Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Legion Quest by Mark Waid, Fabian Nicieza and Scott Lobdel

After the almost unendurable agony that was Nicieza's Fatal Attractions story arc that horrendously made Xavier and Magneto's relationship so incomprehensibly dark and painful to read about, I needed a well-deserved breather and some Cherik fluff to come my way. I was desperate for it. Now, I have this secret list of issues I've gathered from across the X-Men universe that tackle Xavier/Magneto in some shape or form, and so I scanned the contents of that and found that Nicieza wrote yet another Cherik-centered story for Legion Quest, which is a prelude to the Age of Apocalypse crossover event I plan to read at the end of May. So what the hell. I'm giving Nicieza a chance to redeem himself.

Originally, there were supposedly seven issues for this arc but the only ones that were stamped with "Legion Quest part __" were four of them (which are The Uncanny X-Men #320-321, and X-Men #40-41) so I focused on that batch and skipped the rest. Besides, all I wanted for urgency's sake was to be spiritually healed through some light Cherik moments, and this arc was more than able to provide me that. This was set just sixteen issues after Fatal Attractions where Charles mind-wiped Erik which left both of them almost irreparably damaged. Somehow, the most consistent thing about the way any writer who handles these two dorks is that there's an endless cycle of love and hate that's keeping them together, and for this arc, Charles and Erik are, once again, besties.

The main plot for Legion Quest was okay; I just wasn't that invested on David Haller as an antagonist. He's Charles' illegitimate son from his first girlfriend, Gabrielle. David is a mutant who is also suffering from schizophrenia so he's always been in a fragile state since the introduction of his character. And yet, somehow, he managed to put himself back together and his telepathic powers even rival those of his father and Jean Grey. The Uncanny X-Men issue #320 opens with the X-Men Gold Team led by Storm and composed of Psylocke, Forge, Iceman and Jean Grey (who is now the new Mrs. Summers, she and Scott had recently tied the knot). They came to Israel to answer a personal favor for Gabrielle Haller who needs someone to help her deal with her problem man-child. Said man-child has locked himself in a psi-powered cocoon and is not coming out. The military is getting bitchy about this too. Unfortunately, the Gold team failed to coax David out of his self-imprisonment. He also kicked their asses just for the fun of it. And then transports them back somewhere in Charles Xavier's past just because he can. Because he's a brat. Not really liking David at all.

Storm was able to command Psylocke to meld minds with all of them as David throws them inside a wormhole or something but then leaves Jean Grey behind for some reason. In X-Men issue #40, they arrived twenty years ago in Israel where Charles and Magnus are working as volunteers in a hospital where they both see to trauma patients. One of them was Gabrielle Haller, also a Holocaust survivor like Magnus, but he's been secretive about his past so not even Charles knows about this yet. Gabrielle is fully functional now because Charles healed her through telepathy. Yup, she's 'fully functional', if you know what I mean, so Charles definitely jumps at the opportunity to date her because screw doctor-patient ethics. But this doesn't dissuade him from sort-of flirting with the other man whom he claims to be intrigued by. He makes comments about Magnus' ability to put together wheelchairs effortlessly and Magnus brushes it off by saying he simply has a natural talent for anything metal. He's also just as intrigued about Charles. At this point, they're playfully trying to "out" each other as mutants (although 'mutants' is a concept yet to be discovered; but they both know in themselves that they have powers--which has enabled them to instinctively gravitate towards one another in the first place). Charles then invites him to go to dinner with him and Gaby. Magnus considers.

It would seem as if that even though Magnus does enjoy Charles' company in the few weeks (or months) that they have spent together as co-workers, he's still rather wary of the effect that the other man has on him, citing that: "I should confide in him but it's been so long since I felt I could trust anyone. Why is it that every time I look into that man's eyes--he makes me feel as though I'm guilty of something?" It does not surprise me at all that Magnus has these conflicting feelings about Charles. He's the very first person he wants to get to know better and feel closer with, and of course that scares him and he will immediately associate that with guilt. I think it's because Magnus knows he has done terrible things and witnessed atrocities in his past that whenever he talks to Charles and Charles looks at him--gives him all the attention he will never admit he craves--Magnus feels guilty that he has to conceal things from Charles because it's pretty obvious Magnus wants to be closer friends with the man but is so damaged that he believes he should be alone because he's incapable of ever becoming intimate with someone again, even if it's just going to be platonic for now. Charles, from what I can surmise, is growing fond of him too.

