Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Uncanny X-Periment Special: Top 50 Stories - Part Six!

Okay, here we go!  Took me long enough!  Again, I did ape some of my earlier X-Periment entries, but I've decided that's okay!  HAPPY NEW YEAR!

10) World Tour

(Uncanny X-Men # 111 – 121)

While Professor X is vacationing with Lilandria, Mesmero captures the X-Men. When Beast goes to rescue them, however, they are all then re-captured by Magneto, who takes them to his Antarctic base. The X-Men engage Magneto, this time both the X-Men and Magneto more prepared for the other. The fight ends when the base is destroyed and Magneto retreats, weakened.
The X-Men are separated from Beast and Phoenix, both believing the other dead. As Phoenix and Beast head back to New York, the X-Men end up in the Savage Land. Once there, the X-Men fight off Zaladane and her forces by joining with Ka-Zar and Sauron. Saving the Savage Land, the X-Men get on perhaps the worst raft ever and try and sail to South America.

Meanwhile, Professor X is upset of the supposed loss of the X-Men and decides (after a flashback revealing his first encounter with a fellow Mutant, the Shadow King) to leave for the Shi’ar with Lilandria. The X-Men are rescued from their sinking raft by a Japanese freighter, which takes them to Japan. Once there, the X-Men meet up with Sunfire and Wolverine meets Mariko, who he is immediately smitten with.

They save Japan from Moses Magnum and are on their way back to New York when they are attacked by Vindicator again, this time with the entire Canadian super-hero team Alpha Flight with him. A battle ensues and eventually, Wolverine evades capture. Upon arriving at the mansion, the X-Men try to put their lives together.

Why It’s # 10:

I can’t stress enough just how good this is.   I mean, it really is.  This is the golden age of John Byrne and Chris Claremont.  Each and every character gets a moment and some kind of development.   The X-Men are so well-defined – from Cyclops, being in command and in love with Jean; to Storm, still new to the western world and the X-Men; and even Colossus, who makes some dumb mistakes.  Wolverine has great moments, pining for Jean and fighting Alpha Flight.  Professor X and Jean are great, mourning the X-Men.   Plus, Magneto is written great, Ka-Zar is is bad-ass, Alpha Flight is kick-ass, and Sunfire is, well, classic Sunfire.

Aside from the characterization, the fight scenes are exciting and versatile.  We get into the X-Men’s reactions and thought processes as they battle their foes.

Bottom Line:
From the circus to Antartica to the Savage Land to Japan to Canada – it’s an odyssey that challenges the still-new X-Men in a brand new way.  The X-Men are well defined, each  one getting their moments.  The threats are substantial, adding gravity to the situation.  If you had to pin-point the best of Claremont/Byrne, this might just be it.  Maybe.

9) Crossroads
(Uncanny X-Men 273-277)

The post X-Tinction Agenda X-Men are teleported into the Shi'ar Empire which is in the thores of a civil war. Deathbird, having claimed the throne, gathers the X-Men to kill Xavier. The X-Men are confused, but eventually join up with the Starjammers and Lilandra. Deathbird is taken care of, the X-Men are reunited with Professor X, and Lilandra is running the show again.  Twist: turns out Xavier is a Warskrull, basically a warrior class of Skrulls. The X-Men eventually defeat the Warskrulls, meet up with the real Xavier, and then hightail it back to Earth. And Lilandra is in charge again.
Meanwhile, Magneto, Rogue, Nick Fury, and Ka-Zar are all involved in a massive campaign against Zaladane and Magneto's old Mutates.  Magneto eventually kills Zaladane, alienating himself from the X-Men once and for all.

Why It’s #9:
In terms of what kind of X-Men story this, it reads like a big, cinematic adventure.   The stakes
are high on both Earth and in space, with huge bombastic villains and great, dynamic art illustrating it all.  Jim Lee at his best, hand’s down. 

But honestly, the heart of the story is Magneto.  This is perfect Magneto; the sum of all his parts, a reconciliation of all the inconsistencies in his history.  Holocaust victim, super-villain, teacher, and now . . . uncertain of his path.  It’s brilliantly done, using his backstory to do a character study.  To be honest, it’s maybe the best Magneto stories ever.  Sure, the Shi’ar stuff is a blast, but the Savage Land/Magneto material is the best.

8) Children of the Atom
(X-Men: Children of the Atom # 1 – 6)

Mutants have just begun to emerge.   Scott, Bobby and Hank are high school students at Free Port High School.  Jean’s being helped by Professor X.  Warren spends his nights as a vigilante super-hero.  A hate monger named Metzger is recruiting students and teenagers into his anti-mutant group ARM.  Magneto is sneaky about.  Agent Fred Duncan is dispatched to investigate the growing Mutant crisis.  Professor X begins to gather the boys and is about to recruit Jean, but she’s captured by ARM, along with one of ARM’s former teenage member, Chad (who is also a Mutant).  Xavier and Duncan go to rescue Jean; the boys follow to fight ARM.  Magneto shows up and deals with Metzger, Chad dies, and the pre-X-Men X-Men fight a monster created by Metzger.   Professor X takes the boys home and soon, Jean arrives at the school for her first day.

