On the 13th of June I turned 30, I’m not dealing with this so instead I decided to both ignore and celebrate me lasting so long by writing a whole bunch of top 30 countdown lists, thus all lists are made up of things released before June 13th 2016.
Second in my stream of Top 30s is one for Marvel’s Merry Mutants: The X-Men. Even though they rank lower in my list of obsessions than Sonic the Hedgehog and came into my life slightly later… I finished this list first because it required less watching of television programmes, so it’s next. Being born in ’86 my X-Obsession was of course born out of the three things that I reckon gave birth to more X-Obsessions than any other – the ’93 cartoon series, the Toy Biz toyline and the Konami arcade game, all of which happened to me around the same time (our 4 player X-Men Arcade Game cabinet was in our old Odeon cinema, the cinema is still open – as a Premiere Cinema – and I still visit it regularly, and every time I walk past where it stood I feel a little sad). Since then I’ve been something of an X-Men… I’m a really obnoxious X-Fan, I shan’t lie to you, I’m trying to be better but…no… I’m just an obnoxious X-Elitist and I hate myself for it. You do NOT want to hear my opinion on any of the X-men movies and you really don’t want to see one with me (well that isn’t Deadpool, I accept Deadpool). That is exactly why I am doing this list, because no other Top X-Men Stories countdown will satisfy me and because I want to share MY list which is obviously better than the millions of other X-Men based lists on the internet already because I compiled it and I know my X-Men dammit. Of course this completely overlooks basic things like my completely biased towards stories that deal with bigotry or me being utterly in love with Rogue but fuck that, I know best.
So the X-Men were created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby for X-Men #1 (which is really Uncanny X-Men #1 but let’s not get into that) back in the 1960s, they were originally going to be called the Mutants. Now this ‘created by’ thing is a bit of a misdirection as Kirby only stayed on until issue 11 before switching to layouts and both were gone by issue 20, so whilethey did create the likes of Professor X, Cyclops, Jean Grey, The Beast, Iceman, The Angel, Magneto, The Blob, The Sentinels, Mastermind and the concept of the X-Men and Brotherhood of Evil Mutants – which is no small feat – must of the X-Men was defined by later writers Roy Thomas, Len Wein and Chris Claremont. Wein rebooted the concept with Giant Size X-Men #1 but moving up to the Editor-in-Chief position meant he had to give the book over to someone else, that was Chris Claremont, who later teamed up with John Byrne for a while to produce what is generally considered the best the franchise ever produced. Claremont stayed on Uncanny X-Men for over a decade, turning a book that was such a poor seller it was just reprints to a whole franchise supporting six books, seven if you count Alpha Flight, by the time he was forced off the book for two artist who almost instantly left to form Image Comics. The X-Men managed to survive this and actually become even bigger thanks to the aforementioned cartoon and toyline and a number of successful comic book events and the continuing popularity of Wolverine. These days a successful (if shit) movie franchise, about 60 books and Deadpool’s irritatingly large fanbase keep the franchise going.
As I’m excluding other media beyond comics I’ve also decided to include only comic book stories starring the 616 X-Men, so no 2099, Ultimate, Exiles, X-Men Adventures, X-Men: The End or What If issues, stories set in other realities but starring 616 characters (like Mutant X or Chris Claremont’s Exiles) or the 616 universe temporarily reformatted (like House of M or Age of Apocalypse) were fine. Other than that the story could come from anything X-related including non-X-men books (like Marvel Fanfare or Marvel Comics Presents), books with the word ‘X-Men’ in the title, any of the spin-off X-Teams and any solo books of any X-Team member… within reason, Blade has technically been an X-Man but I didn’t consider any Tomb of Dracula or Blade stories because I think that’s just pushing it but the likes of Captain Britain and Quicksilver (even though they were only members of spin-off teams) I was fine with, but I’d also be fine with including Quicksilver stories in an Avengers list as well.