Magnus' thoughts on Charles and Gabrielle's relationship is interesting since this will be brought up for discussion between the two men on the next issue. He claims that: "Who am I to criticize? Is it jealousy? That he has Gaby--and each night I go to sleep and dream of my lost beloved, Magda? Why would I deny Charles a chance of happiness just because I refuse to dream of a better world?" Okay, first of all, Magnus is jealous in two levels. He's jealous because he used to have a wife who loves him but who also rejected him upon discovering that he's a mutant (and therefore a tainted monster now in her eyes). Charles is undeniably someone he has a connection with and he has a woman in his life that seems ready to accept him for anything that he might reveal, and this is quite an envious arrangement for Magnus because he thinks no woman can ever do the same for him. Two, he's jealous because someone loves Charles and is capable of being intimate with him in a way he could never be. He wants to share himself to Charles as close friends would, but he's frightened of the idea that Charles would also reject him. I think this was why, as seen in Chris Claremont's The Uncanny X-Men #161, it was both a relief for them when they discovered they're mutants because what Magnus perceived as a barricade of genuine connection with another being suddenly disappears when it comes to Charles because the other man is a 'kindred soul' and not just because of their genetic distinction. 

Charles is also someone of a trusted equal to Magnus, who willingly opens up about his views concerning their own kind and who wants to do something for the betterment of other mutants, much like Magnus. However, as the story progresses, they also quickly learn that they ultimately differ in their methods and ideologies, and a barricade has once again forced Magnus away from intimacy. There had been no direct rejection coming from Charles and there didn't have to be. The mere knowledge that Charles disagrees with his socio-political views is enough declaration for Magnus that they could never form a closer bond but rather would have to grow apart. But, surprisingly enough, this doesn't discouraged either of them to try meeting halfway throughout the decades since; which was why, in the most ironic sense, every wedge and obstacle between them only serves to drive them closer together.

"You make me believe that all things are possible," admits Magnus. This was one of my favorite moments in the next issue, The Uncanny X-Men #321. That bar fight scene was the closest thing to bliss for this newly formed allies who stood side by side, ready to face the world as partners. Charles' admittance that "Any dream worth having is a dream worth fighting for" resonates even in the later decades when they have become embittered enemies on the opposing sides of a war that has destroyed the very things they admired and respected in each other. But neither of them has forgotten that they once shared a dream and that has kept them hoping that, someday, one will agree with the other's course of action and join him. Eventually, we will see this inherent stubborness in their dynamics will only deepen the chasm in their relationship, but it also paradoxically held them together. Basically, their desire to accomplish their respective crusades, even when they are in direct opposition against one another, is their only means to maintain a powerful connection as "frenemies". It's like a masochistic covenant where their trust and faith in each other has to tested over and over again.

We once again see them talking about Charles' relationship with Gabrielle. This was a rather admirable moment for Magnus. He expressed his trepidation and envy in the previous issue but instantly showed his support for Charles' decision to get involved with Gaby, knowing that he wants the other man to find happiness with a woman who can possibly provide him some stability. However, we know later on that Charles does leave Gaby to pursue his altruistic goals for mutantkind's preservation and then he founded the X-Men years after. It would seem that Charles doesn't have Magnus' desire to settle down with a good woman and have a family--his ambitions are much loftier and actually in line with Magnus' own mission whose ways were more extremists than Charles'. Magnus had a happy, domestic life that was ripped away from him in the past; Charles was offered the same thing but easily gave it up. Interestingly enough, this decision led him back to the same path Magnus has chosen, though the result of that is the fact that the two will have to be rivals. Charles now has to fight a man he once considered his best friend in the next decades of their lives as Professor X and Magneto respectively.