Why It’s # 8:
The pre-X-Men # 1 origins have been done, but quite frankly, they pale against this.   I know it’s not canon, but I don’t care.  It’s great.   The way the story brings in elements from the original back-up origin stories and keeps the X-Men grounded is great.  The hints and nods at established X-Men backstory is fun.  Casey uses the media to create a realistic perspective on the emergence of Mutants.  Magneto is used well, as is Metzger. 

The art is really fun too and calls back to the Silver Age in so many ways, but still keeping modern.  It’s a shame that Steve Rude wasn’t able to do the whole book, but Essad Ribbic, Paul Smith, and Michael Ryan do a good job filling his shoes. 

Bottom Line:
A retroactive origin of the X-Men with grounded storytelling, great characterization, and fantastic art.  It’s canon as far as I’m concerned.

7) From the Ashes
(Uncanny X-Men # 168 – 176)

Kitty refuses to join the New Mutants and demonstrates this in a team-up with Lockheed against an Sidrian alien in the bowels of the mansion.  The X-Men then encounter the Morlocks, a community ugly Mutants that capture Angel.   Storm fights their leader, Calisto, declares herself their new leader.  Shortly thereafter, Rogue comes to the mansion, looking to join the team.   The X-Men take her in, but are dubious of her intentions.  Things change when the X-Men head to Japan to attend Logan’s wedding – which involves a duel with the Silver Samurai and during which Rogue earns her keep.  Logan is then shot down by Mariko at the alter.  Not long after this, Scott and his new girlfriend (and Jean Grey lookalike Madelyne Pryor) decide to get engaged.  Mastermind shows up, convinces everyone that Maddie is Phoenix reborn, but Cyclops prevails and they defeat Mastermind.   He and Maddie go on a honeymoon and fight a giant squid.

Why It’s # 7:
This Chris Claremont in his prime. While he does indeed tell great stories beyond this, this collection of X-Men issues is perhaps some of the best - peroid.   In many ways, "From the Ashes" is bit on the tragic side for the X-Men, filled with characters with unfortunate twists in their lives that make them seemed sad and somewhat doomed.
The Morlocks - Mutants so ugly and freakish that they must hide in the sewers and tunnels beneath New York City.

Wolverine and Mariko's wedding - cut short because of Mastermind's intervention, but ultimately because Mariko finds Logan unworthy and without honor.

And Rogue, who cannot touch anyone skin-to-skin without absorbing their powers and personality.

In light of this with this, the X-Men are given some character growth. Kitty proves herself capable of standing on her own two feet when she refuses to join the New Mutants - as well as kissing Peter. Storm gets that wild mohawk and becomes a lot more punk.

Tying together these stories is the subplot of Scott and Madelyne Pryor's love affair. Maddie, resembling Jean Grey, becomes the new love of Scott's life. Despite what eventually is revealed about her and her fate down the line, Maddie is still interesting because she is capable of being her own character.  With Claremont writing and Smith, Romita Jr., and Simonson on the art, this is some of the best X-Men stories yet.

Bottom Line:
The X-Men contend with personal conflicts even as they deal with lower level, more terrestrial threats that challenge them in new ways.

6) Age of Apocalypse
(X-Men: Alpha, Astonishing X-Men # 1-4, Amazing X-Men # 1-4, Generation Next # 1-4, X-Calibre # 1-4, Gambit and the X-Ternals # 1-4, Factor X # 1-4, X-Man # 1-4, X-Universe # 1-2, X-Men Chronicles # 1-2, Tales from the Age of Apocalypse: Astonishing X-Men, Tales from the Age of Apocalypse: Factor X, X-Man # -1, X-Men: Omega)

David Haller – Legion – goes back in time to kill Magneto in the hopes of saving his father’s dream of Mutant/human peace.  A few X-Men, including the already time-lost Bishop, go back in time with him.  Charles and Erik were best friends back then and Charles gives his life to save Erik.  The X-Men and Legion vanish, except for Bishop.  Apocalypse then rises and proceeds to either take over or destroy most of the world.  Humanity has been sequestered to what’s left of Europe.

Twenty years later, Bishop comes across the X-Men through a psi-connection, Magneto realizes that this reality is not as it should be.   He sends Gambit and his X-Ternals into space to retrieve a piece of the M’Kraan Crystal.  Colossus, Shadowcat, and Generation Next are dispatched with finding Illyana.  Nightcrawler and Mystique are sent to Avalon aka the Savage Land to find Destiny.  Meanwhile, Magneto’s two X-Men teams assault Apocalypse’s forces on two fronts – one to deflect a mass culling in the mid-west and another assisting and an evacuation in new England.  Unfortunately, Magneto is attacked an the mansion and both he and Bishop are taken captive.  Eventually, his and Rogue’s son Charles is taken too.   Even as the X-Men plot and scheme, Sinister’s own plans come to fruition: Nate Grey, the X-Man, is unleashed upon Apocalypse.  And the Human High Council is prepared for a final ending to Apocalypse: a nuclear strike that Wolverine must protect.

