Thursday 24 November 2016

How to Read the 1991 X-Revamp*

So back in 1991 there was a huge revamp of the X-Men line of comics: the X-Men and X-Factor became one X-Men line-up again and then were split into two squads: Blue Team and Gold Team; Cable took remnants of the New Mutants to form the more ‘pro-active’ X-Force and X-Factor replaced Freedom Force as the government’s mutant team by becoming made up of odds and ends characters Havok, Polaris, Strong Guy, Multiple Man and Wolfsbane. The ‘X-Revamp’ happened in X-Force #1, X-Men #1, Uncanny X-Men #281 and X-Factor #71 and came about for a number of reasons: one major factor was the request for another X-Men title (which became X-Men #1) from Editor-in-Chief Tom DeFalco who needed to exceed the takings of the previous year (which had been very high due to Spider-Man #1’s success); another was the rise in popularity of several artists at Marvel (Rob Liefeld, Todd McFarlane and Jim Lee primarily) combined with the future plans of Chris Claremont – who was one of the two major architects of the X-Men books – not lining up with where editor Bob Harras wanted to take the books while the ideas of X-artists Jim Lee, Rob Liefeld and Whilce Portacio were closer to what Harras had in mind; the final was grumblings from retailers that seemed to back up Harras’ dislike for Claremont’s current and future X-writing.  So Harras, being a lovely chap, first forced Louise Simonson (who wrote New Mutants and X-Factor) from her books then Claremont himself from the franchise he’d built. Louise was forced off primarily to please Rob Liefeld, who wanted a different direction written by old friend Fabian Nicieza while Claremont stuck around to wrap up X-Factor pre-revamp and rough out the ideas for the new status quo for Uncanny, X-Factor and the new adjectiveless X-Men but ultimately quit, but not before negotiating the script duties on X-Men 1-3 as severance pay. How did Harras do this? Well by doing things to piss off both writers until they were forced to leave, and when they left they took Walt Simonson (Louise’s husband) with them. Walt Simonson was one of the finest storytellers in the industry at the time and one of few superstars Marvel boasted for some time pre-McFarlane and Lee (along with Art Adams and Frank Miller) though I’m sure Marvel dried their tears on the huge wads of cash X-Force #1 and X-Men #1 brought in. X-Force #1 beat all sales records for a single comic and then X-Men #1 beat X-Force’s record – though it’s worth noting they did this via semi-cheating, as each one had multiple versions of the same issue for sale and the sales of all of those versions were added together to get those records: X-Force had one of several trading cards included with the issue, with X-Men it was five different covers released roughly once a week for a month.  

Why am I telling you all of this? Well because the reading order of the big X-Revamp of ’91 doesn’t remotely follow its publication order and it can get confusing. Even though there’s multiple reading orders around, they’re mostly lists or trade-paperback based so I thought I’d give you a reading order with some context as to WHY you should be reading this and why in this order. Why would I do this for this particular time other than just because it’s very confusing? Because this period of X-Men ended up being really important, the X-Revamp was the basis for the X-Men cartoon from 1993 who brought the X-Men even bigger success (in tandem with Toy Biz’s two toylines X-Men and X-Men: X-Force) and set up a decade of comics. It’s not the best era of X-Men but it is pretty important and probably the most iconic X-Men line-up and incarnation since Claremont & Byrne. So are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin:

Leading Up To Muir Island

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
Genosha comes to the X-Mansion to arrest the X-Men and anyone associated with them for crimes they committed against Genosha. But as there really isn’t an X-Men at this time (I think the only official members are Banshee and Forge) instead they get some New Mutants and Storm, who has the body of a 14 year old girl (really). This leads to all the X-characters except Rogue and Colossus going to Genosha. This is the first part of getting the X-Men back together and speedily wrapping up Claremont and Simonson plot points: there really wasn’t an X-Men at this point, just small groups of characters spread around the world, this book brings Storm, Gambit, Wolverine, Psylocke, Jubilee, Banshee and Forge together as well as wrapping up the Genosha, Cameron Hodge and Siege Perilous story-arcs. It also reintroduces Havok (who’d been missing), turns Wolfsbane into the form she’ll be using in X-Factor, removes Wolfsbane from the New Mutants (she stays in Genosha) and kills off Warlock, moving The New Mutants further to X-Force.   