I wanted something light and sweet after what I had to go through when I read Fatal Attractions but this one is good enough for me--even if it did once again end just as tragically. David Haller, Charles' son, travels back in time with the sole purpose of killing Magnus before he becomes Magneto. The X-Men Gold Team try to stop him as Charles can only watch in abject horror as the son he has never met and the man he had cared about so easily are locked in a fight that could claim the life of the latter. Meanwhile, in the actual present, Professor X was assisted by his former lover, the alien empress of Sh'iar, Lilandra, because whatever David plans to do in the past could re-shape and shatter their actual timeline and so they could only hope that Storm and the other will succeed in apprehending David.

David's anger is justifiable. He grew up without a father but he had always admired his shadow. Magneto has committed atrocities in Fatal Attractions that destroyed Charles Xavier's own mind because he had to reduce Magneto into a vegetative state just to put a stop to his mad reign. David could only see Magneto as the terrible tyrant who has tainted his father's legacy, who proved himself unworthy of Charles' compassion and devotion throughout the years. David can't see past that darkness because he didn't understand--didn't see or believe in the same way his father did--that Magnus does have a light within him. To him, the man whom he is clutching with his murderous hands and threatening to kill is the sole reason why Charles had to abandon him, and why mutants are suffering in the timeline he came from. But Charles, of course, wanted to believe otherwise. He had a dream and Magnus for him is a part of that dream and he is therefore willing to fight for his best friend.

Without any other option, Charles allows himself to get killed in order to save a man he barely understood, whose darkness he has yet to scratch the surface of, but whom he feels so intrinsically connected with that he would not see him die by the hands of his crazed son from the future. With Charles Xavier's death, a domino effect of catastrophe begins to fall in sequence. The X-Men cease to be gathered together. David was never born. And the future just froze up and shattered which would then aid the dawn of Apocalypse's reign.

All I ever wanted is a light and sweet Cherik moment, but I will never truly have that because theirs is a story that proves time and time again to be an exquisitely hurtful one. But. this last panel of Magnus holding Charles in his arms was the closest thing to sweetness I will ever get from these two and I plan to make the most of it.


Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Fatal Attractions by Fabian Nicieza

When I started reading X-Men for 2015, my first ever review posted a day after New Year was the three-chaptered story about Magneto's descent to madness and eventual demise via getting blown up with his Asteroid M in X-Men (1993). It was also officially considered as writer Chris Claremont's retirement piece. Just four months later (specifically, last week), I reviewed The Uncanny X-Men issue #200 of 1985, which was about Magneto's trial in the international court and Xavier passing the torch to him to become the new mentor for the X-Men. These two events were only a hundred-plus issues apart and it's interesting how stupidly dark Magneto has become right after he supposedly started from scratch around the eighties. In that time, Claremont did an excellent job showcasing Magneto's growth and progress towards becoming a reformed villain, going so far as becoming a replacement guardian for Xavier's brood. And then the nineties and Fabian Nicieza rolled along and Magneto not only reverts backs to his evil ways but he was hence portrayed as a super-mega-douchebag that even Charles Xavier can't love or see any hope for redemption anymore.

To be fair, Magneto going balls-out insane for this story arc, Fatal Attractions, was somewhat inspired by the tone and approach Claremont ended his X-Men run with that aforementioned three-chaptered piece. I remember wondering what happened to Magneto after because I know for a fact he cannot be dead permanently, and I was actually looking forward to seeing him again. AND I HAVE NEVER REGRETTED SOMETHING AS MUCH AS I DO THAT. I stumbled upon Fatal Attractions the same way I do when looking for specific storylines rich with Charles Xavier/Erik Lehnsherr subtext and tragic moments--with my heart clutched on both hands, eyes closed for whatever horrors may come. And they came, all right, like Winter fucking came for the Starks.

This story arc was AWFUL in a sense that I was almost in a fetal position as I lay in bed while reading the issues on my tablet. As the story dug deeper into my skin, I found myself lying on my stomach, slamming my tablet on the pillows in front of me repeatedly because it was the safest way to physically show my outrage without wrecking my precious gadget for good. And then I got misty-eyed in some parts and then truly shed tears by the last issue during a rather unexpectedly moving scene between Kitty and Colossus.

