Adam Graham's Blog: Christians and Superheroes - Posts Tagged "x-men"

Book Review: Essential Classic X-Men Volume 1

Essential Classic X-Men, Vol. 1 Essential Classic X-Men, Vol. 1 by Stan Lee

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book collects Issues 1-24 of the original X-men series, first lauched in 1963, a very different version from the one that was revived by Chris Claremont that are most common today, but the fundamental plot remains: a school for mutants led by Charles Xavier in New York because people fear and hate mutants because humans are fearful and think mutants can't be trusted.

The X-men are a far less complex group than their modern incarnations where only Angel, Beast, Cyclops, Iceman, and Marvel Girl (Jean Gray) are the original X-men. So hooray for simplicity, even though I have no clue how Xavier maintains an accredited school with only five students. Or for that matter, while the public is scared to death of the X-men but celebrates the Fantastic Four. However, that's the Marvel Universe.

The series really starts out poorly. While the first issue introduced Magnetto, it had the young male members of the team all but drooling and showing all sorts of uncomfortable sexual harassment stalker tendencies when Jean Gray joins the team. Really, for the first three or four issues, the lot of them are somewhat insufferable. In Issue 3, they encounter, the mutant the blob and essentially provoke him into attacking them and have him turn supervillain.

However, this was the Marvel Age of amazing supervillains and that ultimately saves the book. The Brotherhood of Evil Mutants comes along and keeps the book entetaining particularly with the Brotherhood's "not really evil but just confused" members Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver. Plus Submariner turned in a great guest starring appearance.

While this was happening, several of the X-men began to develop more distinct personalities: Cyclops was the leader, and Iceman was the young impetuous one ala the Human Torch. One of the best characters was the Beast, an ultra strong character with huge feet. He was initially conceived as having a brooklyn accent like the Thing but Lee scrapped that and had him speaking in a scholarly way reminiscent of Johnny Littlejohn from Doc Savage.

The middle to later parts of the book had some great stories in it. Issue 12 featured the coming of Juggernaut and was actually one of the very best Marvel comics I've read from that era. The comic doses out backstory on Professor X as well as on the issue's approaching villain This type of story was done to death during the silver age, but Lee did it differently as rather than getting a 10-12 page info-dump we kept being pulled from the flashback back to the story where Juggernaut who was approaching the X-men, so the whole issue built up to a great reveal on the last page that led into Issue 13.

This book also introduced the Sentinels, the giant robots who have been of the X-men's biggest foes who in their first incarnation rather than merely protecting mankind from mutants, the robots went wild and decided to take over the world. Professor Xavier blamed the robot's misbehavior based on the fact that their designer was an anthropologist rather than a robotics expert which begs the question of how an anthropologist built the robots, but I digress.

Other than a weak beginning, the X-men's big problem was an annoying catch and release policy as they released the criminal Blob on his word not to do evil again, and left the villain Lucifer around because they defeated him once. It makes your heroes look not so bright when exercising such a policy, though perhaps it's due to the X-men's own troubled status with the law. It also featured a typical Marvel romance.

At the end of the day, the plot and characters are not on par with other Marvel group books of the era such as Fantastic Four and Avengers, but given the high standards of those books, that may not be a fair standard. Certainly, I've read weaker books and after the initial bumps, the book becomes thoroughly enjoyable. Lee's 19 issue run may not have been the most memorable but it was solid, as are the first five issues we have from Roy Thomas.

Overall, I'd give this book about three and a half stars. Not Marvel's best, but still a great run from a company that was producing some of the greatest comics ever written.

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Published on May 28, 2014 19:36 Tags: x-men

Book Review: X-men vs. Avengers/Fantastic Four

X-Men vs. Avengers/Fantastic Four X-Men vs. Avengers/Fantastic Four by Roger Stern

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book collects two four mini-series from the 1987 when Magneto had (temporarily reformed) featuring the X-Men in Fantastic Four vs. X-Men as well as X-Men vs. Avengers as well as the first crossover of FF and the Avengers in Fantastic Four #29 and X-Men #9.

Fantastic Four vs. X-Men has its moments as Reed initially agrees then backs out of saving the X-men's Shadowcat. The story actually works mostly as a character piece about the FF as they face the discovery of a journal that calls in to question whether Reed anticipated the accident in the FF's fateful voyage.

The height of the story is Issue 3 when Reed and the FF have to face their fears and decide what they really think. The X-men end up turning to Doctor Doom to help Shadowcat when Reed bails and that's their main part. For a "vs" comic, there was no real battling except a bit in Issue 2 and Issue 4. The story had some moments of being overwrought moments including dream sequences and Franklin Richards played a big part in it but sounded very inauthentic as a child.