Uncanny X-Men 273-277
Carrying on directly from the X-Tinction Agenda the X-Men go into space with Lila Cheney, while in the Savage Land Rogue, Magneto and SHIELD deal with Zaladane. This is the second part of getting the X-Men back together and wrapping up Claremont and Simonson’s plot points, here they reunite with Professor X (who’d been in space) and the Zaladane, Rogue and Magneto sub-plots are tied up. It’s also where Cable voices his idea to make the X-Men a ‘proactive’ force – hit ‘em hard and fast, don’t wait for them to make the first move – which is what X-Force will become.

Deadpool vs X-Force 1-4
I haven’t read the end of this! God I need to do that, anyway apparently this goes here.

New Mutants 98-100
This is the forming of X-Force, Rictor and Sunspot both leave the team (leaving only Cable, Cannonball and Boom Boom) and Warpath, Shatterstar, Feral and Domino arrive – one of whom is a mole (as in spies, they’re not a little animal in a person suit). Deadpool and Gideon also debut and Strife is revealed as looking exactly like Cable, all of this will be important in X-Force. 

X-Factor 63-64
Louise Simonson’s last two issues on the book, it’s a story focused on Iceman and his girlfriend Opal Tanaka

The Kings of Pain
The New Mutants Annual 7, New Warriors Annual 1, Uncanny X-Men Annual 15, X-Factor Annual 6
A new enemy tries to bring back Proteus; this is X-Force’s first mission (though they’re in the New Mutants’ book) but otherwise doesn’t do much else except remove Hi-Tek and the Alliance of Evil from the playing field. The back-up stories in these annuals are far more relevant:

The Killing Stroke
New Mutants Annual 7, Uncanny X-Men Annual 15, X-Factor Annual 6
Freedom Force have an absolutely disastrous mission in Kuwait City. This is the story that removes Freedom Force to make way for X-Factor becoming Val Cooper’s government mutant team: Super Sabre is killed (Mystique had already left, Destiny and Stonewall were already dead), Crimson Commando is badly injured precipitating him becoming just Commando and Pyro and Blob are arrested.

X-Factor 65-68
X-Factor and (oddly) the Inhumans face Apocalypse and his new Dark Riders. A wrap-up story for the ‘original X-Men’ era of X-Factor written by Chris Claremont, it mostly serves to move Ship, Apocalypse and Nathan Summers into comic book limbo.

The Muir Island Saga
Uncanny X-Men 278-279, X-Factor 69, Uncanny X-Men 280, X-Factor 70
X-Men and X-Factor go to Muir Island to free it and its inhabitants from The Shadow King. This is the final wrapping up and reuniting arc, it brings Rogue, Colossus, Beast, Cyclops, Iceman, Jean Grey and Archangel back to the X-Men and wraps up the ‘What’s Going On At Muir Island’ plot thread, removes Legion from the game, and has Val Cooper proposition (not like that) Multiple Man, Strong Guy and Polaris. After this the X-Men books that weren’t new switched to the revamped line-ups and creative teams but a lot happened between this and then.
OH, and there is no good reason why Excalibur wasn’t in this crossover btw, they could probably see this shit going on from where they live.

Between Muir Island and the Revamp
Most of these stories aren’t very important but this is where they fall:

Spider-Man 8-12
Wolverine and Spider-Man versus the Wendigo, Wolverine changes into his blue costume mid-way through this then goes back to it after thanks to they way reading order conflicts with publication date.  

Wolverine: Global Jeopardy 1
This was a special for the World Wildlife Fund; it has Ka-Zar, Shanna the She-Devil and Namor. 

Excalibur 36
Not relevant at all but happens here.

Marvel Comics Presents 74, 79, 80
One-shot stories starring Iceman, Sunspot and Wolverine, only Sunspot’s is really relevant as it shows what he’s doing while away from New Mutants/X-Force

Marvel Graphic Novel 66
Weird War III, not relevant but it goes here.

Infinity Gauntlet happens here

Excalibur: The Possession
Not relevant at all but it takes place here

Wolverine 35-46
The long Lady Deathstrike/Elsie-Dee/Albert arc ending with a big battle with Cable and Sabretooth, this is the last time you’ll see short haired Storm, Storm using her Toy Biz Series 1 costume (she previously used it in Australia) and Sabretooth in his original outfit.

Wolverine: Bloody Choices
I haven’t read this, but it goes here apparently, it’s not relevant to the X-Revamp that I know of. I have read this now, its not relevant to the X-Revamp but is worth reading, some nice Buscema art here. 

Marvel Comics Presents 109-116
Wolverine versus Typhoid Mary, not relevant at all

Marvel Comics Presents 85-92
Wolverine versus Cyber, nothing relevant other than it’s awesome and Sam Keith is awesome.