30. Rogue Redux
Uncanny X-Men issue 269
Chris Claremont, Jim Lee, Art Thibert
Wha’appen? When Rouge held onto Ms. Marvel too long and permanently copied her powers, she also made a permanent copy of her psyche. Reborn via the Siege Perilous after dying fighting Master Mould, Rouge wakes up to find that her copy of Carol Danvers’ psyche has also been given a physical body but there isn’t enough life force to support both, escaping to the Savage Land it seems Rogue is going to pay for what she did to Ms. Marvel, until Magneto intervenes
Why? Because I am a pathetic Rogue fan and I always like Rogue centric issues, but of all the Rogue-centric plots I especially have a thing for interaction between her and Ms. Marvel (even if Ms. Marvel in this case is old Xerox given flesh by accident) – Rogue holding on too long to Carol had a huge effect on both characters and any time it’s brought up I lap it up like cream. Thi sis my personal favourite confrontation between the two – even though Rogue loses, in fact that might be a reason why I like it: when she realises she’s losing the fight she feels she deserves it and that makes me want to hug her and I think the major appeal of Rogue (especially to heterosexual men) is that’s she’s so fucked up and you just want to comfort her. So, by putting this appeal at the front during a Ms Marvel/Rogue clash drawn by Jim Lee… y’know I was surprised while ranking the stories about how high this issue stayed, now I’m not.
Uncanny X-Men issue 186
Chris Claremont, Barry Windsor-Smith
Wha’appen? Storm has lost her powers and she’s staying with Forge, who actually built the weapon that was used to take away her powers but she doesn’t know that1, at the start of the story. As Forge works to bring her out of her suicidal depression and the two begin to fall for one another until she learns who built the gun that ruined her life.
Why? This is a VERY popular story (as is its sequel LifeDeath II but I’ve always been lukewarm on that one) so I’m sure I suck for putting it this low but *sigh* I dunno. It’s a very good character piece but I don’t find it as powerful as many seem to; it’s drawn by the amazing Barry Windsor-Smith but he really doesn’t drawn Storm at her usual level of stunning – she looks kind of emaciated - despite Claremont having Forge repeatedly tell us how gorgeous she looks; It’s a good character piece for Storm but it’s told from Forge’s perspective; see where I’m going with this? There’s always a ‘on the other hand’ to each bit of praise usually thrown its way. One thing that doesn’t normally get praise is how good the non-Storm/Forge stuff is, Windsor-Smith’s talent for shading and laying out a page makes Val Cooper’s encounter with the Dire Wraiths and Rogue damn scary and damn thrilling respectively. There are parts that are great, the swimming pool scene and the finale in the rain (which is also very well drawn by Windsor-Smith, I feel the need to point that out because I feel guilty for moaning about how he draws Storm) but *sigh* I dunno…
Uncanny X-Men issues 232-234
Chris Claremont, Marc Silvestri, Dan Green, Joe Rubenstein
Wha’appen? The Brood have returned, and have infected Mutants, the X-Men meet them head-on in the streets of Denver, meanwhile Madeline Pryor is seduced by the dark forces of Limbo.
Why? The Brood are terrifying when they’re in space, putting them on earth, in a setting you can relate to, just makes ‘em even worse! Imagine it, there is a person who will infect you and turn you into a monster and he is a person you trust, say a paramedic, and he doesn’t know he’s doing it – that’s terrifying, it’s not too original but it is terrifying and if it’s paced and (in this case) drawn in a way that really do the concept justice it’s even worse – now imagine you have to deal with this situation, you don’t know who’s monster and how isn’t and they don’t know either – still terrifying isn’t it? And that’s just the first issue! The rest of the story being a big battle with the Brood is helped by having a new spin on the concept – Mutant Brood – which raises the stakes even more, the Brood were a physical challenge to the X-Men when they didn’t have superpowers, now they do and they’re in a heavily populated area and they have to killed to be stopped which brings up the ‘what measure is a non-human’ trope which is especially fitting for something like the X-Men and Claremont actually shows the X-Men being affected by killing, even if it’s just monstrous aliens. So I personally like it for the frightening opening and the X-Men-on-alien violence but there’s a lot more to its appeal than just that and I like these things even if it’s something I pick up on less because I’m not a literary analysist I’m a crap blogger; we have an uplifting ending with the vicar’s wife being cured with fits nicely with the story’s concept of how the Nrood would work with life on earth (both affecting it positively and negatively) and y’know it’s nice to have a bit of a happy ending, especially in the angstfest that is the X-Men and in a story as dark as this one. And you have the sometimes surreal but very effective breaking down of Madeline, a character who really doesn’t get enough love and one of the best arguments against anti-mutant hatred the series has ever given (which you can use as an argument against whatever the current anti-whatever hatred is or the anti-whatever hatred that is closest to you) so in review there’s a lot to like so it’s no wonder I like it.
