By Andy Frisk
July 11, 2010 - 18:22
A new X-Men series? I thought that there was something like 30 or 40 X-Men titles out there already. No? Oh…it’s the Avengers now that have 30 or 40 titles. OK, I’m exaggerating, but the X-Men, and in particular everyone’s favorite adamantium laced grump with the claws, really do seem to be everywhere. Wolverine himself is a member of just about every Marvel Universe super team. How he manages a quiet moment in front of the television with Cyclops (beer in hand of course) on Utopia “the island home of the X-Men off the coast of San Francisco” while he’s also in New York saving the Avengers and getting into God knows what else in his own multiple solo staring titles (of which Wolverine: Weapon X is easily the best) is well beyond my grasp of the space time continuum. Oh well, there’s always Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “willing suspension of disbelief” to help get us through the comic book world of superheroes. A healthy dose of this suspension is required when dealing with the X-Men in particular. With as many times as lead characters have died and come back to life, been cloned, fallen in and out of love with each other, lost, regained, and lost again their mutant powers…it just seems like these guys have been living the same storyline over and over again throughout the years. So in order to really enjoy anything that has to do with the X-Men as characters and their stories, perhaps it’s necessary to just get away from the whole convoluted mess for a while, and if you find yourself still interested, come back in a few years and see what your favorite merry mutants are up to. With the release of X-Men #1 (“the first new X-Men #1 in twenty years!”—uh, this is good because?), that’s what I’ve decided to do, admittedly with mixed results.
From the mid 1980s through the early 1990s I was a HUGE X-Men fan. By HUGE I mean no exaggeration. My devotion to everything X-Men even surpassed by well documented (on this site and in this column) devotion to Superman as my favorite superhero. The Chris Claremont/John Byrne/Marc Silvestri/Jim Lee Uncanny X-Men years occurred at the height of my teen/young adult years of comic book collecting. X-Men specials and crossovers like God Loves Man Kills, Havok and Wolverine, Fall of The Mutants, Days of Future Past, Days of Future Present, The X-Tinction Agenda, and of course Wolverine’s first mini-series and ongoing series were devoured by my eyes and brain while they devoured my scant disposable income. When Claremont and Lee left though, I did as well. I got back into Superman via the Death and Return of Superman storyline and began reading nearly everything that DC Comics’ Vertigo line published. Then came the inevitable period in most comic collector’s lives where we get out of comics for a while only to get back into them at some point later. When I got back into comics, I obviously got back into Superman and some other favorites (DC Comics’ Vertigo line in particular—it’s still the best line in publication), but didn’t really even consider getting back into X-Men. I guess the media oversaturation in the wake of the films just turned me off from being interested. Also, X-Men had sort of gone the way of soap opera silliness with the overemphasis on the subtle love story subplots so effectively used by Claremont, Byrne, and company. Anyway, Wolverine is still cool (if WAY to overexposed a character) and my first post comics collecting break experience with my old fictional friend, Wolverine Weapon X has been positive, so I figured I’d give Marvel Comics’ new X-Men a try. Hopefully this new series would provide me with a nice jumping on point and stir my interest in what was once the most interesting, poignant, and socially relevant cast of superheroes and superhero concept ever created.
So imagine my dismay when I discovered that the plot of my chosen re-entry point into the sagas of some of my favorite superheroes would involve said superheroes in a fight with vampires. Of all the opponents out there in mutant villain land, vampires would have to be the bad guys in X-Men’s first story arc. I very nearly skipped the title altogether. Vampires are the Wolverine of pop culture these days. They’re everywhere. Too many kids (and scarily enough adults) want to be vampires, dress like vampires, look like vampires, sleep with vampires, or bite each other like vampires. Thanks Stephanie Meyer. Your melodramatic stories have impeded the sanity of many. Well, at least the kids are reading again…they were growing out of Harry Potter…
I know I’m being a little too harsh on all the “Twilighters” (or whatever you call them) out there, so I have to beg forgiveness for my opinion. To each his own and whatever floats your boat and all that. It’s our differences of opinion that keep us interesting. Putting the X-Men up against vampires might not be too terrible an idea after all. After reading X-Men #1, I realized what series writer Victor Gischler is attempting to do. It looks like he’s aiming to deliver some type of socio-political theme where the vampires that are about to descend on the X-Men’s hometown of San Francisco are going to be acting out of some kind of twisted terrorist-like motivation designed to bring attention to them as an oppressed group or something, much like the mutants are. Instead of practicing civil disobedience and acts of heroism like mutants have in the past with regards to their attempts to gain acceptance, the vampires launch their attack with a suicide bombing. A large vampire, decked out in bondage type looking leathers which cover every inch of him from head to toe (obviously meant to keep him from exploding in the sun) removes his jacket exposing himself to the sun. Declaring “For my people” he of course explodes in the middle of an outdoor lunch crowd—with the obvious intent of “infecting” those around, and in particular a conveniently depowered X-Man Jubilee with his blood in order to turn as many as possible into one of “his people.” As the story progresses it looks like the vampiric suicide bomber succeeds and soon we’ll have a vampiric Jubilee as a member of the X-Men. Are vampires the new mutants? Gischler might be expanding the definition of the Marvel Comics mutant to include vampires. Why not, apparently hybrid human-Atlanteans are considered mutants now, I mean again…
Admittedly, this sort of new take on vampires and their possible worth as not just enemies of, but as dark reflections of mutant heroes like the X-Men and the concept of Xavier’s Dream could prove interesting. With the promotional images of a vampiric Jubilee floating around in X-Men garb, it looks like vamps will now be welcomed into the X-Men’s fold. Could Blade be far behind? He might as well become an X-Man. After all, he can’t seem to make it as a solo hero. Even though Marvel Comics is giving him another shot at it soon. So while Gischler’s story might have some merit to it artistically and commercially (remember, nothing’s hotter than vampires right now), it still feels a little contrived in its timing. Marvel Comics may just be trying to inject some new blood (pardon the pun) into its one time top of the pops (culture) characters by cross breeding (again forgive the pun) them with a current pop culture fad.
Artistically, X-Men #1 ranks up there with the best art from the best X-Men storylines. Paco Medina’s work is sharp, crisp, and detailed enough to encapsulate everything that makes an X-Men adventure great visually. Solid fight choreography with detailed and edgy looking outfits to go with the detailed and edgy looking characters abound. I’ve always personally judged the quality of any X-Men series’ look by how cool Wolverine looks and how hot the X-women are. Medina’s Wolverine looks very cool and his X-women are all hotties, so X-Men looks like it’s in good hands with Medina.
While the idea of trying to reinvigorate the X-Men by re-launching them in a new title and putting them up against the ever popular vampire bad guys is definitely a bit contrived and unoriginal, it isn’t a complete waste of a reintroduction. The overall concept of the X-Men as minority heroes is still one of the best ever invented. They’ve just been the unfortunate victims of a little too much success over the decades, if that makes sense. The concept really needs to get back to its roots and rediscover what made the X-Men so great in the first place. Pitting them against the group of fantasy characters who have supplanted them in popularity over the last decade or so isn’t the worst way to draw attention (and sales) to X-Men, but it’s not necessarily the best. Either way, X-Men #1 did get this old X-Men fan’s attention. Whether it keeps it remains to be seen.