How Bendis Got Me To Love The X-Men Again
The X-Men were a big part of my comic book youth. They were my gateway (no pun intended) and back in the early 90’s they were enough X related titles to go around. If that’s the world you wanted to immerse yourself in, you could do it easily without reading any other unrelated Marvel U book. The longer it went on though the wearier I got, finally around the Onslaught era I threw the towel in and gave up. I stopped reading comics all together…for a very long time.
When I did start reading comics again about 2 years ago, the X-Men were not on my radar. I would occasionally hear things like Jean Grey was dead or see a picture of Colossus wearing Juggernaut’s helmet and just be confused. The more I tried to look into things, the worse it got. It seemed a lot had happened in the last 15 years and with so many different series and so many characters with strange names that I didn’t recognize, it all felt incredibly overwhelming. I couldn’t even tell which were the core titles anymore. Rather than attempt to wade into this river and hope I could make sense of it I just choose to avoid it.
That all changed this weekend.
Recently I had been working on the excellent Jonathan Hickman run on Fantastic Four from a few years ago. I was lucky enough for my birthday to receive the majority of Bendis’ current run on All New X-Men as well as Uncanny X-Men as a gift. As luck would have it when I was hungover the day after my birthday I picked up the next Fantastic Four Hickman trade and I tried to read it but couldn’t get past the first page without making my poor suffering head hurt even more. It was not a good day for high end science fiction concepts and knowing that Bendis’ dialogue is generally pretty light I defaulted to my old friends, The X-Men. It was love at first sight all over again.
This was literally the best and probably easiest way for me to transition back into X-Men comics. While it may not be totally welcoming to new X novices, if you have a little understanding of some of the classic characters and history you’ll be fine. It’s also recommended to perhaps be aware of the results of the Avengers vs. X-Men series that has drastically reshaped the Marvel Universe and acted as the launching ground for Marvel Now. The beauty of it is though that it acts a palette cleanser and changes the status quo to make things fresh without that knowledge.
Uncanny X-Men deals with Cyclops as mutant revolutionary working with a small group of like minded mutants and X-Men alum, Emma Frost, Magick and Magneto. After a recent mutant genocide new mutants are beginning to pop up all over the world and this group is recruiting them as X-Men to train them to harness their abilities and to stand up as the preservation of the mutant race in an increasingly darkly segregated world. Cyclops and by association his team are wanted vigilantes by S.H.I.E.L.D., giving this book a different dimension. It however reads and feel likes a refreshing take on the classic X-Men formula. The key to this book is a small tight cast of existing X-Men augmented by new members you are learning about as you read.
The premise of All New X-Men involves present day Beast bringing back the 5 original X-Men from the 1960’s. The thinking was that if past Cyclops sees his present day counterpart it will inspire him to change his outcome. Of course the entire past team is in for a rude awakening when they realize how different each of them have become, hell Jean Grey’s dead! It makes you stop and think about how far these characters have come in 50 years. Of course a lot of the intrigue of this series is seeing the past team come to grips with modern day society and not only what it means to be a mutant but what it means to be an X-Men. It’s a pretty interesting concept that lends itself well to opportune stories and situations. This series also deals with a small cast, basically composed of the 5 original X-Men and their instructor, Kitty Pryde and Wolverine and occasionally Beast.
The books are really meditations on the 2 sides of Xavier’s dream and how they can be implemented between the idealistic past X-Men hoping to rally peaceful support between humans and mutants alike and present day Cyclops’ jaded world weary crew who are arming themselves to keep mutants alive and to not have to hide in the shadows of a world run by Humans. Both titles can be ready separately but greatly improve when being read as companion pieces like the X-Men and Uncanny X-Men of the early 90’s.
No doubt Bendis was given these books to revitalize the X-Men franchise for Marvel the same way he had done in the past for Daredevil and the Avengers. I think he’s been successful, I can’t vouch in terms of sales but from a reader stand point I’m certainly hooked. He launched two new X-Men books that were both new reader friendly as well as unique and interesting without straying away from the core concepts of the title.
I didn’t think anyone could make me care about the X-Men again, but I’m glad they did. It feels good to be back.
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