But I digress. This is probably one of the longest reviews I will ever write because there are plenty of things (and scanned panels) I'll be touching upon; a good eighty-percent of which is CHERIK. But what is the point of reading X-Men and shipping Cherik if I don't take the time being TL;DR in my reviews like this? This is also the best way I could heal after the bloody mess of hurt feelings and screw-ups that Fabian Nicieza and co. subjected me through with Fatal Attractions.
* * *

The nineties were truly a dark time for comics. Sales were down, lots of shitty minor titles about testorened superheroes/toy line were released which catered to no one but were collected by idiots because somehow people don't understand that what makes a comic book worthy of an investment is its rarity and not when it's in mass public circulation which a lot of these obscure nineties titles were. But the nineties X-Men were doing fine as far as 'fine' allows them to thrive in that era. There's an ongoing cartoon series that definitely helped them maintain recognization among households.

One of the...notable(?) stories after Claremont gave up the mantle and passed it on to another writer, which then effectively ended his sixteen-year career for the X-Men, is motherfucking Fatal Attractions. What in the name of shit is Fatal Attractions you may ask and why did it unravel me in such a terrible, sadomasochistic way?

Well, Fatal Attractions is a six-issued story arc comprised of (and in order of appearance): X-Factor #92, X-Force #25, The Uncanny X-Men #304, X-Men #25, Wolverine #75, and Excalibur #61. Those are six separate titles coming together to tell the story delivered in lieu of a Greek tragedy clusterfuck that is definitively Magneto, and as a tribute to the cheese-tastic soap opera awesomeness that is Claremont's literary signature for the X-Men. Basically, it's enjoyable with different shades of 'mildly sickening' and 'unforgivably heartbreaking', depending, of course, on how heavily invested you are about the fragile relationships among the mutant families.

The first two installments in X-Factor and X-Force read together as one story, focusing more on the said X-teams and their struggles that are actually quite similar in spite of their different fields of expertise (one is working alongside the government while the other is essentially a private outfit). At midpoint, they found themselves facing the collective acolytes led by Fabian Cortez (who left Magneto stranded for dead in Asteroid M), and they are a bunch of fanatics who are determined to wipe out humanity (whom they deemed as 'flatscans') in the name of their fallen god Magneto. These two issues also covered the significant roles of Quicksilver (Pietro Maximoff, son of Magneto) and Cable (Nathan Summers) respectively.

Now, I'm not entirely familiar with these two titles which was why there are some references from their previous arcs that I don't get, but overall I was still immensely intrigued with what was happening. I though their contributions to the overall structure of Fatal Attractions were necessary. They certainly contextualized and deepened the ongoing strife between the X-heroes and the acolytes.

It was The Uncanny X-Men issue #304 that ruined me slowly. I was very much looking forward to this one the most, considering this is where the most epic and hurtful of Cherik quarrels was brought forth. However, the equally important sublot concerning Colossus was particularly painful for me as well. His sister, Illyana, was just killed by the Legacy virus, a misfortune that Professor X himself feels like a personal failure of his, and Colossus eagerly agrees with him. I just read and reviewed Giant-Size X-Men #1 so that issue being referenced here as Colossus spitefully recalls the time the professor recruited him back in Russia kindda stings me a little. Colossus is just one of those traditional good guys, you know, who have faith in their leaders and always do the right thing. To see him lose that faith in someone he considered a mentor was definitely shocking.

And then super-mega-douchebag Magneto, with obvious disregard for the mourning process, crashes the funeral. The bastard is just classy that way. And when I say he's a douchebag of only the epic proportions, this scene more than testifies to that. He freezes the X-Men through the iron in their blood (like, wut? When did he ever start doing this?) and disassembles Charles' wheelchair so that the professor literally has to crawl during their conversation. EPIC. DOUCHE. BAG. The next five scans I'm going to drop here--trust me, you are not prepared for the amount of assholery and pitiful blows that these two have mercilessly attacked each other with:

I...don't know where to begin. The shippy aspect of me whenever I read anything Cherik together is suddenly, and quite terrifyingly, quiet for the first time, and has hastily retreated to a happy place somewhere. Meanwhile, the rational part of me is annoyed as hell to witness these two best friends verbally compensating, punishing and degrading each other. The rest of the characters are just there to duke it out with the acolytes who landed much later to kick some ass. So it's basically the worst funeral in recent memory for the X-Men. Colossus is surely not thrilled but he's just too mad with grief to feel sympathetic towards Xavier so HE JOINS MAGNETO AND THE ACOLYTES, justifying that the cause they are fighting for is something he should have chosen long ago. Maybe, if he did, he never would have lost his sister. At this point, y'all know that things have taken a grim turn for more clusterfucks when a good guy like Colossus turncloaks like this.