New X-Men Academy X issues 7-9
Nunzio DeFilippis, Christina Weir, Michael Ryan, Carlo Pagulayan, Rick Ketcham & Norm Rapmund
Wha’appen? Prodigy’s kid sister comes to stay with him at Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters and has fun hanging out with her big brother’s fellow students in the New Mutants Squad, but soon she starts to claim that she’s a mutant too – because she can see a ghost. Only it turns out that she isn’t the Mutant, the ghost is, and as a victim of one of the bi-monthly attacks on the X-Mansion he is pissed off and wants to see no more young mutants placed in harm’s way by the X-Men.
Why? I think a lot of people prefer the post-House of M era of Academy X by Kyle & Yost and I will admit that issue 20 is shockingly powerful stuff as is issue 24 but it’s very down beat and I just don’t like the team as much, well I say ‘team’ I mean ‘X-23 and some other characters’. Anyway I like a good ghost story and this is a good ghost story and better than that, it’s a good ghost story set in Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters – perhaps the place in fiction I’d want to see a ghost story more than any other and it’s a ghost story that plays off a real problem that the team is known to have, sure the kid’s made up for this story (the fact that he’s not a name character is actually part of the plot) but the X-Mansion getting attacked and blown up is a punch line it happens to much, so it feels like a natural fit. Oh and it has a good twist ending, which is actually a bit of what I believe TV Tropes calls ‘fridge horror’, see we never see the ghost boy again – this is mostly because a new writing team took over and would rather shill one of their creations and do their own thing than bother with what most of the previous team established (don’t believe me? Only one of the New Mutants Squad is still active after they take over) – but I wonder – did Decimation kill a ghost? Did he get depowered and cease to be, did he get bundled up with the Collective? Or darker still, did Decimation end up finishing his unfinished business by making it so far less kids would be put in harm’s way because of Xavier’s – only for dozens of students to be killed in a bus bombing not long after?
26. X-Tinction Agenda
Uncanny X-Men 270-272, New Mutants 95-97, X-Factor 60-62
Chris Claremont, Louise Simonson, Jim Lee, Jon Bogdanove, Rob Liefeld2, Guang Yap (plus inkers and assists)
Wha’appen? The X-Men have been wanted by Genosha for some time3, and that time is finally up and the Press Gang are sent to round up them and anyone who associates with them, they get Storm and a chunk of New Mutants – Rictor, Boom Boom, Wolfsbane and Warlock. Soon Warlock is dead and Wolfsbane and Storm are mindless ‘Mutate’ slaves and worse, there’s no X-Men to go and save them (the only active members at the time were Banshee and Forge) so it’s a team of X-Factor, Gambit and the last few New Mutants (plus Banshee and Forge) that hit Genosha, along with Wolverine and Jubilee who have just found Psylocke, now in the body of a Japanese Ninja4 and who’ve come independently. Their attack is, surprisingly, a complete shambles – made worse by one of Genosha’s Magistrates being an amnesic Havok - and very soon Sunspot, Gambit, Wolverine, Marvel Girl, Psylocke, Forge and Cable are in Genoshan custody, Jubilee is stuck babysitting RIctor and Boom Boom (who’ve escaped) oh and Genosha’s leadership is being manipulated by the vengeful head of Cameron Hodge, a mutant hater who did a deal for immortality and has attached his head to a giant robot scorpion. Oh and if Wolverine’s powers are turned off and he has no healing factor, he will die, his powers are turned off.
Why? I’m a little bit biased as X-Factor 61 was the first American X-Men comic I read but that issue alone could have made this list, by that point things really do feel utterly hopeless, Wolverine is dying with Jean Grey at his side, Storm has become a Mutate, turning off Forge’s powers have knocked him out, Havok’s a villain, the last dregs of the X-Men are in a desperate infiltration mission (that fails) and Cable has, what I think, is his fines torment – with no powers and only one working arm, he still throws himself at Hodge to distract him and gets a couple of licks in before he goes down, though he does go down. The rest of the issues are pretty good too – things like impressive battles, crushing defeats, high tension, Cyclops trying to reach his brother while his brother is knocking fuck out of him, things like that.
Note: Sometimes Uncanny X-Men 273 is included as part of this arc, I personally feel that it’s more of a prologue to the next arc ‘Crossroads’, especially as X-Factor 62 has an epilogue of its own with Boom Boom spreading Warlock’s ashes.
