Friday, January 2, 2015

X-Men by Chris Claremont issue #1 (1991)

The version of the X-Men that I grew up with was the animated series since I was born just around the time the show was televised. It was the Sunday morning cartoon I wake up to and I remember being very giddy about it like any six-year-old kid had been at that time, I guess. I recently acquired copies of the entire series last year and I was able to finish two seasons in the span of a week and couldn't believe how absurd, hilarious and amazing it was to view the episodes later as an adult. It was cheesy, over-the-top and sometimes plain crazy with its story arcs and character interpretations but the animated series nonetheless still feels like home because it was exactly the kind of childhood nostalgia I can find myself curling up to during a rainy day. I think this is why I decided to start with this particular title comprised of eleven issues from the 90s as penned by Chris Claremont because it's the closest version I remember growing up with.

My X-Men comics diet for 2015 will consist of many titles from here on, and they're not going to be read and reviewed by me in chronological order so things are going to get topsy-turvy for everyone, timeline-wise, but I promise to find a way to make everything as cohesive, comprehensive and understandable as much as I can. This title picks up after the events in Claremont's other title The Uncanny X-Men where I believe Professor X has just passed away in Magneto's arms reminiscent if not directly the inspiration of that bromantic beach scene in the X-Men: First Class film. I'm not exaggerating; it's a particularly homoerotic stirring scene where Professor X made Magneto promise to take over the school and handle the mentorship of the X-Men. To ease his friend's passing, Magneto acquiesced. Did I mention that the reason Charles is dying in the first place is because he saved Magneto? I should forewarn anyone who will read my X-reviews that I ship these two so occasional remarks about the questionable nature of their "friendship" will be an unavoidable part of my review content. Just deal with it. Prof X and Mags are bromantic. Here is that scene I was speaking of in case you don't believe me:

So that happens. Professor X is dead and Magneto spends a great number of issues after that trying to be the good guy and leader that his late friend had always believed him capable of. For a short time, Magneto was great. He struggled, sure, and I know that there may have a been few times he felt like strangling select members of the X-Men with wires and stuff, but he impressively pulled through and guided them to the best of his abilities. The X-Men themselves learned to co-exist with him too, mostly because they don't want to violate the Professor's dying wish though some of them did genuinely soften towards Magneto during his stay at the school (except Cyclops. I don't think Cyke ever once trusted him). Unfortunately, Magneto-turning-over-a-new-leaf isn't going to last very soon. I don't want to get into more detailed descriptions about it but let's just say that Professor X was resurrected (or was faking his death all along. He has done so in the past, the jerk) and Magneto banished himself to his Asteroid M base of operations (yes, his living quarters are in space because why not). I really can't remember more specifics about the storyline that predates this title so I naturally can't divulge anymore since I may be mistaken about the other be safe, all you need to know right now is that this issue focuses on Magneto switching back to villainy because--well, I guess he's just more effective and relatable that way. I know I personally like my Magneto dark and homicidal.

This is where issue #1 opens up with; a scene where Magneto loyalists flew to space just so they can convince him to become the ruler of the Brotherhood once more. But, like I said, Magneto is in a terrible place and going through a very difficult transition which is why his behavior in the duration of this issue alone is schizophrenic. He's just all over the goddamn place. There's this uncomfortable feeling in my gut every time he appears in a page because I really don't know what he's going to do next which is also very thrilling. Meanwhile, the X-Men are training in their simulation battles inside the Danger Room. There are a handful of awesome combat scenes which never feel like fillers, given the 43 pages breadth of this issue. I enjoyed seeing the X-Men fight as a team because that's the version of them I love the best.

In the midst of all this, we get some narrative pertaining to the political climate at the moment where S.H.I.E.L.D operatives led by Nick Fury are concerned about the threat Magneto presents in case he ever does return to earth. There are some panels dedicated to these discussions, especially about the "Magneto protocols" which are teased repeatedly but are not always expanded on. I'm not exactly sure what kind of relationship the X-Men and S.H.I.E.L.D have (because I'm not a Marvel fan, honestly, so such little nuances escape me) but I think they can cooperate with each other in case there are pressings dangers to national security. Back in Asteroid M, a bunch of Acolytes (the collective term for Magneto's minions) try to convince Magneto to do something other than brood because the mutants need him. Later on, we see him finally rising to the occasion and confronting the X-Men as soon as he lands earth. All the training we saw the team undergo earlier (ten to twelve pages were allotted for this) will finally be put to the test as they go against Magneto who is, at this point, someone they have learned to care about back when the Professor was presumed dead and Magneto acted like a real person with compassion and moral integrity.

So it's super awkward for everyone especially for Rogue (who "dated" Magneto in some comic series I've forgotten the title of) since she's the one who is definitely very concerned about his state of mind. Everyone else wants to rip him to pieces (okay, maybe just Wolverine) but it's Rogue who tries to reason with him and tries to remind him of the person he could be again if he just quit trying to attack humanity and find a peaceful way for mutantkind to co-exist with them. But this Magneto seemed more hell-bent on causing destruction so he ignores her pleas and tries to nuke a ship which was successful. Magneto and the rest of the X-Men (Rogue, Cyclops, Gambit, Beast, Psylocke and Wolverine) reconvene later on in Genosha. He brought with him his Acolytes and a deadly strife is about to break out in the next issue.

BUT THERE'S MORE! A separate scene with Banshee and Moira MacTaggert revealed that she may have a hand in whatever colossal clusterfuck the X-Men and Magneto are caught up in. The issue timely ends there and I immediately had to start reading the next one because all that build-up really stressed me out! I enjoyed the pacing of this Rubicon issue a lot. It was edgy and action-packed even if the conversations are so goddamn wordy at times. I'm also getting used to the unusual way the dialogue balloons are placed; sometimes I get confused which ones to read first but that's probably because I'm used to the more mainstream style and layout of comics these days. Not to mention the fact that Claremont is verbose in the first place which surprises me because artist Jim Lee (whose illustrations are bombastic, by the way) still found a way to make the scenes work visually in spite of the text-heavy content of most panels.

LOVED THIS ISSUE. I'll try to type out the reviews for the next two tomorrow!


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