What can I say about Xavier/Magneto at this point that those scans did not do already? I suppose I should comment on the last line that Charles said: "If you will not take responsibility for yourself, Magneto, then so god help me, I will." The professor eventually does prove that this is the case by the next issue on the roster, X-Men #25, when he put on some exoskeleton suit from the Shi'ar (an alien tech) so he can start walking and join his fellow students in confronting Magneto and the acolytes yet again.

Aided by Jean Grey, Cyclops, Gambit, Rogue, Wolverine and Quicksilver, Professor X crashes Magneto's base of operations, this kingdom he proclaimed as AVALON. I would appreciate the Arthurnian reference a lot more if Magneto for this story did not make me want to throw up in his face. So the X-Men arrived and yet another bloody fucking hissy fit between Xavier and Magneto of the upsetting proportions ensue.

Earlier on, Beast (and Storm) emphasizes this tragic circumstances with a literary reference:
Storm's quoted response: "Our kinship has a strange power, that and our life together was SPOT-ON in capturing Xavier's long-running justification as to why he still thinks Magneto could change; why he hasn't given up on the idea that his best friend will come back to him and they can work together; why he can forgive Magneto even when he least deserves it. That 'kinship' drives him to always find a better, humane way to communicate with Magneto, that and their history and dream together. Well, Magneto is now a super-mega douche who claims that their dream together is dead, and he's going around preaching absolute genetic cleansing of humans because he's unironically the new Hitler, so Professor X most certainly ain't gonna put up no more with his shit.

Especially when Magneto ATTACKS HIS OWN SON PIETRO AND MAKES A DECISION TO KILL HIM ON THE SPOT because it's a sacrifice that he is prepared to make. Wolverine disagrees violently and tries to kick his ass but Magneto, as I've stressed, is no longer a sane person, so he does this utterly horrific thing that actually became an iconic panel in X-Men comics.

Let me present this moment when Magneto pulled out the adamantium from Wolverine's body:

WHAT THE FUCKING FUCKITY FUCK FUCK FUCK, ERIK FUCKING MAGNUS FUCKING LEHNSHERR? He just TORE THE ENTIRE FUCKING THING out of Wolverine, extracted that shit out of him like it was nothing. It was gruesome, that's what it is. I don't think Wolverine can heal fast enough from those gaping wounds.

And that was it. Charles Xavier knows his best friend needs to be put down. And he's the only one who could do it.


What a horrible day for everyone involved.

Colossus arrives to pick up the now vegetative-state Magneto. Scooping him in his arms, he allows the X-Men to escape so they can rush Wolverine for some serious medical treatment and the professor who has understandably fainted after doing some serious mind-wipe on a man he used to consider his equal and likeness.


The last two issues (Wolverine #75 and Excalibur #61) were the stories that wonderfully closed this motherfucking grueling saga of Fatal Attractions. The Wolverine one is the most personal, and quite possibly my favorite installment of them. It examined just what makes Wolverine such an adaptable, enduring badass. Magneto may have ripped the adamantium from his body permanently but he was not de-clawed at all. In the end, it was shown that--through sheer willpower and agony--he can still pull some claws out of his knuckles--but this time he's using his own bone structure to do it. So...ouch? Good thing, he has a healing power. But he does need time to recover both mentally and physically, from all that drama, so he says his goodbyes to Jubilee in a very sweet and touching letter. These two had become close all throughout Jubilee's membership in the X-Men and he acted as a big brother to her so I thought it was only fitting that she's the only one he cares enough to say goodbye to as he leaves the team for a while to gather his bearings. I was happy that this issue was rather optimistic and intimate, especially after the terror of the midway issues earlier.