25. Children of the Atom
Uncanny X-Men 360, X-Men 80
Steve Seagle, Joe Kelly, Chris Bachalo, Brandon Peterson (plus inkers)
Wha’appen? Very little of the X-Men remain5, and on the anniversary of Magneto’s debut, attacking Cape Citadel – which is again in the news thanks to a mysterious Mutant-control released missile with plutonium elements – those few that remain – Wolverine, Storm, Marrow and Rogue – are trying to find their old friend Peter Corbeau while Cecelia Ryes looks after a nearly completely empty X-Mansion, who’s gone missing. The same day, while taking a cruise back to the United States from Scotland following the dissolution of Excalibur, Colossus, Shadowcat and Nightcrawler are attacked by a new group of X-Men who take Shadowcat to help ‘The Founder’ a very strange Professor X who has escaped Bastion’s custody and wants to catalogue and store Mutants, a very confused bunch of X-Men are set to reunite and solve this conundrum, whether they’re happy about it or not.
Why? Yep, this is the one that no-one else will agree with, I’d say I never see anything nice written about this era of X-Men but that’d be a lie because I never see anything written at all about the post-Operation: Zero Tolerance era of the books except the odd bit of Maggot (and sometimes Marrow) bashing, in fact I’m tempted to do a big article covering everything from immediately after Onslaught to Black Sun just to prove it exists. Back on track this was produced as a celebration of the X-Men’s 35th Anniversary, reuniting the All-New All-Different X-Men who hadn’t been on a team together since Excalibur begun. As it lacks the Original X-Men and Magneto I’d say it’s not a perfect celebration but it is a very good one and both writers do very well to fit such a celebration into the then-status quo of the team which really wasn’t conducive at all for such a thing – there’s loads of nice little call backs but without the book feeling too sugary, Wolverine is still pissed off at Colossus for joining Magneto’s Acolytes for instance. It’s also a good little mystery, by that I mean you can easily miss the solution but when said solution is revealed you can go back and see the solution was pretty obvious, the first issue is confusing as hell but it’s supposed to be (it’s not confusing because it’s badly or confusingly written, you’re just confused as to what and why), not only to aid the mystery element but also to put us in the position of the X-Men, who have no idea until right up until the finale. Am I saying this is an underrated gem? Yes, yes I am, am I saying it’s better than LifeDeath? No probably not, I just like it more.
24. Wolverine & the X-Men: ReGenesis
Wolverine & the X-Men issues 1-3
Jason Aaron, Chris Bachalo (plus inkers)
Wha’appen? Following a schism between the X-Men, Wolverine – well The Beast but on Wolverine’s say-so – has built a new Jean Grey School for Higher Learning on the grounds of the old X-Mansion, staffing it almost exclusively with X-Men who came from Utopia with him, many of whom have only brief experiences as teachers. Today is the first day of term and the inspectors have arrived; of course everything is going to go to hell and of course the Mansion is going to be attacked, enter a new pre-teen Hellfire Club.
Why? If you’re a massive X-Fan, or just an X-Reader under 21, you may notice that there’s very little on this list from after Utopia was formed, that’s because I hate both the Utopia concept in practice (though I do agree it was a sensible temporary solution to Dark Reign) and I especially hate Schism and yet this is pretty much the first story AFTER Schism, so why is it here? Well that’s what this paragraph is for! Simply because it does away with all the misery and justifying being bastards and death and just focuses on Wolverine, Shadowcat and a few others trying to start up a school, trying to impress some fussy bureaucrat so they can stay starting up a school and struggling with moving on to the next phase of their lives and the new responsibilities it brings. It’s also pretty damn funny. Do I like the new Hellfire Club as much as the old ones? ‘Course not, but they serve their purpose well as additional (destructive) annoyances at a time when additional (destructive) annoyances are most certainly not wanted. Is there anything I don’t like? I never accepted the Iceman/Shadowcat pairing, Kitty and Colossus for life! ;)
23. Twilight of the Mutants
Uncanny X-Men issues 49-52, 54-63
Arnold Drake, Roy Thomas, Don Heck, Werner Ross, Jim Steranko, Neal Adams
Notes: all attempts to split this run of issues up, either by fans or on the odd occasion parts of it are reprinted separately (which isn’t very often), have failed to satisfy me, each arc really tumbles into the other so I’ve included the whole thing, even though that means it actually ranks lower than if it had been split.