Eventually, all of these threads come together as Bishop journeys back in time and prevents the Age of Apocalypse from ever occurring.  As the timeline fades, Magneto defeats Apocalypse and stands with his family as the world burns away.

Why It’s # 6:
There are a lot of X-Men stories that I would describe as epic, but this one takes the cake.   There are huge, inter-weaving storylines involving Cyclops, Jean, and Nate Grey.   There’s new backstory to explore.   Old faces pop up in surprising ways.  There are even new characters that somehow survive the Age of Apocalyse.  It’s the X-Men, without much hope to hold onto and with their backs up against the wall, but somehow they achieve the impossible.  In this worst case scenario, where Mutants rule with both an iron fist and a heavy boot, the X-Men are still fighting the good fight.

The art itself is worth it too.   Great redesigns capture the mood and tone of the crossover.  Familiar landmarks in both the real world and in the Marvel Universe are broken and shattered.   The fight scenes are often kinetic and full of excitement; you know that anything can happen. 

There are some missteps, but the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Bottom Line:
An epic, huge X-Men story that presents the worst case scenario for the X-Men: malevolent Mutant domination.  But somehow, the X-Men win the day.

5) Baptism by Fire
(X-Men # 85)

In New York City, the X-Men jump into a burning hospital to rescue babies from dying.  They bring them out of the hospital, but are immediately confronted by the cops who have their guns trained on them.  Professor X offers to freeze the cops, but Storm appeals to them, and gains their trust.  Meanwhile, in LA, Magneto assumes the role of a company man whose community center has just been destroyed.  He buddies up with the center’s foremen, Joe, in an effort to get a read on humanity before launching his next big attack.  Magneto is surprised to find Joe fairly passive about Mutants and surprisingly likeable.  When Joe makes a comment about Hitler, Magneto flips out, and  reveals himself.  Joe then gets in Magneto’s face and blames Mutants like him for scaring humanity so badly.

Why It’s # 5:

This single issue defines both Magneto and the X-Men so very well.  The X-Men are trying to build bridges with humanity, and get eye-to-eye with those that hate and fear them.  They don’t blink.  And it works out, with the X-Men emerging from the encounter as heroes.  Magneto on the other hand, is looking for a reason to burn a bridge with humanity.  In the end, his own feelings get in the way and he finds his reason, as misguided as it is.  The stories run parallel and weave together nicely.  And even though it’s a “prelude” to the disappointing “Magneto War,” it’s also a great stand-alone.  You don’t need to know what Magneto is up to, only that it’s no good.   If you only saw the X-Men in the cartoons or the movies, you can still read this and enjoy it.

The art is equally spectacular.  Alan Davis and Mark Farmer knock it out of the park.  The colors are vibrant and moody. 

Bottom Line:
Overall, a great singular issue that defines both Magneto and X-Men to a tee.

4) Weapon X

Logan is captured to be turned in a fighting machine.  He’s given an Adamantium skeleton, which reveals a set of claws.   He’s then stripped of his humanity, becoming nothing more than a killing machine, subjected to brainwashing and various simulations.  Eventually, the programming breaks, and Logan kills everyone before fleeing into the wilderness.

Why It’s # 4:
"Weapon X" made me a Wolverine fan. I'm not the biggest Wolverine fan, simply because a lot of writers don't write Wolverine in a way that I can relate to him. Writers have taken him on and done decent jobs, but I never really felt the character was all he's cracked up to be.

"Weapon X" changes all that. In this story, we learn the secret origin of Wolverine (well, part of it anyway).   We see Logan stripped down from being a human being into, really, an animal. It really puts Wolverine in a new light for me, making all of the stories that have come before hand stand on more solid ground. Within the context of the big picture, this story makes Wolverine into a better character. We now know that him being a jackass is for a good reason.

The art is amazing and the way that it flows with the writing is great synchronization. It's a brutal story. The POV of the Weapon X heads (the sympathetic Hines; the scheming Doctor Cornelius; and the down-right evil Professor) make it even darker, given us an insight as to what is happening beyond Wolverine's perspective.

Bottom Line:
The best Wolverine story, a dark and twisted take on him as he struggles to exact his revenge on those that stripped him of his humanity.

3) Days of Future Past
 (Uncanny X-Men # 141-142)

In the future, Sentinels control most of the world.  Mutants are held in internment camps, not permitted to breed and restrained with collars that cut off access to their powers.  A small surviving band of X-Men (Kate Pryde, Colossus, Magneto, Wolverine, Rachel Summers, Franklin Richards, and Storm) devise a plan to send Kate’s mind back into her past body to stop the assassination of Senator Robert Kelly, whose death kicked this all off.  The plan succeeds and she convinces the X-Men to go to Washington DC to stop Mystique and her Brotherhood of Evil Mutants from doing just that. 

