22 May 2019

From The Vaults: X-MEN: THE ASGARDIAN WARS

While we spend a great deal of time engrossed in the current crop of comic books, let us not forget those fantastic tales from the past that still sit in amongst our collections and are always worth revisiting...

X-MEN: THE ASGARDIAN WARS
Writers: Chris Claremont
Art: Art Adams, Paul Smith, Mike Mignola, Bob Wiacek & Terry Austin
Marvel

Mike S: It’s no secret that Uncanny X-Men is my all-time favourite comic book, going right back to my first issue (#111 – Mesmero, the brainwashed X-men as circus performers – seriously, check it out!) but once the franchise released its first spin-off in the form of the New Mutants, I was truly hooked. It seems so strange to think there was once a time when there was only one spin-off title and one main title and a crossover could be self-contained and not require enough expenditure to require a second mortgage. Which brings me to my all-time favourite X-Men crossover: The Asgardian Wars.

Collected in a trade, this arc contains X-Men & Alpha #1 & #2, New Mutants Special Edition #1 and Uncanny X-Men Annual #9. While the X-Men/Alpha Flight story is a nice enough two-part tale entitled ‘The Gift’, it offers little to the overall arc other than establishing the reason for Loki’s animosity towards the X-Men and his reasons for targeting the junior team, and some good character moments between Cyclops (currently married to Madelyne Pryor) and Rachel (his daughter from the future/alternate reality; it’s the X-Men – just go with it!).

It is, however, in the New Mutants Special Edition where the ball gets rolling in what can only be described as an epic tale. It really does have it all: the New Mutants are all perfectly in character as Claremont crafts a skilful tale of abduction and identity. Their journey to Asgard and its peripheral realms is a journey in more ways than one as each member of the team is forced to confront their own identity, role or worldview in a series of vignettes having been scattered through time and space by a disrupted stepping disc. Everything is here: teen angst, teen swagger and some great visual gags with random cameos (my favourite being the USS Enterprise). Each team member gets their moment, with Dani Moonstar being particularly changed in terms of role and Karma being changed in terms of body! Add to this the beautifully expressive and frankly sublime illustrations of Arthur Adams and you have a stunning piece of work!

Rolling on into Uncanny X-Men Annual #9, we see Kitty Pryde, struck by her psychic link with best friend Magik, alerting the team to the plight of the New Mutants (and the then powerless Storm) and the subsequent rescue mission. Adams and Claremont continue their epic, throwing the X-men, New Mutants and a whole gamut of Asgardian beings into the melting pot to battle with Loki and his accomplice the Enchantress. The scale is impressive, the character dynamics on point and Claremont clearly loves his characters: no writer since (and I’ve read them ALL) has managed to get the narrative voice of every single character to resonate with both accuracy and truth. Some have come close but no one has done it all. Everyone from Storm and Wolverine down to Karma and Cypher ring absolutely true, with their unique perspectives and voices being heard strongly. Add to that Dani Moonstar facing down Hela herself and you have a stunning conclusion that, while it doesn’t change the world of the X-Men forever (oh for the days of a simple crossover!) certainly changes the status quo for a number of characters and certainly changed – or rather deepened – my love of all things X.

Still fun and stunning in equal measure today, I cannot recommend this crossover enough! With beautiful artwork from Adams, who really lets his imagination fly in Asgard and produces his finest work here, it's a tight, action-packed tale of adventure and peril from Claremont at his very best!

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