Wha’appen? Mesmero, acting as Magneto’s second, kidnaps Lorna Dane and brings out her latent mutant powers so she can replace the missing Master of Magnetism, her being his daughter. This draws the ‘real’ magneto out and Lorna, now Polaris, must decide which way to go – X-Men or Magento. After she obviously chooses the X-Men things get out of hand and stay that way – Cyclops finds his brother Alex being used by the Living Monolith and unable to control his mutant powers at the same time Larry Trask re-releases his father’s Sentinels who find that Mesmero’s Magneto is a robot. The injuries Alex, now Havok, sustains fighting the Sentinels leads the X-Men to Karl Lykos, jumpstarting his transformation into Sauron and the end result of Angel’s battle with Sauron ends with the winged X-Man being saved by a man who turns out to be the real Magneto
Why? This is the Neal Adams/Roy Thomas run (with the rest of the story that came before they took over) and hopefully that should be why enough, but what that means is some of the most exciting and expressive art work in comics ever married to a great but often very creative but often slightly odd plots with utterly bombastic but utterly charming dialogue… well most of the time, I give you racist Cyclops:
Yeah that’s just not acceptable, no matter how angry you are Cyclops, maybe the whole point was to show that Cyclops wasn’t perfect, or maybe it was just the different values of the time that thankfully we’ve grown beyond. Speaking of racism this is the Sentinels at their threatening best, some of it is Thomas’ story and script but a lot of it is Adam’s layouts and artwork, generally this era of Marvel feels like the best Saturday Morning Cartoons you can read but once Adams comes on it becomes even more than that and in with the Sentinels these things really look and feel like towering engines of oppression. On the downsides this era has dated a little, it’s worse in the Arnold Drake stories – in fact most things are (though Jim Steranko’s art is pretty great, especially in issue 50, though not on par with his Nick Fury work) and it’s those issues that bring this down to this number really (well that and racist Cyclops obviously), they’re great but they’re even more bombastic and far more dated.
22. The Demon Bear Saga
The New Mutants issues 18-21
Chris Claremont, Bill Sienkiewicz
Wha’appen? Mirage can feel the bear that killed her parents is out there and it’s coming for her, so she goes to it – and ends up in hospital, and the Bear is still coming, and when it can’t beat the new Mutants on their turf, it takes them to its – a spirit world, meanwhile Warlock is coming and will crash during… a slumber party, what else?
Why? Here’s another story that I don’t like as much as everyone else seems to, I do like it, but I can’t help but think that this would be a LOT higher for just about everyone else. I like it and I greatly enjoy Sienkiewicz’s art (he draws the best Magik) and Claremont certainly rose to the challenge of writing for his style and thus the story is a perfect fit, the New Mutants spend three issues dealing with a giant monster bear to who the laws of physics do not apply but that’s kind of what puts me off it a little, I’m not fond of these metaphysical/reality warping/beyond the space of time/leaning on the seventh wall stuff, I have trouble getting my head around it. Other than that and there’s some clunky dialogue too, I think the real big thing was just how different it was, today when Stray Toasters and Ashely Wood are considered old hat that just doesn’t have any weight, and what we’re left with is a great but flawed New Mutants arc and one of the good ‘X-Men stories that aren’t about Mutant Hatred’ stories though that does come up.
Notes: Issue 21 isn’t always linked to the Demon Bear story (it’s not about the Demon bear) but it wraps up the Warlock subplot and takes place while Mirage is recovering so I thought I’d throw it in, the story’s just as good with or without it, but it is a good issue.
21. The Final Chapter
X-Force issues 124-129
Peter Milligan, Mike Allred, Darwyn Cooke, Duncan Fegredo
Notes: The trade paperback includes issues 121-123 but that’s really for convenience as far as I can see, though 121-122 do introduce The Spike they’re the clearly named two-part story-arc ‘Lacuna’ and 122 is the ‘Nuff Said issue that has a time-travel element too thus I’d consider it more linked Lacuna.
Wha’appen? A group of multinational pharmaceutical companies are threatening to ruin The Orphan due to a snap decision he made earlier in the series, to stop this X-Force are going to do a favour for the C.I.A. (to whom the multinationals owe favours) that will make the C.I.A look good; basically they have some C.I.A. made super-soldiers in a satellite and X-Force are to go up and save the hostages but loose so they can be rescued by the C.I.A. but everything goes wrong, in fact everything is going wrong from before they even get to the satellite: while trying to recruit their new member Dead Girl they come against what The Anarchist believes is an omen that one of he, Orphan or U-Go-Girl will die and it’s really freaking Anarchist and U-Go-Girl out, plus Anarchist is not getting on at all with their other new member The Spike.