Speaking of big brothers, in Excalibur #61, we zero in on Colossus at last, who himself is most definitely grieving and suffering during the most untimely of moments. His decision to leave the X-Men for good may have been hasty and spiteful of the professor, but after a while when Kitty Pryde was able to reach out to him, he finally calmed down while the others forcefully reverted him back to his flesh form. It's worth mentioning that he has been in full-metal mode the entire time after his sister's death, a symbolic defense mechanism to shield himself from the pain of losing the one person he felt that he should have saved and never could. Illyana is a doomed character from the start, and Colossus refuses to forgive himself because he thinks he has control over his sister's fate, but he doesn't. Kitty comforts him and holds his vulnerable form in her arms OH MY GOD WHY ARE THERE TEARS IN MY EYES, FLOWING DOWN TO STAIN MY CHUBBY CHEEKS????!!!

Sadly, even after this cathartic scene, Colossus still decides to go with the acolytes. He does, however, stopped blaming the professor for everything. His anger was replaced with something more painful for Charles though: disappointment.

Colossus believes that Charles Xavier wasn't doing anything MORE that could have a lasting impact and change for mutantkind, and that's why his dream is beginning to fail not just the two of them but everyone who ever followed him and became an X-Man. That's why Colossus is leaving. He simply does not believe in Charles Xavier anymore. On the plus side, he's forging his own path and is finding a way to fight again for something he must figure out by himself, and hopefully he will find that. It's just not with the X-Men.

With Magneto comatosed, Wolverine bailing out and Colossus choosing another side--all these personal failures to protect his dream and the loved ones who became a part of it--it's no wonder they eventually put a strain on Charles's psyche later on, hence the Onslaught saga of 1996 (I might read the collected volumes of that if I can find time to squeeze them in this year but no guarantees).

For this closing Excalibur issue, we also had some tender moment between Jean Grey and her alternate-universe teenage daughter Rachel Summers, and this fascinating parallel made between Rachel and Pietro later on. Now to contrast Colossus' choice, Kurt Wagner (Nightcrawler) explained that he would still stand by the professor's dream. He then made the decision that the new Excalibur team which he belongs to should renew their vision-mission statement, and do whatever they can to smooth down things between the mutants and humans during these most trying times in their civil rights movement.

My rating for this story arc has strong subjective bias. It moved me in many ways, both positive and negative, which was why it's getting the perfect rating. If you're into all that soap opera drama that is the X-Men in general, and prefer them especially dark like this nineties comics story, then Fatal Attractions will not disappoint you. There are genuinely earnest moments of emotional depth in the last two issues that for me added to my enjoyment. It was such a relief that this was how the writers closed the story. I was fairly satisfied and definitely looking forward to reading the Onslaught saga someday which comes after these events.


Monday, April 27, 2015

The X-Tinction Agenda by Chris Claremont

I'd be irresponsibly remiss if I don't read and review other notable storylines from the Chris Claremont era of the seventies, eighties and nineties before jumping on other works found in the recent MARVEL NOW! line-up. I have made a compact schedule I'm adamant to follow through for 2015 and I want to accomplish reading most of Claremont's memorable stuff first, even though I may have to do do it sporadically with no coherent sense of chronological rhythm at times. But I already posted a disclaimer in 'About XMCG" that my readings and reviews of the X-Men comics line will be mentally challenging not just for myself but for anyone who is just as new to the series. My goal mainly is to select the stories I know have been proven to be unanimously well-praised or at least well-liked by the majority of long-time fans and critics.

To recap, I selected the classic, recognizable ones first (The Dark Phoenix, Days of Future Past and God Loves, Man Kills) and then skipped ahead to the later ones in 2009-2011 which were arguably Claremont's least impressive body of work (X-Men Forever, Excalibur III). And that's only when I decided to come back to the oldies, starting with the short-lived nineties run X-Men and then further back to The Uncanny X-Men with a standalone like issue #200, The Trial of Magneto and stories such as Legion Quest and this one called The X-Tinction Agenda. In between I touched upon House of M which is probably my very first taste of the work of current X-Men writer Brian Michael Bendis; Greg Pak's Magneto Testament and (for tomorrow's review) Fabian Nicieza's Fatal Attractions arc. For posterity, I also reviewed the very first Stan Lee debut issue X-Men #1 from the sixties and Len Wein's resurrection piece, Giant-Size X-Men #1.