Meanwhile, in the future, the surviving X-Men attack the Baxter Building to stop the Sentinels before the humans nuke New York once and for all.  One by one, all are killed except Rachel and Kate.   In the past, Kate prevents the assassination, but the fate of the future is left up in the air.

Why It’s # 3:
In a lot of ways, this is opposite of the “Age of Apocalypse.”  This is other worst case scenario.  Now, we’ve seen a lot of alternate realities on this list – worlds where humanity is going extinct and Mutants are the dominate species; worlds where the X-Men don’t exist; worlds where Mutantkinds rise has ruined the Earth; and worlds where Mutant rule supreme with an iron fist.  But this one represents perhaps the worst possible outcome – where pretty much everyone is dead and falls victim to Sentinels.   It fulfills a lot of what Master Mold’s plan was from his first appearance: control humanity to protect humanity.

The plan on the future X-Men is desperate, more desperate than Mangeto’s in the Age of Apocalypse.   And watching them get picked off one by one while watching our present day X-Men be victorious has a very eerie resonance.  And to have it left uncertain if the future is saved makes this all the better.

Bottom Line:
The X-Men face a future that looms over them even today.  It’s dark, but offers the possibility of hope.

2) X-Men: God Loves, Man Kills
(X-Men: God Loves, Man Kills OGN)

A crazy, Mutant-hating reverend by the name of William Stryker has organized a whole church-load of people against Mutants, accusing them of basically being devil-spawn.  His army – the Purifers – kill Mutant children, drawing the attention of Magneto.  He then captures Professor X and brainwashes him.  He also captures Cyclops and Storm.  The X-Men investigate and eventually join with Magneto.  They free Cyclops and Storm and confront Styker during a big televised appearance.   Stryker plans on revealing all Mutants by using Professor X’s power.  Anyone who gets a bloody nose is a Mutant, basically.  The X-Men confront him, Magneto gets taken down by Xavier, and Stryker prepares to kill Kitty.  Stryker is then shot by a cop, in defense of Kitty.   Back at the mansion, Professor X experiences a crisis of faith and nearly joins Magneto.  Luckily, he declines and finds himself humbled by his students dedication to his dream.

Why It’s # 2:
God Loves, Man Kills is brilliant. It's X-Men for adults with really bad cuss words like bastard, hell, shit, damn, and even the n-word! Neat! There's guns, not lasers.  And it 100% embracing the idea of racism; it makes it normal and scary.  It’s not just Bastian and John Sublime, it’s the gang in the alley and the kid in your class.

It's a great story because it's so honest to its self. Stryker, as nutty as he was, was sort of relatable and interesting. One could understand his position, even if it was very extreme. I also very much enjoyed the fact that it wasn't Christianity that was the source of the problem - it was the use of it to do ones selfish bidding. And it blows up on him.

There's a theme of faith throughout this story. Not only the faith in God and Christ, but also in Xavier's and Magneto's dream. Magneto and the X-Men are fighting together because they both want the survival of Mutantkind and their friends back - but also because they have faith in their dreams. In the end, Xavier even falters in his faith, but is brought back to it by his friends and family.

Bottom Line:
It's beautifully rendered story and with amazing art and a great story.

1) The Dark Phoenix Saga
(Uncanny X-Men # 129 – 139)

After their confrontation with Proteus, the X-Men head back home and are reunited with Professor X.  They soon discover two new Mutants – Dazzler and Kitty Pryde.  Unfortunately, these are also targeted by the mysterious Hellfire Club.  The Hellfire Club capture the team meeting with Kitty; they capture them all but Kitty.  The Dazzler team manages to thwart the Hellfire Club and, along with Kitty, go after the Hellfire Club.  They battle their goons and Phoenix fights Emma Frost, putting her into a coma.

The X-Men reconvene at Angel’s house and agree to infiltrate the Hellfire Club.  They soon discover that they are lead by the villainous Sebastian Shaw, cybernetic Donald Pierce, Mutant Leland, and their old enemy, Mastermind.  Mastermind has corrupted Jean Grey and has managed to release her darker side.  All but Wolverine are captured.  Wolverine, thought dead, emerges from the sewers and tears through the Hellfire Club’s goons.  Jean is shaken loose after a psi-war between Scott and Mastermind and helps free the X-Men.  The X-Men are able to defeat the Hellfire Club and Jean exposes Mastermind to the vastness of the universe.

Unfortunately, the damage is done.  Jean evolves into the Dark Phoenix and takes down the X-Men.   She then flees into deep space,  feasts on a star, which goes nova and wipes out a planet.   She then returns to Earth. The X-Men, now teamed with Hank and Angel, track her down to her parents house.   A battle ensues, including a moment where Jean regains control and begs Logan to kill her.  Logan can’t and the Phoenix gains control.  Professor X then enters the arena and engages in a psi-war with Phoenix, eventually defeatinig.  Scott, overjoyed, proposes to Jean.