Why? I really liked the Milligan/Allred X-Force run, it was during X-Statix that I got pissed off with ‘em because of the school shooting issue and STOP DWITEFRY, DO NOT DO THIS RANT HERE *siiigh* okaaayyy *ehem*: I read the whole run in preparation for this and having done that this is easily my favourite – the art and writing are great but then it was great for nearly all of the series (except THAT issue) what makes me pick this one is, well, it’s mostly the team line-up and the good outing they all get, I don’t particularly like Spike but I do like Milligan’s use of him and he makes a great foil to the Anarchist who himself gets some of his most heroic moments in this; this is U-Go-Girl and Orphan’s time as a couple and their interaction is great (and not your typical superhero romance) and it’s U-Go-Girl’s death story and a lovely U-Go-Girl story as a prelude (as she and Orphan get together) and she goes out on a high, I feel utterly shit every time I read her death, not because I’m pissed off they killed her, but because someone is dying – that’s the sign a good death; Vivisector and Phat come out to their teammates and deal with the issues that comes with that (and Phat’s refusal to come out to the public) and one of my favourite X-Men, Deadgirl (X-Statix Presents Deadgirl nearly made this top 30), gets her dramatic introduction, is a major part of the plot and gets a focus issue that makes you fall utterly in love with her – if you’re a macabre fucker who has a slight obsession with death and a slight obsession with tragic female characters.
Rouge issues 1-4
Howard Mackie, Mike Wieringo, Terry Austin
Wha’appen? Rogue’s yearly trip to visit Cody, the boy she put into a coma with her first kiss, doesn’t go so smoothly this time – Cody has been kidnapped by Belladonna and the Assassin’s Guild, Gambit’s ex-wife and the rival clan to his Thieves Guild and a woman Rogue accidentally put into a coma while trying to protect her. The Vengeful Bella is being egged-on/manipulated by immortal mutant Candra who has also empowered several Assassins. With Gambit also captured, Rogue makes her way to Belladonna’s mansion to confront both women.
Why? So we’ve established that I’m kind of in love with Rogue yes? She’s my favourite X-Man and much of the appeal comes from the need to comfort her that comes from her long list of problems – past, present and emotional. This book is all about Rogue and Rogue dealing with her guilt over how her powers and as she spends the whole series determined but guilt ridden she’s at her most huggable, and she does, at least for a moment, break out of her internal angst at the end – it as character development that was mostly undone by giving her additional problems to internally angst over post-Age of Apocalypse but it is nice to see her come to terms with some of her past – to let Cody go and to openly reject the guilt she feels for Belladonna (and with her Cody and Ms. Marvel too). the book isn’t perfect, even Ringo’s art is quite perfect (he got there, I miss your work Wieringo) but it’s filled with good things and good story choices (except maybe the ‘Candra’s defeated by Raw Determination’ thing but it’s Candra, fuck her the Externals were pointless) – for instance although Gambit is in the whole book and is hardly ‘nerfed’ to be a weak love interest it’s Rogue who does everything herself, for another instance Rogue gets her powers taken away for the first time in ages and gets to feel pain, things she wants often, but Mackie gives us and her a twist on this and this is during a fight for her life with Belladonna (who’s also depowered at the time, but a trained assassin). If you like Rogue, this is a great story, if you don’t like Rogue, this is a decent story you should read as part of understanding this era of X-Men (especially if you’ve read the more popular Gambit mini-series and the Ghost Rider/X-Men Brood arc that was part of Jim Lee’s last days on X-Men), I like Rogue so this is going on the list and I don’t think that’s a problem (obviously, cos I’ve done it).
19. The Shiva Saga
Wolverine Volume 2 issues 48--57, 60-68
Larry Hama, Marc Silvestri, Dan Hoover, Mark Texeira Mark Pacella (plus inkers)
Wha’appen? Wolverine’s investigation into his past – what’s real and what isn’t – leads to the release of Shiva, a weapon designed to kill him and the whole of Weapon X. But Shiva’s just the start, after Mojo shows his ugly spineless head Jubilee winds up in Japan with means Wolverine and Gambit wind up in Japan in a battle with Cylia (the last of the Reavers at this point) and The Hand which ultimately leads to Logan having to put his lost love Mariko Yashida out of her misery – and another lost love, Silver Fox, is tracking him the whole way. Then Shiva returns, attacking Sabretooth (at a Wrestling match) and reuniting him with John Wraith and thus a whole of Team Weapon X, with Mastodon dead, Wolverine, Silver Fox, Maverick, John Wraith and Sabretooth are going to confront the Psi-Borg, and even when that’s over things aren’t finished as Wolverine is forced to revisit the Terry Hama mission and meet Epsilon Red.
