, very, very definite decline.

10/16/2006 8:44 PM

Blogger Mike Haseloff said...

Magneto: 251

That is the wildest crap I have ever seen, he doesn't even say anything!



No gag. Just Bendis.



Totally Bendis.

... Bendis.

10/17/2006 3:24 AM

Blogger Mark said...

that Psylocke panel is hilarious

"what the??? - it doesn't hurt them as much when i kick someone in the head who's wearing a helmet????"

good to see all that elite ninja training didn't go to waste

10/18/2006 9:11 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, those seven million copies were all bought by what essentially amounts to thirty guys

And those are the guys that are phoning my store and saying, "Yeah, uh, how much would you pay for an X-Men #1?... no, the one from the 90's... Hello?"

Verification word: yksza, or the battle cry Psylocke yells when she goes in vagina first.

10/18/2006 8:35 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I thought I'd clicked my Dave's Long Box link when I saw this post.

10/21/2006 3:46 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

...so, it seems most if not all the previous comments dislike this issue/run/series due to bad writing, too much dialogue, over-the-top character development, subjective dislike of character personality, scientific plausibility of mutant abilities, not enough panels/pages for depicted scenes to dialogue ratio, exaggerated poses, suggestive action poses, etc...

What do you like? What issue, comic, author, artist do you like?

8/25/2010 8:38 AM

Anonymous New Era said...

Nice blog huh! I enjoyed reading it..

11/10/2010 4:08 AM


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