X-Men vs. Avengers was another tale altogether and far more substantial. The Avengers decided to bring in Magneto to stand trial before the World Court. However, they're opposed not only by the X-men but also by a Soviet superhero team that wants to eliminate Magneto on the strength of a Soviet court ruling.

The story has two nice features: First, there are some distinctly 80s comic book features particularly the Soviet team. Also, Monica Rambeau is very good in this as the Second Captain Marvel and I enjoyed her a lot more here than in Secret Wars. The Avengers team features not only Monica Rambeau, but also has She-Hulk, Thor, and Captain America. Though to round out the obscure, it features Black Knight and Doctor Druid (who actually does play a role in the story.)

There's also a great deal of intrigue. Magneto is fascinating throughout this. Roger Stern (who wrote Issues 1-3) is very capable here as some intimately familiar with both Captain America and the Avengers. The trial in Issue 4 (by Tom DeFalco) is a fascinating story with several nice twists involving Captain America.

The classic issues are just okay. They're trasparent in beig written as forms of cross-promotion. The X-men are manipulated to fighting the FF in FF #29 and then the X-Men have to fight the Avengers to save the world from a character named Lucifer. It's also intramural stuff for Marvel to say to readers of one comic, "Don't these characters look interesting. Why don't you put down 15 cents for their comic." On the upside, both were also drawn by Jack Kirby and written by Stan Lee, so there's some and playfulness.

As an aside, I have to note that the X-men come off well in either of these two stories.In Fantastic Four vs. X-men, they basically become tools of Doctor Doom in his war against Reed Richards. In Avengers v. X-Men, they try to stop Magneto from being brought to trial because he's a mutant. Why is it in every crossover the X-Men come off as only concerned with their own special interests and willing to align with the biggest evil around if it serves their interests?

Nothing here is essential, but X-men v. the Avengers is pretty darn interesting and makes the book worth reading.

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Published on January 27, 2015 18:32 Tags: avengers, fantastic-four, x-men

Book Review: Essential Classic X-Men, Volume 2

Essential Classic X-Men, Vol. 2 Essential Classic X-Men, Vol. 2 by Roy Thomas

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book collects 25-53 of the original X-men series along with Issue 53 of the Avengers.

The first 20 issues are the latter part of Roy Thomas' run on the book and it's mostly fairly mediocre villain of the month stuff. Even the two part return of the Juggernaut isn't all that impressive until Issue 35. The big highlight is Issue 35 with Spidey v. the X-men, Issues 37-39 with the X-Men battling a group of evil mutants, and Issue 42 with the death of Professor X. Also, in Issue 38, the book began to be divided in a similar to the Thor series, with the first sixteen pages dedicated to the main story and five or six dedicated to telling the backstory of the X-men. This was helpful in a way because the X-men were not as well-developed characters as other Marvel groups such as the Fantastic Four or the Avengers.

Gary Friedrich took over with Issue 45 and his idea was to separate the X-men into three different groups with the FBI giving the order. As established in this book, Xavier is established as having federal permission from them to start the School for Mutants. It was an early attempt to address the problem that all these Marvel Superhero teams were in New York, but in retrospect it looks kind of silly because even in three groups, five X-men can't cover the whole country. Given the massive number of X-men in recent years, this actually could work.

Friedrich's tenure was short and he gave to Arnold Drake in Issue 48. Drake was best known for creating the Doom Patrol for DC at about the same time as the X-men. The Doom Patrol had many commonalities with the X-men excepts they were actually more interesting. Drake reunited the X-men fairly quickly and then introduced Lorna Dane in an epic story arc as "Queen of the Mutants" and apparent daughter of Magneto. The legendary Jim Steranko took over the art chores for Issues 50 and 51 in what is the highlight of the book. Steranko art is unique and it gives Drake's story an epic feel. It's a shame that Steranko didn't stick around to finish it in Issue 52 but Don Heck is no slouch. The book concludes with a melee against Blastar.

Overall, despite its failings, there's a lot to commend the book. The Arnold Drake stories are the best and Steranko makes the Lorna Dane story extra special. But even beyond that, the art is consistently good from cover to cover and a Spider-man guest spot and the Death of Professor Xavier (which wouldn't last of course) are enough to make this a worthy read for X-men fans.

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Published on December 17, 2016 19:58 Tags: silver-age, x-men

Book Review: X-Men First Class - Volume 1

X-Men First Class - Volume 1 X-Men First Class - Volume 1 by Paul Smith

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is an interesting collection as it contains writer Jeff Parker's top five favorite stories of the eight issues he wrote for the first X-Men: First Class mini-series, so this book contains Issues 1, 2, 4,5, 7 and a selection from the Annual.

