Monday, February 27, 2006

Uncanny X-Periment # 2: The Early Adventures

Alrighty, here we are. The first 18 issues of Uncanny X-Men, along with Fantastic Four Wedding Special, Avengers # 16 and Fantastic Four # 34.

First of all, I should point out something about reading this books. These are Silver Age comics, 'course. For those that don't know, if you ever see satires about comics, they're usually based on the comics from this time period. Meaning . . . useless dialogue (characters describing what they're doing while they're doing it), characters talking to themselves excessively (as "The Incredibles" put it, monologing), and way-out-there blurbs ("You've never seen a villian like this before - and you never will!").

However, despite all these, there is a great story with broad characterization underneath the shaky surface of these comics. You have to look deeper than what you're given, but it's there.

(Note: That being said, I've found I had to mentally replace words. "Communist" was mentally replaced by "terrorists." The "Korean War" was mentally replaced by the "Vietnam War." Also, there are minor continunity flubs when read after "X-Men: Children of the Atom," but nothing too severe)

Basically, the X-Men have been formed. After barely defeating Magneto at Cape Citadel, the X-Men take on the Vanisher and then the Blob. In the aftermath of those two villians, Magneto and the X-Men bunt heads again, this time with the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants in tow. This goes on for a while with adventures ranging from Magneto conquering a small country to Angel being captured to the attempted recruitment of Namor, Blob, and Unus the Untouchable into the Brotherhood.

The X-Men then encounter Ka-Zar and the Savage Land; face down Luicfer (no, not that one - an alien, I guess); battle and then team-up with the Avengers and the Fantastic Four; and then it's right back to Magneto. This time, Magneto is trying to recruit an alien being known as the Stranger. The Stranger (though later revealed to be an alien) attacks Magneto and takes him and Toad to his homeworld for study of Mutants. As soon as the X-Men reel back from that attack, they are confronted by a menance from Professor X's past: the Juggernaut. Teaming up with the Human Torch, they end the threat of Xavier's step-brother, only to be thrown into combat with the Mutant-hunting Sentinels! One heckuva struggle later, the Sentinals are taken down -- only for the Magneto to come back (AGAIN!) and manages to take down all the X-Men until Iceman, who holds off ol' Mags until the others come back and hand him his ass and getting the Stranger to clean after himself.

That's a whole lot of stuff, dudes! A whole lot! For the most part, it's pretty good - except for issues 2 and 3. I mean, come on, the Vanisher warning people before he's going to rob them just so he can rub it in their faces that he could? The Blob leading an army of Carnies against the X-Men? Ugh.

But the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants storyarc is great! It's really where the X-Men begin to develop as their own characters. It also allows the reader a good look at the villians of the X-Men: Magneto, brutal and harsh despot; Mastermind, the scoundrel; Toad, the lackey; and Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch, the twin Mutants torn between doing the right thing and repaying Magneto for saving their lives.

Ka-Zar and Lucifer's stories are kinda blah. The meetings between the Fantastic Four and the Avengers are pretty neat, adding layers to the early Marvel Universe.

The Stranger/Juggernaut/Sentinels/Magneto storyarc is pretty cool, too. The X-Men have matured and developed enough by this time to handle this line of enemies.

And I think that's the part of the heart of these first 18 issues. The characters, with each passing issue, grow more developed and refined. Their personalities become more promenient with every time we see them. Their interactions are surprisingly realistic, except Scott and Jean's soap-opera thought ballons about their secret feelings for each other. Those were a bit too corny.

There's also some nice subtle development with everyone's powers. The X-Men started in X-Men # 1 with little to no training with their powers. By the time we reach issue 18, we have seen the development of their training. Jean had trouble moving a lot of things in the first issue. By the time issue 18 ends, she's levitating, she's tossing stuff, stunning people, picking locks, you name it!

The struggle between the X-Men's crusade and Magneto's is very much the heart of these first issues. It eventually moves onto the struggle between humanity and Mutants (being a subplot that gets touched on here and there and then exploded during the Sentinels arc), but Xavier and Magneto are both at the center of these first issues. It's interesting, too, seeing as how this is years before they've been established as good friends turned enemies before Cape Citadel.

There were two basic reasons why I chose to do these first 18 like this. The first being that while it's been establishing in canon that X-Men # 39 is one year mark for the team being together, this initial run feels has a strong "Year One" feel and the confrontation with Magneto and Iceman brings a sort of conclusion to the stories that were told from the first issue to the 18th as it displays the full development of the X-Men's progress. The second reason I chose this run is because the 18th was Jack Kirby's last issue and the 19th was Stan Lee's, so it made the most sense to me.