The Shi’ar then arrive and declare that Jean must die so as to destroy the Phoenix.  Professor X invokes an ancient rite that allows the X-Men to fight for Jean’s life.  And so, on the Blue Area of the moon, the X-Men and the Imperial Guard face off for her life.  The X-Men falter, but the Phoenix rises again and takes down the Imperial Guard.  The X-Men are woken, but can’t stop her.  Jean regains some control and runs off.  Scott follows and pleads with her to regain control.  Instead, Jean bids him farewell and uses the Blue Areas ancient weapon to kill herself, ending the threat once and for all.

After the battle, Scott resigns from the X-Men . . . and Kitty Pryde arrives to join.

Why It’s # 1:
In the very first issue of X-Men, a teenaged redhead arrives at the school and demonstrates her telekinetic abilities.   The boys fawn over her and she eventually earns her place by helping them defeat Magneto at Cape Citadel.  A hundred and twenty odd issues, Jean has evolved to the status of demi-god, with her powers out of control and becoming so destructive, she wipes out a civilization and must answer to an intergalactic empire.

Teaching Mutants to control their powers and preventing Mutant villains are cornerstones of the X-Men’s mission.  And here you have Xavier’s first student succumbing to her dark desires and losing complete control of  the fantastic powers she wields.  In the end, it takes her very humanity to stop herself, and she makes the human decision of all – to give her life so that others will live.

It’s a story that’s epic in scope and utilizes nearly all of the X-Men (I really wish they would have brought Iceman in; instead we only see him at the funeral).  But it’s full of amazing moments and great insight.  Wolverine’s brutal attack on the Hellfire Club is among my favorites.  The psi-war between Xavier and Phoenix is brilliant and carefully understated.  My favorite moment, though, is when Scott and Jean are on the moon and all of the X-Men have been defeated.  They take refuge in this little knook and you can just sense the tension and desperation.  The ultimate moment is a little over-dramatic, simply because Cyclops drones on for a bit, but it’s still felt.

I like to include Uncanny 139, because it brings the history of the X-Men to full circle.  When I was reading this in context of the X-Periment, I once told  a friend of mine that “you can just stop with this story.”  It’s because it is the ultimate X-Men story.   One of their own losing control, becoming a villain, and then their own humanity ending the threat.   

Bottom Line:
It's the best.  Ever.

Yes, I know, cosmic entity, clone, whatever.  It was still Jean Grey.

And that's that!  The Uncanny X-Periment will return in proper order shortly!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Uncanny X-Periment Special: Top 50 Stories - Part Five!

Getting down to it!   I'll have the Top Ten list up on New Years Eve, for your reading pleasure.  In meantime, here's # 20 - 11!  Also, I did ape some of my previous  reviews/overviews for some of these because, well, I'm a father of two and it's the holidays and I work a lot.

20) The Brood Saga
(Uncanny X-Men # 162-167)

The X-Men are ambushed by the alien Broods, who proceed to plant their eggs into the X-Men’s bodies.  Wolverine manages to escape and his healing factor kills the egg.  He goes and frees the rest of the X-Men, as well as Binary and Lilandria.  They escape, but are pursued by the Brood.   When Storm finds out about her egg, she flips and escapes in a shuttle.   She nearly kills herself as the transformation takes place, but is saved by an Acanti space whale.  She merges with the Acanti and rejoins the X-Men in an assault against the Brood and their Queen.   The X-Men come away victorious (and with Lockheed!) . . . but soon realize that Professor X has an egg implanted in him as well.  The X-Men arrive home, fight the New Mutants, and then are forced to kill the transformed Professor X.  Professor X ends up alive thanks to Shi’ar cloning.

Why It’s # 20:
I’m not the biggest fan of X-Men space opera (even though there’s a lot of them on this list – I’m not saying they’re not good, I’m just not always a fan).   This one is pretty solid and it has great underlying themes: mortality, morality, violation, invasion, infection, and survival.  It’s fairly dark and grim, but it produces some of the best X-Men moments of all time.  Wolverine’s exercising of the egg is so well done.   Storm explosive reaction to her finding out and then her horrific (and brief) transformation is excellent.   The moment when Peter and Kitty discuss the possibility of death is touching.   The action is exciting and the locales are exotic and alien.   It feels like an alien world, and in turn, it’s actually pretty scary.

Bottom Line:
Great themes, excellent characterization, fantastic action, and an alien world.   Heads and shoulders above most other X-Men space operas.

19) Duel
(Uncanny X-Men # 201)

After the birth of his son, Nathan Christopher, Scott is feeling torn between his duties as a husband and father and his loyalty to the X-Men.  Storm is powerless, Professor X is in space, and Magneto is running the school.  Scott feels like he has to stay and lead the them.   Madelyne disagrees, of course.  Storm proposes that she and Scott duel for command of the X-Men.  They fight, Scott loses, and Storm retains command.

