So this is what I was talking about last time! I’m calling this inconsistent little feature “Ye Olde Longe-Boxe” (you can blame frequent commenter C-$ for that one), and it’s what it sounds like. I have some comics that are over twenty years old (never mind my habit of buying tons of back issues when I could find them when I was but a child), and sometimes I’ll dig down into them and find what sort of glory (or mess) we can discover together. Don’t expect this stuff every week, but hell, there are a lot of comics in there. I sorted through a bunch of comics and found what I think are some of the earliest I bought when I went out specifically to buy comics.
As I hope I made clear in that post last time, my comic-buying was spotty when I was very young, and around the age of eleven I started going every week, stuff like that. So I think I found at least the approximate place where I started, with Uncanny X-Men 304 & 305. Now, there’s more afterwards – it’s a few issues until I have a hole in the collection from this point, but I had to give up. These are pretty dreadful comics.
The story itself isn’t bad. In fact, it’s one of the seminal stories from the time period. Collossus’s sister Ilyana has just died. Magneto appears at the funeral service, convinced he’s a new, armor-clad messiah, and tries to talk all the X-Men into joining him on his giant orbiting death fortress, Avalon. This is after Magneto tried something similar (orbiting the Earth that is) on Asteroid M. However, in Magneto fashion he freezes everyone using his powers before trying to talk to them, so naturally when Bishop absorbs enough power from the magnetic force applied to him he shoots Magneto in the face. Magneto gets mad, Collossus, in the most obvious betrayal ever, sides with Magneto, and then Charles Xavier takes over Magneto’s powers, throws him in his space station, and then throws the entire space station off into space. Hell, the book even says they’ll be back.
The next issue isn’t a direct continuation, but it is about related issues: the worsening of public opinion and the desperate measures Xavier is led to now. He has Storm steal the plans for a military suit designed to fight Magneto. She tells him off but does it anyway. Rogue, Bishop, and Iceman fight some dudes that are nothing but skin grafts? They all die by turning to goo. Iceman’s girlfriend, who I don’t think I remember anything about at all, dumps him because his life is too crazy, I guess, but honestly it’s obviously another nail in the construction of the “everyone hates mutants” building the comics were trying to house everything in at the time.
Now why are these comics bad? Well, aside from how disjointed everything is – we’re adding not just a hook but the first act of a new story in the midst of this other, bigger one – the writing is also just pretty bad. There are internal monologues, origin story flashbacks, and narration all over the place. Both issues start with boring, useless narrations over unrelated action. I think every comic in the 90s was required to have this shit. It’s more unreadable than most.
I guess the flashbacks are supposed to highlight how people feel about where everything’s going by contrasting it with where it started? But really they’re just tedious.
They also reveal something that gets up my nose nowadays. An obsession with continuity on the plot level. I do not need to be reminded of bits and pieces of the backstory unless it is absolutely relevant. And in these cases it was not, not at all. The dialog between Magneto and Xavier reveals everything we need to know about what’s between them. The flashbacks and intrusive narrator add nothing. Try this the next time you’re reading any superhero comic: skip any text that is not spoken by a character or in something one of them is reading. Most comics will still make sense. But these things have so many the amount of art is cut down by them!
There have to be good points here. At least, that’s what I keep telling myself. The art is interesting, in that 90s way of Jim Lee influenced artists still doing some Jack Kirby stuff. The funeral showcases one of the things I recall liking very much about the X-Men: bits and pieces, or even whole issues, where there isn’t any crime-fighting or world-saving or what have you. My favorite issue every year was pretty much going to be the annual one where they all play baseball and bitch each other out for cheating and using powers. (See the animated X-Men Evolution for the development of this). Colossus isn’t dealing well with his sister’s death and so, in a perfectly rational and not melodramatic move, he burns all his paintings.
Oh, but the thing where everyone, particularly villains, explain how their powers work as they use them? That needs to fucking stop.
The whole Magneto as dark savior thing is a great angle for a story. At one point someone says he’s “reading his own press releases.” Nightcrawler maybe. At any rate, he is – he’s believed his own bombastic rhetoric, possibly he has to believe it. And in a link to the issue I talked about some last time (even though Magneto was working with the X-Men there), Magneto is still a whiny asshole, bitching about his power and his loneliness and his oh-so-tortured hopes for relationships. In both he even makes out with Rogue, at least sort of. In these more recent issues he does indeed. She tries to sap his powers, and apparently she does, but he’s as a god (picture dramatic hand waving), so he’s still too powerful. No word on the whole “stealing someone’s consciousness thing,” so whatever I guess, fuck that.
Basically, the X-Men have a few conflicts baked into their code, and this is an iteration of one. But the second issue reminds everybody about Bishop’s mission (Days of Future Past, yes it was a comic first, Christ, that one guy on a TF2 server, it didn’t start on the 90s cartoon), and there are those skin graft guys, and Jesus settle a fucking plotline before starting a new one. I remember this just being the way it was. Is that right, or did I just read too many X-Men comics there? I think Spider-Man and Green Lantern did the same shit.
Oh well. Next time, probably more X-Men comics. I kind of have a lot. Maybe I’ll skip to Excalibur or something – we could do X-Factor if we just wanted to talk about teams that shouldn’t have even existed.