In the beginning…there were the X-Men.
For a long time X-Men and Teen Titans set the bar for how team books should be written. Engaging story-lines and fantastic characterization allowed readers to invest in the stories. No single character possessed the power to save the day without the support of the team. The sense of peril was legitimate because every victory came at a cost. The X-Men felt like a more cohesive team than the Fantastic Four or the Avengers although they clashed with one another often. The core team of X-Men has been in a constant state of flux since the series restarted in 1975.
The original series was cancelled in 1970 so 1975’s Giant Size X-Men #1 could be considered the true starting point for the team of the Modern Era. Sunfire, Storm, Wolverine, Nightcrawler, Banshee, Colossus and Thunderbird joined the mix. The X-Men were the most diverse group in the Marvel Universe, but the characters were not written as ethnic stereotypes. This was the Claremont/Bryne era of the X-Men and it was all good. This run gave us, The Dark Phoenix Saga, Magneto as a villain with heroic motivations, The Hellfire Club, Days of Future Past, the Morlock Massacre and Mr. Sinister.
The popularity of the X-Men books spawned a number of solid spin-off books like the New Mutants, Alpha Flight, Excalibur and X-Factor. Surprising the level of quality in those books matched the X-Men books that spawned them. New characters had depth, individual voices and motivations.
Then the 90’s happened…
Rob Leifeld was allowed to change The New Mutants into X-Force and the bottom fell out of everything.
X-Force was a confusing disaster of a series. In the X-Force universe, the world is fueled by the angstiest of angst and smiling is illegal. The only facial expressions that are appropriate in any context are scowls, sneers or open mouth yells. Joy is forbidden, use of practically sized weapons are discouraged and all clothing must define your bulges. X-Force and X-Men costarred in the X-tinction Agenda, a confounding mashup of explosions and exposition. We saw the birth of many more spinoff books such as Mutant X, X-Terminators, X-Statix, Generation X, Weapon X….
More Mutants were being created every month, many of whom had powers that were either completely useless, uninteresting, or ambiguous…just like their personalities. Time and Dimensional travel infected many storylines and crossovers were rampant. Creating bizarre books that feature patchworks of stories that featured abandoned retcons and inconsistent characterizations. This made it impossible for new readers to follow new stories and difficult for experienced readers to follow a single book.
Characters were approved because they looked “Cool’ (remember….90s) and their backstories were as nonsensical as their powers. Bishop and Cable-centric story arcs confused even the most dedicated fan and every third Team Buster class villain seemed to be a Reality Warping, Time Traveling, Telekinetic armed with vague energy based powers and Daddy issues.
Did I mention Cable? Just LOOK at him…
What is he even doing here? What can he even fight against with his arms full of guns that are larger than his body and pouches stuffed with items that will never be used?
This is a new recurring feature that will spotlight X-Men related properties…good, bad and horrific. I will use feature this to wax poetically about the best of the X-related books and give the bad ones the level of ridicule they so richly deserve.
Next time in X-Hausted:
- What IS an X-Force anyway?
- Is Cable constipated?