The X-Men are a challenging to get into. There are so many characters, so many different versions of the team, it's hard to find how to get in. This book takes readers to the beginning-sort of-where there was only Professor Xavier and his five X-Men: Cyclops, Beast, Iceman, Jean Grey, and Angel. In many ways, this is similar to the Untold Tales of Spider-man concept from t 1990s which provided untold tales from Spider-man earliest except rather than taking readers back to the 1960s and giving that sort of feel, this book has the X-men's first adventures taking place in the then-present day.

Parker has the X-men meeting up with Doc Connor of Spider-man, Doctor Strange, and Thor. These stories are good. I think Parker makes them quite a bit more likable than they were the original stories, but I don't feel I ever really gained a lot of insight on to anyone except for Warren in Issue 7 plus most of the stories didn't have any sense of scale or real interest in the battles faced. Still, no issue was bad. The characters were fun. I liked the idea in Issue 2 of Scott and Jean being forced to take time off as the rest of the team wrestled with the Lizard.

Issue 7 is my favorite as Warren has been absent from class while Professor Xavier's been away and Quicksilver is out looking for his sister, The Scarlet Witch. The two events are tied together. The book explores Quicksilver's behavior which was meant to be protective in the Silver Age, but comes off as a bit controlling to modern readers. The story's got a great sense of fun and humor, just as Parker would later show on Batman '66 and Flash Gordon.

The short from the special deserves some praise. In it, Beast and Iceman go to the Museum of Curiosities to investigate a signal of mutant life. It's a very fun story with some surprising twists.

The rest of the book is fine and if you're a fan of Parker's other work, you'll like this too.

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Published on October 09, 2017 21:06 Tags: first-class, jeff-parker, x-men

Book Review: X-Men: Gambit: The Complete Collection, Vol. 1

X-Men: Gambit: The Complete Collection, Vol. 1 X-Men: Gambit: The Complete Collection, Vol. 1 by Fabian Nicieza

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book collects the first 11 issues, the Annual, a half Issue, and an Issue of X-Men unlimited featuring Gambit. The story is set in the aftermath of the Trial of Gambit when the X-Men abandoned him in Antartica after they found he led a band of mercenary mutants to the Morlocks (sewer-dwelling mutant,) and the Marauded slaughtered the Morlocks, even though Gambit tried to stop them.

Gambit was rescued by the New Sun who expects him to steal stuff, which Gambit does in his time away from the team:
ng else.
This book features several strong points and several weaknesses. The good:

-Emotional fall out from the Trial. This is explored throughout the book as Gambit copes with it as does his team. Gambit has been abandonned as a child, kicked out of the thieves as an adult, and now this, plus there's guilt over what happened to the Morlocks. Probably one of my favorite stories in here was the X-Men unlimited which showed him speaking to specters of the X-Men in deciding how to deal with Hydroman.
-Gambit is possessed by a female entity who enhances his powers, but maybe doing something else, more insidious. She's introduced in Issue 1/2 and makes her presence known in various issues until everything's sorted in the Annual.
-Gambit spends time in New Orleans and we get insights on his past and how the Thieves Guild works.
-Two tie in issues to the crossover story the Shattering that felt relatively self-contained rather than you were getting two disjointed parts of a 14-part story. This is how participation in a cross-over be done if it it has to be.
-Team ups with Blade the Vampire Slayer and especially Daredevil. Both were well done, but the Daredevil one was particularly good, creating a good conflict and a sense of mystery.
-The art is not great but avoids the excesses from earlier in the 1990s.

The bad:

---A theme about New Sun and it's true intents is tossed around, and a mysterious lady visits people in their dreams to get information about Gabmit. These take several pages out of each issue. While I appreciate the series eventually answered these issues, it doesn't even feel like the plot moved on these two points.

---Issue 10 has a fantastic set up with work my Gambit's stepfather who teamed up with the Howling Commandos, Gambit in a tuxedo, and the story has a very conclusion.

---The X-Cutioner talks A LOT and was not a fun character to read.

---The art has some inconsistent moments. While this is nowhere close to early to mid 1990s excesses, this book does have some art issues that reflect its times.

Overall, an okay book, that's not a bad read, even better if you're a Gambit fan.

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Published on January 04, 2018 15:38 Tags: 1990s, gambit, x-men

Book Review: Gambit Classic, Volume 1

Gambit Classic, Vol. 1 Gambit Classic, Vol. 1 by Howard Mackie

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book collects Issues 265-267 of Uncanny X-Men along with Gambit's first mini-series.

Gambit's first appearance is Uncanny X-Men #266. The biggest annoyance in this book was Issue 265, the inclusion which was unnecessary. It didn't really set up Gambit's appearance and most of the book was about other things. Before the mini-series, the editor summarized two years of Gambit being on the X-men. The relevant of #265 could be summarized in a paragraph or less.

However, the actual initial appearance of Gambit is pretty good. It establishes who he is as a character, and he's both instantly cool and likable. The art is mostly okay, with a few iffy moments, but also some great ones.