"If the mutants aren't free, then maybe what you've built [in Genosha] isn't worth saving."
The X-Tinction Agenda was brought to my attention by a brief 21-minute documentary from YouTube about key storylines from the Claremont era whose events were considered vital even to this day because whatever happened in them has continued to play an important role in the subsequent stories after. This collected volume I've acquired, however, was longer than the actual one posted in Goodreads. This one has 322 pages because it also included four additional issues (#235-238) which effectively contextualized what will come to pass by the time the X-Tinction Agenda story arc hits. This arc ran for nine issues and were divided equally among three titles: Claremont's The Uncanny X-Men, and Louise Simonson's X-Factor and New Mutants run. The volume also provided a recap of what has happened to the X-Men so far which really helped me understand and position myself in the stories herein. Before we read issues #235-238, we have to first read the summary of the previous events that led up to them:

I apologize if I just copypasta-d the paragraphs instead of summarizing the summary itself because it would kind of defeat the purpose. Now, unlike with other reviews, I opted not to discuss in detail each issue's content here because, frankly, that would be an exhausting venture for me (and I've been in a tight time table lately with IRL work stuff so I'm trying to write reviews with a manageable length). I also might give away a lot of critical plot points that will irrevocably spoil you, and I think this is a collection that is worthy of a pick-up, so let me just give you some encouraging words of recommendation and commentary instead.

The Uncanny X-Men #235-238

The thing that readers who are interested in this particular storyline need to understand first is the general treatment and care that Chris Claremont has provided in his years of writing The Uncanny X-Men since the mid-seventies. Anyone who knows the history of Stan Lee's "strangest heroes of all" is familiar with the fact that the X-Men are supposed to represent the civil rights movement at the time they were created which was during the African-American liberation and civil rights. It was Claremont who decisively sealed this allegory once he started to write for the X-Men, going as far as writing a rather straightforward story about that chilling comparison in God Loves, Man Kills which I reviewed nearly two months ago.

That being said, as you read his earlier and inarguably most enduring works, you will notice a pattern in his story arcs. Everything that he has done in his Uncanny run has been building up to this socio-political atmosphere rife with anti-mutant sentiment and blatant racial hatred that often make me personally uncomfortable at times. Nevertheless, it's what makes Claremont's X-Men stories so exciting, dramatic and naturally sympathetic; by contextualizing real-life struggles that people have witnessed themselves or grew up with back in that time period, Claremont was both socially aware and smart enough to create stories from those experiences which require him to explore certain aspects about the X-Men as characters in the context of the fact that in the Marvelverse, mutants are considered a minority group, heavily discriminated against and are oppressed and exploited by human opportunists for both profit and propaganda.

These four issues (#235-238) resonate with this message, primarily focusing on the 'exploitation' side of the coin. The story opens significantly in Genosha, a fictional city where a great number of the mutant population reside as citizens alongside the humans whom they supposedly harmoniously co-exist with, as the media coverage and public relations for that place would have you believed. In reality, every mutant there is hunted down, processed and assigned with different manual labor positions to the tune of a very modernized style of capitalist slavery. Treated more as cattle or machines than actual dignified people with indispensible rights, the mutants are reduced into the functionality and purpose of their powers or abilities. A bonafide brilliant genetic engineer (or 'genegineer') would tamper and manipulate their DNA for multiple purposes, most notably for breeding and modification where certain cluster of mutants are allowed to have children depending on the type of mutant Genoshans require for whatever field they want.

It's a dystopic nightmare come to life as portrayed in a superhero genre story, and Claremont as a writer truly excels in rendering such haunting pieces that aim to expose human beings' capacity for cruelty, lunacy, and brutality all for the sake of their ridiculous sense of entitlement in the context of how they respond and treat the mutants as a separate species from them. I enjoyed these issues because this is the first time I encountered the horrors and crimes of Genosha towards its mutant citizens, and the spectrum of hatred and apathy that it's steeped in. This story also placed Wolverine and Rogue as the central characters we follow in this adventure as they learn of the terrible ways their fellow mutant brothers and sisters are being held captive and abused by the humans.