Why It’s # 19:
Aside from the gorgeous art and well-paced script, this an issue of tiny moments and one big one.   The X-Men playing baseball is a fun scene.  The introduction of Nathan is heartfelt.  Rachel’s scene with Jean’s crystal orb is touching.  But obviously, the emotional core of the story is Scott’s decision.  It’s a big moment for Scott and there’s a great line from Maddie where she accuses him of being so hollow that life without the X-Men would have meaning.   It cuts deep and the silence after it is so realistic.  You feel like you’re really in a fight with these two characters – each side has valid reasons for what they want and need.   The duel itself is great, and it’s cool to see Scott get taken down a few pegs.  You can just feel his humiliation and shock at being defeated.

Bottom Line:
It’s an emotional and realistic roller coaster story that ends not quite where the characters thought it would.

18) X-Cutioner’s Song
(Cable: Blood and Metal # 1-2,Uncanny X-Men #294, X-Factor #84, X-Men (vol. 2) #14,X-Force #16, Uncanny X-Men #295, X-Factor #85, X-Men (vol. 2) #15, X-Force #17, Uncanny X-Men #296, X-Factor #86, X-Men (vol. 2) #16, X-Force #18, Uncanny X-Men #297, Stryfe's Strike File # 1)

The mysterious and deadly Stryfe is out to seek revenge on all those that he believes wronged him: he captures Scott and Jean; he frames Cable for an attack on Professor X; and he tries to kill Apocalypse.  The X-Men and X-Factor attack X-Force and drag them, hoping to get some answers out of them about Cable.  Bishop and Wolverine hunt down Cable and after discovering that he didn’t attack the Professor, they go searching for Stryfe, Scott, and Jean.   Eventually, X-Factor and the X-Men find the Mutant Liberation Front and defeat them.   Apocalypse arrives shortly afterwards, recovering from his battle with Stryfe.  He promises to help cure Professor X of the techno-organic virus.   The gang then head up to the moon to save Scott and Jean, and we’re lead into a huge battle with Stryfe’s forces and the Dark Riders.  Eventually, finally confronting Cable, Havok, Cyclops, and Jean Grey, Stryfe ruptures time and space.  Cable and Stryfe are dragged into a time vortex and seemingly perishing, leaving Scott to wonder if Stryfe was in fact Nathan Christopher, his time-lost son.

Why It’s # 18:
If you look at the whole Cable/Stryfe story as a trilogy, then part one would be the X-Factor storyline “Endgame.”  Part three would be the aforementioned “Adventures of Cyclops and Phoenix.”  This would be part two and it’s far superior that the other two.  There’s a lot of scheming and plotting, a lot questions and ambiguity, and manipulations galore.  The X-teams are left trying to figure everything out and are doing so very slowly.  There are some great shocking moments, such as when Cable/Stryfe shoots Professor X.   The fight in particular are amazing : X-Men/X-Factor vs X-Force in particular, and most of all, Apocalypse vs Stryfe.  The central characters to this story (Cable, Stryfe, Cyclops, and Jean) are all well-defined and have very fitting roles to play.   A lot of the other characters get strong moments too.

Bottom Line:
Stryfe’s crazy.  Break out of the popcorn.

17) X-Tinction Agenda
Uncanny X-Men # 270, New Mutants # 95, X-Factor # 60, Uncanny X-Men # 271, New Mutants # 96, X-Factor # 61, Uncanny X-Men # 272, New Mutants # 97, X-Factor # 62)
Storm and several members of the New Mutants are captured by Genoshan Magistrates and taken back to Genosha for the X-Men’s crimes commited against  the country.  X-Factor and the remaining X-Men and New Mutants launch an attack, but are ambushed by an amnesic Havok and his Magistrates.  They capture the Mutants.  Shortly thereafter, Jubilee, Psylocke, and Wolverine arrive.  Jubilee is tasked with keeping the recently freed Rictor and Boom-Boom save while the others try and rescue their teammates.  Havok captures them too.  Warlock is killed, Wolfsbane and Storm become mindless slaves, and the X-Men are forced into some heinous acts – including a deathmatch between Wolverine and Archangel.  Eventually Havok snaps out of it and Storm breaks free from her programming.  She gives the X-Men their powers back and they attack Cameron Hodge.  A battle ensues and ends with Havok and Cyclops blasting him apart.  His head survives and is found by Wolfsbane, who rips it apart.

Why It’s # 17:
This is an epic Mutant vs human story.  The villains are a perfect representation of the worst of humanity.  The character scenes are great.  The action is amazing (the art could be better when not from Jim Lee).  There’s lost of revenge in this story and great moments of loss.   The whole bonding/enslavement/Mutate stuff is creepy.  The Warren/Logan fight and the subsequent Jean/Logan brief hook-up are both raw and emotional.  The Havok/Cyclops team-up in the end was pretty great. Overall, a solid read.