Notes: all of these arcs tumble into one another, issues 51-57 aren’t connected to the ‘Old Team’ but their endings lead directly into each other and into the second ‘Old Team’ arc in 60-65 and the final three issues are a direct result of that story, a sort of ‘parting gift’ left by it.
Why? I like the ‘things for the past come back to affect the present’ plot and the ‘old team getting back together for one last mission’ plot and Wolverine is perfect for both and Larry Hama is perfect to handle both, further playing to his strengths by bringing in the military and government forces elements which themselves are pretty good fits for these plots, and tying it into Wolverine’s implants (which are central to the whole thing, but then they were central fairly often in the 90’s it seemed) is also pretty perfect, allowing us to have a mix of the main character knowing what happened in the past, not knowing and not knowing the full story. Especially nice is all this is linked to THE CABIN, that bloody cabin; I clearly can’t be the only reader who latched onto this because Hama takes the time to have a character moan about how resilient that ‘memory’ is and that can’t be anything but the author venting his spleen. But wrapping it all around this ‘iconic’ memory of Silver Fox’s murder by Sabretooth made the story mean more to me, other fans and most importantly to Wolverine, allowing for more emotion (and Hama does that justice) and I’d like to justify bringing back Silver Fox and then killing her off thus: he brought her back as something unexpected and by killing her off it allowed to her to be part of the story and help solve mysteries but not undo her status as ‘tragic lost love’, if you wish to bring up Women in Refrigerators here you are completely right to do so, but that is Silver Fox’s purpose in the franchise regardless of how you or I feel about women being used in such ways. Throw in lots of Jubilee, a direct sequel to the Wolverine mini-series and Wolverine, Mystique and Spiral on the same motorbike and hell yeah, just hell yeah. Downsides? The bloody artists switching around all the time, it’s especially jarring because Silvestri6 and Tex are such good artists with such strong styles and the two fill-ins have so very generic 90’s comic artists styles.
X Necrosha: The Gathering Special, X-Necrosha Special, New Mutants Volume 3 issues 6-8, X-Force Volume 3 21-25, X-Men Legacy 231-233, Dazzler Special)
Craig Kyle, Christopher Yost, Clayton Crain, Zeb Wells, Diogenes Neves, Mike Carey, Clay Mann plus
Wha’appen? Selene is going to ascent and become a goddess like her namesake; she has gathered a small set of living follows – Wither, Senyaka, Blink and Dazzler’s sister Mortis and her hold follower Eli Bard. Though Bard she is now the queen of an army of reanimated mutants, the X-Men’s fallen friends, family and foes and she’s striking first to make sure Marvel’s Merry Mutants don’t stop her, so they’ll stuffer and for good ol’ fashioned revenge against those who’ve wrong her – The Hellions are sent for The White Queen and Cypher for Magma (Selene’s granddaughter) with the back-up of just about any deceased related to the X-Men; Pyro, Feral, Banshee even the like of Tower, Berzerker and Stonewall are attacking Utopia. Meanwhile as befitting a queen of the dead, Selene has taken up on Genosha and imprisoned Destiny, who – while trying to get a message to Rogue has instead been intercepted by Blindfold – with terrible news, Proteus is back from the dead too.
Why? I’m sad to hear that this event isn’t as popular as some others – including Messiah Complex which depresses and infuriates me in equal measure and features the trappings of the worst kind of event and House of M which is just. I think I’ll bullet point things 1) it hits all the beats I want it to and we get all the moments I wanted, sadly Kitty was still riding her space dildo and Jubilee was depowered so we don’t get to see them interact with Cypher and Synch & Skin but otherwise we get just about all reunions I wanted (I would have liked one for Wolverine, maybe Genesis?) 2) Selene finally does something equal to the build-up she’s had since 1980-whatever and that something’s easily summarized with easy to understand motives (‘I want to become a goddess, I want subjects’ pretty much) 3) it’s a horror story and is nearly all lit and paced like a horror story (the New Mutants’ artist is a bit shite really but he tries) and an X-Men horror story, this one has elements from both zombie and ghost fiction, makes me delighted 4) the tie-ins are great and all thematically linked very well – Hela turns up in X-Force, Proteus returns (though not because of Bard) etc. And we’ll do the complaints the same way a) this was during Cyclops’ ‘turning into a bag of dicks’ era and when X-Force was his personal murder squad, both things I loathe b) they kill of Onyxx and Diamond Lil and both deaths feel like an afterthought, though as this is an entire story about death I guess someone was going to die but they death should have been a big deal, what with death being the whole theme. c) It’s not as good as Blackest Night and d) only Cypher came back from the dead permanently, this could have been a great chance to undo deaths like Banshee, Skin, Caliban and Pyro and e) no Jean Grey.