Of course, racial hate crimes wouldn't be complete without having a designated discriminatory word for the race/species you wish to subjugate and make suffer. There has been an ongoing hate word for mutants which is "mutie", much like the N-word of their time. But Claremont surpassed that moniker with the grueling "genejoke". This term now attacks the genetic distinction of mutants, an inflammatory mockery of both their individual and racial identity as a "joke", deeming it an unnatural phenomenon. And here I thought that the Harry Potter series' "Mudblood" term for non-magic borned witches and wizards was the most offensive hate word I've ever come across in fiction. "Genejoke" is so much worse, especially when it's used by armed men and women who would shout it at your face as they either torture or murder you.

In the other collected edition, these four issues were not included and I recommend that you buy the one that does have them instead because, although they are not a part of the actual X-Tinction Agenda arc, these ones give you a clearer and more vivid idea of how anti-mutant sentiments affect, destroy and advocate certain human beings' disgusting oppressive propaganda in Genosha--and why they must be stopped once and for all.

The Uncanny X-Men #270-272, New Mutants #95-97, X-Factor issues #60-62

Personally, I enjoyed reading Claremont's contribution to this story arc the most, but Louise Simonson's issues from X-Factor and New Mutants are just as important but not as great as Claremont's. In addition, Jim Lee is once again illustrating Claremont's stories and I would maintain that he draws female X-Men characters the best of them all. The X-Tinction Agenda picks up many issues after #235-238, and here is the latest summary for that, once again industriously copypasta-d by me:  

This is, I believe, the height of all the criminal negligence and overall terrible assholery committed by the Genoshan humans that the X-Men, together with the X-Factor and New Mutants, will no longer put up with, and rightfully so--especially when this goddamn villain Cameron Hodge was discovered to be behind all of this, and then he also abducts and experiments on Ororo Munroe, my beloved Storm. Fuck that guy. There was nothing more satisfying than seeing him get obliterated into pieces once the last chapter closes. But before any of us would get to that heavenly readers, we had to endure the painful process of the continuing race war between the Genoshans and mutants as aided by the X-Men, and it's as depressing and enraging as one would expect. In spite of the shite our heroes are thrown head-first against, it also allowed for some of them to shine their brightest (like Cable, Beast, Angel, Havok, Wolfsbane and even Gambit).

I also quite liked Storm's role in all of this even though it's rather insensitive to put an African superheroine in yet another degrading position where she is enslaved and brainwashed by a perceived powerful white man. It's...just gross, okay? But this does serve a purpose in the story and she does come out digfinied and stronger than ever in the end. Still, I was cringing in the scenes where she was programmed to attack her own friends and comrades while she is being pupetteered by Cameron Hodge WHO WILL NEVER STOP MAKING ME ANGRY. Ororo Munroe has always been a very important favorite; my love for her is only rivaled by Rogue and Jean Grey (my first and second faves respectively). I've always wanted to read more Storm-centric stories and I think the X-Tinction Agenda was about her in a manner of speaking. It explored her vulnerability but also invalidated that said vulnerability is a source of weakness. Villains and your average cunts and dickheads will take advantage of Storm, I suppose, but this self-fashioned weather goddess is a lot more powerful and deserving of our respect and fortitude than we actually give her. This story made a lot of use of her character--even if it's in the most unflattering way possible--but my love for Ororo Munroe has always been unfaltering anyway.

Another commendable aspect of this story arc is the fact that we get to see the various X-teams work together and support one another in this brutal cavalry. Everyone feels important even if a select number of heroes do stand up more than others. As for the ending itself--well, the battle may have been won but a war is still imminent. The slavery and oppression in Genosha are just the tip of the iceberg in the ongoing fight among mutants and the humans who want them extinguished for good. We ended this story on that less than optimistic note, but as soon as the dust cleared, our heroes can at least claim their small, personal victories for themselves, knowing they have put the terrible crimes committed in Genosha in the spotlight so the rest of the world now knows what is truly going on there, and now everyone needs to make a decision of what they are fighting for or against.

My only criticism for this story arc is that it does tend to get dull and redundant in some scenes and that some of the characterizations, and the flow of the narrative tend to contradict each other along the way but this can be overlooked and will not affect one's overall enjoyment of the story whatsoever as long as one is more emotionally invested on the characters themselves and their journey throughout all of this.


With thirteen exciting issues collected, the X-Tinction Agenda is a memorable piece that belongs to the strongest run of the Chris Claremont era. You should pick this one up and see for yourself if this type is the of X-Men story that will appeal to your sensibilities.