The mini-series finds Gambit returning to New Orleans with Rogue when he finds out his ex-wife was alive. This story is chocked full of character development and drama. Gambit is a man trying to do the right thing. He was raised dealin with the warring guilds of thieves and assassins. He's stepped outside that world so he sees somethings more clearly than his family, but he can't escape it entirely. It'a a story with a lot of conlfict that really serves to flesh out Gambit's character.

Overall, this is a good read for Gambit fans.

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Published on February 13, 2018 22:57 Tags: 1990s, gambit, x-men

Book Review:X-Men: Gambit - The Complete Collection Vol. 2

X-Men: Gambit - The Complete Collection Vol. 2 X-Men: Gambit - The Complete Collection Vol. 2 by Fabian Nicieza

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Years after the first half of Gambit’s 1999-2000 comic run was published, we get the rest of the volume as Gambit travels back in time to 1891 because he already did and in the process of fulfilling history gets his powers amped up.

When he returns, he deals with his relationship with Rogue which has always been starcrossed, but now because of his enhanced powers, they can kiss without her absorbing them, but there are other problems and I like that’s dealt with in a very grown up and thoughtful manner.

This leads to the next phase of the book where Gambit becomes leader of the Thieves Guild and also gets two contracts put on his life: one by the Assassins Guild, and one by New Son which is open to any assassin out there, and so Remy being hunted down by nearly every big assassin in the Marvel Universe at the same time.

This leads to an Annual that finally reveals what New Son is up to and who he is, and it’s actually quite clever. Most of the rest of the book builds towards a final confrontation with New Son and is mostly okay. We learn his plan for Remy at the end and it is…underwhelming. Probably the most disappointing part of this is the stupidity of New Son’s plans in light of his stated goal.

The book wraps with a single issue that introduces a new team with Scott Lobdell and Joe Pruett writing. The story involves Gamit having to repay a childhood debt to a mobster and solve the problem of his daughter’ stolen heart. It’s entertaining, even if the art’s a bit off, and sets the tone for a further series featuring Gambit and Bishop.

The book has some disappointing features, most notably New Son’s plan, and the way the forced gender change of Courier is done as I don’t understand why it was done or what they were going for. Still, I do like this book. There’s some great character and some fantastic worldbuilding regarding the Assassins and Thieves guilds.

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Published on April 20, 2019 22:51 Tags: 1990s, gambit, x-men

Book Review: Marvel Masterworks: The X-Men, Vol. 6

Marvel Masterworks: The X-Men, Vol. 6 Marvel Masterworks: The X-Men, Vol. 6 by Roy Thomas

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a decent enough collection of X-Men comics, collecting the final 13 issues (#54-66) from the late 60s and early 70s prior to the X-Men becoming a reprint title until Giant X-Men #1.

The book features the Introduction of the Living Pharaoh and of Scott Summers' (Cyclops) brother Alex (aka Havok), the return of the Sentinels, a trip to the Savage Land, staving off an alien invasion, and meeting the Hulk.

The book is uneven. I enjoyed the Sentinel story and I thought there were some clever twitsts in the Savage Land story that made it interesting. The constraints of the book being divided between telling Angel's origin story in the Living Pharaoh issues does slow that down and it's not as interesting. The surprise return of a deceased character is clumsily handled and I don't know what was trying to be accomplished with the Hulk story.

The art helps with Neal Adams and Don Heck being among the artist featured. So overall, this book is okay, but not really great.

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Published on January 18, 2021 22:48 Tags: x-men

Book Review: Marvel Masterworks: The X-Men, Vol. 7

Marvel Masterworks: The X-Men, Vol. 7 Marvel Masterworks: The X-Men, Vol. 7 by Steve Englehart

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Set after the X-Men went into reprints and before Giant X-men #1 made them legends, this book collects a guest appearances by individual X-men in Amazing Spider-man and the Incredible Hulk, and also multiple X-Men guest-starring in Marvel Team-up.

The comics are okay. Marvel Team-up #4 is probably the best story and the X-men do take the lead since Spidey's out of commission for most of the book. The Beast's solo series is not bad, but what he was going through felt very derivative of what the Incredible Hulk's set-up. Still, it's worth seeing in order to find out how the classic Hank McCoy changed to his more beastial form. Although his changing of color from gray to blue is not well-explained.

It's not terrible, but you can see why the X-men were in a no-man's land.

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Published on January 29, 2021 22:58 Tags: the-beast, x-men

Christians and Superheroes

Adam Graham
I'm a Christian who writes superhero fiction (some parody and some serious.)

On this blog, we'll take a look at:

1) Superhero stories
2) Issues of faith in relation to Superhero stories
3) Writing Superhe
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