As a whole, the X-Men stand firmly at the beginning of what will be a long careers as super-heroes and Mutant crusaders. The conflicts and tests they were put through, as well as their interaction with each other in these first issues lay out the foundation for MANY stories to come.


Sunday, February 26, 2006

Uncanny X-Periment # 1: "Prelude"


This one was easy for me. Though most fans aren't sure what to consider it (canon or non-canon), to me, it fits right in and serves as the perfect prelude to the era to come. As Mutant paranoia grows, fanned by William Metzger and his band of militant teenagers, Charles Xaviers starts looking for students to teach and train to use their powers for the good of humanity. From there, we follow the lives of Scott Summers, Warren Worthington the Third, Hank McCoy, Bobby Drake, and Jean Grey as they learn to deal with their powers and eventually become Xavier's students - the X-Men. Along for the ride are anti-mutant teen Chad, FBI Agent Fred Duncan, and Magneto.

The story, as it unfolds, is one of paranoia. The world is just beginning to learn about Mutantkind and is being shown all the wrong images. The government is starting to get riled up by both the public perspective and Metzger's movement. Meanwhile, Magneto is recruiting forces for his Brotherhood. And Charles Xavier and the pre-X-Men members are stuck in the middle of all this.

Joe Casey does a fantastic job of depticing a far more realistic story of the X-Men coming together (as opposed to the stories that appeared in the late 60's that featured aliens, lynich mobs, Atlantians, and super-villains). He fashions a story that intersects classic super-heroics and real life. Every now and then, we get to see a television program that are clear lifts from real-world ones, each one dealing with Mutants.

Each character is solid and stands on their own and lend themselves to the story as a whole. The journey each one of them take is interesting and as the lives of the X-Men intertwin, we see the personalities of the X-Men we know begin to develop and grow.

What makes this story even more interesting are the vague hints we're given to future events. Mr. Sinister (Inferno), Cable (Cable/Wolverine: Guts and Glory), and the fact that Xavier is protraying the mansion as an actual school (Uncanny X-Men # 353). These are just subtle enough not to interrupt the story and wouldn't really be obvious to the casual reader, but to someone who has been reading X-books for 14 years . . . yeah, it's pretty neat.

Steve Rude does an excellent job and his unique style fits the tone of the book perfectly. It's quite unfortunate that he wasn't able to finish the limited series. That being said, Paul Smith, Essad Ribbic, and Michael Ryan do a fair job of filling in.

Ultimately, "X-Men: Children of the Atom" kicks things off and gets the ball rolling. This was merely a prelude . . .

"This is just the beginning. The genetic lines have been drawn." - Magneto


Thursday, February 23, 2006



Back on January 19th, 2006, I started reading what will be the entire run of Uncanny X-Men, X-Men, The Astonishing X-Men, X-Men: The Hidden Years, X-Treme X-Men, and New X-Men.

Along with all there comes key and important issues of New Mutants, X-Factor, Excalibur, X-Force, X-Men Unlimited, Generation X, Wolverine, Cable, Deadpool, Bishop, Gambit, Nightcrawler, Rogue, Cable & Deadpool, Weapon X, Agent X, Soldier X, X-Statix, Mystique, Brotherhood, District X, Maverick, and X-Man.

PLUS: various tie-ins, including (but not limited to) Avengers, Fantastic Four, Hulk, Marvel Comics Presents, Captain America, and Defenders; and major crossovers such as Contest of Champions, Secret Wars (1 and 2), Secret War, Infinity Gauntlet, House of M, Onslaught, and Heroes Return. And, to cap it off, a gaggle of limited series, along the lines of Wolverine/Kitty Pryde, Avengers vs. the X-Men, NYX, X-23, and more!

This comes off the heels of my purchase of the "40 Years of the X-Men" CD-ROM, which has every issue of Uncanny X-Men up until last August. A lot of the original X-Men books that I didn't have and would never have seen are suddenly avaliable to me and I'm taking the opportunity. I mean, if I got all these comics why not go for it?

And also, this may help me skim out what I don't want/need anymore. Special thanks to Scotty who inspired me to sort through my collection and get a lot of the harder to organize stuff fixed up. Also, thanks to, who aided me in deciding what comics are the most important.

As I finish a section of comics, I'll be posting a review for that section. For example, I'll be putting Uncanny X-Men # 1-18 together, because they really deal with overlapping subplots that come together at the end of Uncanny X-Men # 18. I plan on looking at each issue with an open mind - keeping in mind the times these issues were produced and what was standard back then (the Silver Age issues are going to be the biggest problem, but I'm thinking that maybe some music in the background may just help).

I started this on January 17th, so I'll be posting the reviews I've written so far in the next couple of days and play a game of "catch-up."

Thanks! Hope you all stop back!