17. The Brood Saga
Uncanny X-Men issues 161-168
Chris Claremont, Dave Cockrum, Paul Smith, Bob Wiacek
Note: there’s a question mark about what actually constitutes as ‘The Brood Saga’, sometimes it’s thought of as just 162-167 but 154-159 really are the start of it, sometimes 159 and 161 aren’t considered part of it and I’ll be honest 168 (Professor Xavier is a Jerk!) is rarely considered part of it, but I have considered it a part since I was about 13 and as the exact issues for the saga are so changeable I’m gonna put it in, I think the best way to look at it is that issues 162-167 are The Brood Saga as a story arc and Uncanny 154-159 & 161-168 are the complete Brood saga.
Wha’appen? The X-Men and Carol Danvers face off against the Brood in space (well that was easy to summarize)
Why? Claremont really liked his big sci-fi epics, I’m never quite sure if they fit with my idea of what an X-Men story should be but they’re all pretty damn good and thanks to them ‘going into space’ is just something that the X-Men do. The Brood Saga’s the best of the X-Men go into Space bunch for me because I like the horror/thriller elements, the Phoenix Saga is bigger and the Rise and Fall of the Shi’ar Empire more epic but the Brood Saga is scarier. Being chased by scary aliens who want to turn you into them, and can, and have already done this to your most fearsome team member (Wolverine spends much of these issues fighting off turning into a Brood) is very personal in its terror, much easier to comprehend and relate too than the bigger threats. The thing that works against the story is, sadly, Dave Cockrum, his ‘typical comic book artist’ style and traditional layouts don’t help Claremont’s wordier pages and really aren’t that suited to the style of story but stick with it, the much more dynamic and suitable Paul Smith take over half way through, incidentally the two book end ‘sort of related’ stores – issues 161 and 168 are actually better than the main saga, one is Xavier and Magneto’s past and the other is a great solo story for Kitty Pryde with some of Paul Smith’s best art.
16. Jasper’s Warp
Marvel Superheroes 377-388, Daredevils 1-11, The Mighty World of Marvel Volume 2 7-13
Alan Moore, Alan Davies
Wha’appen? I will try so hard to make this summary make sense: Captain Britain ends up in an alternate reality trying to save life there for Saturnyne but a local villain, Mad Jim Jaspers warps reality and the government sets The Fury, a superhero killing machine, on Captain Britain and the Captain and his ally Jackdaw are killed. Merlin brings Captain Britain back to life and returns him to Earth 616 to work with the Captain UK to prevent the same thing from happening at home and speak at Saturnyne’s trial.
Why? I have made this story sound a lot less mental than it is, I left out the whole part about Captain Britain being turned into a monkey and having to be re-evolved by Saturnyne. Alan Moore was very early in his career here and thus I guess jut decided to throw all this creativity he’d had stored up at Captain Britain alongside his usual high quality of storytelling and getting Alan Davies to produce atmospheric artwork, regardless of what atmosphere was needed, Davies was there to give it. Add to this that Moore was writing during the early 80’s and responding to Thatcher’s Britain and that he stuffed one issue with references to old British Comics characters and you end up with something very special if not completely bonkers, a bit like Alan Moore himself really.
1 the weapon was built to bring in Rogue, who was still wanted for various criminal things including beating the shit out of the Avengers, and was actually aimed at her (by Henry Peter Gyrich) but Forge knocking his aim off and the shot hit Storm, so he’s technically doubly responsible for Storm’s predicament.
2 Rob Liefeld is credited as ‘Rob Liefeld & Co’ for New Mutants #95, it’s very obvious he didn’t drawn several pages, including the first.
3 they’d helped three Genoshan citizens escape in the story-arc Green and Pleasant Land., two were mutants and thus considered property of the country and the other was the son of the ‘Genengineer’, a high ranking fellow in the Genoshan government who was responsible for creating the Mutate process,
4 initially this was due to the Siege Perilous, which is a big doorway given to the X-Men by a Captain Britain character but can cause changes to the person if they go through it, and is responsible for Rogue’s resurrection in Rogue Redux (sort of) as well as Havok being an amnesiac in Genosha and why Dazzler and Colossus aren’t in this story. The reason for Psylocke being Asian has since been changed, more than once, I think it’s still cannon that Mojo’s body shop did it to her, swapping her mind with an assassin called Kwannon, I think.