3 Jun 2019

Why I Love... THE X-MEN

Every true comics fan has their favourites: something that started us on our comics path, or changed our attitude to the medium, or something packed with nostalgia for a different phase of our lives. Here we explore why a particular favourite resonates with one of our number...

Mike S: So back in the dim and distant past when I was but a fledgling comic book collector, I lived in Germany which was not ideal for my love of comics, being largely limited to Avengers (George Perez’s original classic run) and the Legion Of Superheroes when I could get them. Comics were only stocked in the American PX (rarely) or on the van that used to visit to sell UK papers etc. One week I found myself Legion-less and took a chance on an odd looking comic with a cover that looked like a sideshow carnival’s freak show: Uncanny X-Men #111. That’s where it all began for me – my ongoing love, often bordering on obsession, for the X-Men and all they embodied. I consumed them ravenously and, while the Phoenix Saga was undoubtedly an instant classic, it was the run immediately preceding it which has stayed firm in my mind as my all-time favourite.

Claremont and Byrne are still my favourite creative team, perfectly capturing and developing the core cast and, in this particular run (#111-#131), introducing characters and concepts that have clearly stood the test of time. From old characters Mesmero, Sauron and the more recent Arcade, to the newly minted White Queen, Shadow King and, of course, Alpha Flight, Kitty Pryde and Dazzler: this was a golden age for me. (Ok, so maybe not so much Moses Magnum but that story at least introduced Mariko and in doing so made Wolverine far more interesting than he had ever been). And the grandiosity of it all: who could forget Magneto vs the X-Men under the surface of Antarctica and the cruel fate he had in store for the team at the hands of the robotic Nanny? Thank God for Storm and her hitherto unknown history as a master thief! But while I loved every issue of this run it was issues #125-#128 that truly encapsulate everything I hold dear about this era.
Claremont was a master at laying down sub-plots and finally one of the long-running ones came to fruition as, after many teases and brief cameos, the mystery of Mutant X came to a head and Muir Island was transformed into something akin to a horror movie: zombified animated remains and a mutant with the power to jump from body to body: our first introduction to Proteus. Alongside this modern horror story, runs the usual X-Men angst, amplified by the fact that the two groups in #125 weren’t aware that each was alive! We have a huge cast (regular characters Cylcops, Storm, Wolverine, Colossus, Nightcrawler and the injured Banshee) reunite with the presumed-dead Phoenix along with Havok, Polaris, Multiple Man and Moira MacTaggert in the pursuit of their most lethal and dangerous foe to date. It was spine tingling, horrific stuff, especially with the constant threat of immediate possession and eventual disintegration Proteus presented to our (not so) merry mutants. Tracing Proteus’ journey as he body-hopped his way across Scotland, leaving a trail of mummified corpses in his wake, was both chilling and inspired, with Byrne’s art serving only to amplify the horror. The storyline was complex, action-packed and full of drama. Byrne’s artwork, especially as Proteus warps reality in and around Edinburgh, was stunning and the action scenes were powerful and dynamic. And the conclusion: without giving too much away, I can honestly say that as a 13 year-old I was blown away by it! It was my first introduction to an idea that is painfully too prevalent in comics now: heroes who kill. And the choice of the killer? Perfection. The drama!

Since then, as the book has developed and grown, then shrunk and been both massively huge and worryingly neglected but, whatever has happened, my love for Marvel’s Mutants has remained strong and that, truth be told, all hangs on those 21 amazing, wonderful comic books, and especially the classic tale that was ‘The Muir Isle Saga’!

1 comment:

Fracadactyl said...

Claremont is a definitive X-Men writer, so many people try to get off on his success because of it. Recently he's even getting back for a few one-shots. Hopefully some of Johnathan Hickman's ensemble work methods can introduce some nostalgic feelings: https://gutternaut.net/2019/04/jonathan-hickman-on-ensemble-epics/