Bottom Line:
Don’t go to Genosha in 1991.  Especially if you’re a Mutant.

16) . . . And None Shall Survive!/If Iceman Should Fail -- !
(Uncanny X-Men # 17 - 18)

Magneto has escaped from the Stranger’s prison planet and attacks the X-Men (except Iceman).  He throws them into an gondola and sends them floating into space.  He then greets Warren’s parents, hypnotizes them and makes them go to sleep so he can harvest their DNA to create an army of Mutant zombies.  Iceman, meanwhile, is contacted by Professor X and, though weak, attacks Magneto and buys the X-Men and the Worthingtons time.  Eventually, the whole team arrives and Magneto is last seen fleeing the Stranger.

Why It’s # 16:
Okay, looking past the Silver Age silliness, I see this as a milestone for the X-Men.   Iceman, the X-Men’s biggest loser and class clown (as well as youngest) takes on Magneto and actually has him on the ropes.  There’s something to be said for your weakest student being able to take on your greatest enemy.  It shows that X-Men have grown up and come far from the gaggle of teen that first appeared in X-Men # 1.

Bottom Line:
Silver Age goofiness, sure, but it’s also Iceman’s coming of age.  Sorta.

15) Riot at Xaviers
(New X-Men # 134 - 138)

When Kid Omega – Quinten Quire – begins to buck under Xavier’s lessons, he quickly begins protesting and launches and all-out riot on Open Day.   The cost of stopping him is high – Esme, one of the Cuckoos, is killed.   Kid Omega himself evolves to a higher plain.  In end, Xavier decides to retire and Jean discovers Scott and Emma’s telepathic affair.

Why It’s # 15:
Before Grant Morrison took over the title in 2001, it was easy to forget that the mansion was actually a school.  It was the addition of a real teenaged student body that helped cement this reality and is one of the finer points of Morrison’s run.  To be honest, my summary kinda sucks.   The arc reminded me of high school – with the popular kids, the rebellious kids, and “special class.”   The whole event feels like a disaster, and it carries a very tragic weight to it.  Frank Quietly beautifully illustrates a great, character motivated story that feels exactly how it should: funny, upsetting, tragic, and tense.

Bottom Line:
A realistic take on the students of Xavier’s school that challenges Xavier’s dreams and ideas in a new, deeper way.

14) Mutant Massacre
(Uncanny X-Men # 210, X-Factor # 9, Uncanny X-Men # 211, X-Factor # 10, New Mutants # 46, Thor # 373, Power Pack # 27, Uncanny X-Men # 212, Thor # 374, X-Factor # 11, Uncanny X-Men # 213)

Assassins called the Marauders head into the Morlock to tunnels and almost completely wipe out the Mutant society. This brings the X-Men into the conflict, as they try and help their Morlock allies. They save a few and bring them back to the mansion themselves, but they take some heavy hits themselves.   As Callisto and the others take the survivors they were able to find back to the mansion, Storm dispatches Wolverine to find the killers and to bring one back for interrogation. The New Mutants deal with these victims at the mansion. Meanwhile, X-Factor (at the other end of the Morlock tunnels) try and do the same thing the X-Men did: save as many as possible. They also confront the Marauders, but fair much better against them - except for Angel, who has his wings pinned down, then crushed by the Marauders.  Thor luckily manages to rescue him.  
Storm and Callisto struggle with what's happened, Wolverine hunts down Sabretooth (who is part of the Marauders) and then eventually meets up with (of all people) the kids from Power Pack, who were friends with some of the Morlocks. Wolverine and Sabretooth battle it out, allowing newcomer Psylocke (who appeared out of nowhere) to probe Sabretooth's mind. Angel, on the other hand, must have his wings amputated. Thor, in the hopes of restoring some honor to the fallen Morlocks, unleashes a massive fire that burns their bodies away all Valkrye-style.
Why It’s # 14:
This is a dark story that cuts deep.   The Morlocks are pretty much helpless as the Marauders attack them – and there is zero mercy. 

It's an interesting story, prespective-wise. Despite being centered around the same events, the crossover is split down the middle. Thor and X-Factor on one of the event and the X-Men and the New Mutants on the other side. Besides the X-Men catching the occassional random optic blast or both teams caught in opposite sides of a colapse, neither team interacts with each other. Power Pack is the only group that makes contact on both sides. Walter and Lousie Simonson and Chris Claremont did some incredible coordination, making the stories parallel each other while not exactly requiring you to read it all.
It also shows us the massive differences between the X-Men and X-Factor. In particular, Storm's more aggressive and cut-throat leadership makes for an interesting comparison to Cyclops' by-the-book style. The X-Men themselves is composed of a mixed blend, with Magneto, Storm, Rogue, and Wolverine being fairly dark characters; and Colossus and Shadowcat, who are both so overcome by the attack on the Morlocks that they contemplate killing. X-Factor, on the other hand, is comprised of the classic X-Men, each one fairly clean despite tensions and internal struggles.