Excalibur 37-39
The Promethean Exchange, it’s not relevant to anything.

Excalibur 40-41
Nothing relevant but it fits here, the Trial of Lockheed (issue 40) is worth looking at if you like adorable mischievous dragons though (and who doesn't?)

The X-Revamp

X-Factor 71-75
The new X-Factor form as Multiple Man goes on a bit of a rampage and Sinister sends the Nasty Boys after them. The first of the X-Revamp arcs to happen in-cannon (it was published the same time as the Uncanny X-Men arc and some of the X-Force and X-Men arcs) this solidifies the ‘Government Team’ or ‘Peter David’ X-Factor line-up bringing in Havok, Wolfsbane and Quicksilver.

X-Men: Odd Men Out 1
A recap of the X-Men’s history up to this point, this was the first story of two printed in this special because they were unpublished work by Dave Cockrum (the other was a New Mutants story).

X-Men 1-3
The Acolytes (lead by Fabian Cortez) bring Magneto back to a role as full antagonist to the X-Men. This is the final Chris Claremont work on the X-Men for many years and debuts the complete X-Revamp squad before going on to follow the Blue Team (Cyclops, Wolverine, Gambit, Rogue, Psylocke and Jubilee).

Wolverine 47
Wolverine and a car 

Magneto 0
While this is a reprint of some Marvel Comics Presents stories, the new pages take place just after the story that ran in X-Men 1-3, plus those Marvel Comics Presents stories are very good. 

X-Force 1-3, Spider-Man 6, X-Force 4-5
X-Force and Spider-Man team up to fight Black Tom and the Juggernaut as Toad reforms the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, including Sauron, who isn’t a fucking mutant, but not before X-Force debut running down the halls of a facility to find a villain because that’s the story that launches all Rob Liefeld books. This brings Syrin onto the team and also proved to be the last straw for Todd McFarlane, who left after a row about Shatterstar stabbing Juggernaut in the eye.    

Wolverine 54
Wolverine and Shatterstar

Wolverine 48-50
A sequel to Weapon X, Wolverine investigates his past and ends up battling Shiva. Nothing much related to the revamp here except that this is the story when Wolverine changes back to this blue and yellow costume in his own book. 

Bishop: XSE 1-3
A mission for Bishop, Shard, Malcolm and Randall before all but Shard came back in time (and before all but Bishop died), it was published much later (Shard didn’t even exist when the X-Revamp happened) but it actually works really nicely to set up these four characters and establish Shard as part Bishop’s past before she debuted.

X-Men 4-7
The second post-revamp arc in X-Men (so the second arc in general): Wolverine, Omega Red, Maverick and Sabretooth. This is Wolverine returning to his yellow and blue costume in the X-books, the debut of Sabretooth’s brown and yellow costume (the one he wore in the cartoon) and the debut of Maverick and Omega Red who were big 90’s creations and appeared prominently in said cartoon.

Uncanny X-Men 281-283
Storm’s Gold Team gets into a massive clusterfucker as the Upstarts play a game of ‘kill off the secondary characters’ for… well mostly the reward is considered to be immortality but the Upstarts are…confusing. This is the first X-Revamp arc of Uncanny X-Men, to be read after two arcs of X-Men, I did say this was published in a fun order. This features the deaths of the Reavers and the Hellions, the White Queen going comatose and the apparent death of Donald Pierce as well as the arrival of Bishop (though he won’t return and join for a few issues) and Trevor Fitzroy.

With this the X-Revamp has taken hold all the books (Wolverine and Excalibur weren’t really touched by it that much) buuut a few issues after these the great Marvel X-Odus happened. Todd McFarlane had already left Spider-Man and Marvel and Erik Larsen’s run on Spider-man was only ever intended to be finite (I think six issues?); Rob Liefeld would leave X-Force with issue 9, Whilce Portacio would leave Uncanny with 290 and Jim Lee would leave with X-Men issue 11, Marc Silvestri with Wolverine issue 56. Where did they all go? Well with Jim Valentino they left to from Image Comics. So to remind you: Bob Harras pushed out two fan favourite, very talented and very reliable writers in the favour of three artists, one of which being an appalling artist (and all of whom not being writers), only for these three artists to fuck off and a form a company that will outsell Marvel for a year or so within 10 issues. Karma, Bob Harras, is not just a character you edited. Sadly Marvel beat Karma off with a big stick made up of cartoons, cartoon merchandise and Scott Lobdell and not much was affected except critical reaction to the books.  

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