Bottom Line:
One of the darkest, but most memorable and interesting X-Men crossover yet with decent story-telling and compelling plot.

13) Mutant Genesis
(X-Men [1991] # 1-3)

A group of Mutants are on the run and are eventually chased into orbit, where they wish to seek sanctuary in Asteroid M with Magneto. They do so and Magneto allows both the Mutants and their human pursuers entry into his base. However, the humans strike out against the renegades, and Magneto’s hatred of humanity is restored. 

To avoid an international incident, Nick Fury and Val Cooper get in touch with the recently reorganized X-Men. The X-Men have formed two teams: the Gold Team (Storm, Iceman, Archangel, Jean Grey, and Colossus) and the Blue Team (Cyclops, Wolverine, Pyslocke, Beast, Rogue, Gambit, and Jubilee), with Forge, Professor X, Moira, and Banshee hanging around the mansion. 

The Blue Team goes out and intercepts Magneto as he raises the nuclear sub he sank years ago, seeking the nukes for defensive reasons only. This confrontation leads to a radical series of events that eventually end up on the civil war torn Genosha. The X-Men Blue Team face off with the renegades (called the Acolytes). The X-Men are eventually defeated and taken back to Asteroid M.

Magneto eventually discovers that his powers are acting wonky and realizes it something was done to him Moira when he was de-aged.  He captures Moira and Professor X and then has Moira use the process used on him against the X-Men and he's able to get them onto his side. The X-Men Gold Team mount a rescue and fight their companions, only to find out that as soon as they use their powers, the effect is gone. Moira eventually reveals this to Magneto, but not before Cortez betrays them. High-jacking a plasma cannon weapon that was almost ready to destroy Asteroid M, Cortez blasts the orbital base. The X-Men take off as Magneto and a few remaining Acolytes stay aboard and start to burn up in the atmosphere.

Why It’s # 13:
The art is beautiful.  Jim Lee knocks the visuals out of the park.   The opening moment when Magneto confronts the renegades and their human pursuers is amazing.   The action scenes are full of energy.  This might be Jim Lee at his best.  Plus the redesigns introduced here set the tone for the next ten years of X-Men  comics.  When I think of Cyclops, I still picture him in that classic outfit.

Story-wise, this uses everything that Claremont has created for Mangeto. There’s references to nearly all of his major Magneto moments – from his restoration to his threat against the world to his friendship with Xavier and his taking in and falling out with Xavier’s school.  It’s a great exit for Claremont and the introduction of a new era for the X-Men.

Bottom Line:
Gorgeous artwork and a strong story makes for a good swansong to Claremont's original run.

12) The Proteus Saga
(Uncanny X-Men # 125 - 128)

The X-Men learn of trouble on Muir Island and head there asap.   They arrive and investigate several oddities until finally coming up against the power of Proteus, a Mutant with the power to alter reality.   He possess a few bodies, killing them each time, until he takes control of his own fathers body.  The X-Men are taken down one-by-one until Proteus reaches his mother, Moira.  Havok and Cyclops lay down fire, but he shrugs it off.  Colossus then steps up, as Proteus is vulnerable to metal.  He throws the decaying body against the wall, leaving only an energy form.  Colossus punches it, killing Proteus.

Why It’s # 12:
It’s the tragic story of a very powerful Mutant who has no control over his own powers and no real desire to.  The X-Men just can’t stop this guy without killing him and it’s made all the more tragic that Colossus, their most gentle of teammates, is the one that has to do it.   There are also some nice reunions scenes between various members of the X-Men.  The power of Proteus is also shown to be very, very creepy and weird. 

Bottom Line:
The X-Men fail to help a powerful Mutant, the son of one of their closets allies.

11) Among Us Stalk . . . The Sentinels!/Prisoners of the Mysterious Master Mold/The Supreme Sacriface
(Uncanny X-Men # 14-16)

Professor X learns of the growing paranoia about Mutants and decides to engage in a televised debate with Boliver Trask.  Trask reveals his Sentinels, which take both him and Xavier captive.  He finds out that the Sentinels have decided that the only way to truly protect humanity is to rule it.  The X-Men find out and go to the Sentinels base and are attacked and eventually captured.  Eventually Xavier figures out the frequency the Sentinels are operating on and is able to disrupt them.  Trask, meanwhile, decides he was wrong and destroys Master Mold – and himself along with it.

Why It’s # 11:
There are a lot of Sentinel stories, but there’s something monumental about this first one that really just stands out to me.  You have the origin of the Sentinels and things immediately  go off the rails.  Mankinds greatest protectors quickly become their greatest enemy and it takes both a human giving up his life and a Mutant leader to defeat them.  It just adds some gravitas to the story.  Plus, there’s some great, classic artwork from Jack Kirby and Jay Gavin.  This is a classic.

Bottom Line:
The first appearance of the Sentinels might just be one of the best.