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Evil Geek Book Report – X-Men: Deadly Genesis

Awhile back, Martian Luthor Kang did an article about generally great writers who for whatever reason couldn’t hack it on X-Men titles. His inclusion of Brubaker piqued my interest and after reading many other reviews on his tenure with Marvel’s merry mutants I found that most people agreed with him. Generally speaking it seems this period is thought of with indifference or disgust. I haven’t read ALL of it yet, but with Marvel currently being in the midst of their far reaching Original Sin storyline I figured I’d go back and visit an earlier one by starting with the Deadly Genesis miniseries.

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I started by revisiting the classic Giant Size X-Men #1 to prep myself written by Len Wein with art by Dave Cockrum. I was always impressed by this issue and will continue to be. It’s both informative and functional. If you’re not familiar with it, the storyline involves the classic first team of X-Men, Cyclops, Jean Grey, Angel, Iceman as well as Polaris and Havok (Beast was no longer a member) disappearing on a mysterious island with only Cyclops returning. Xavier with the help of cerebro recruits an international menagerie of mutants including the German born Nightcrawler, the Canadian Wolverine, the Russian Colossus, Storm from Africa, a Native American named Thunderbird, the Japanese Sunfire and the reserve X-Men, the Scottish Banshee.  Talk about diversity! (Interesting tidbit, Banshee is recruited in Nashville at a Grand Ole Opry show; apparently he’s a big fan of Country Music. Who knew?). They are prepped and given the directive to follow Cyclops to save the original team members. It’s actually shocking to me how they were able to introduce a whole new cast of characters in a handful of pages, if this was written now it would have been an entire miniseries onto itself.

Even the mission itself is fairly interesting; I like the twist of the island itself being the actual villain. Although, reading it this time around it did strike me as odd that Xavier would recruit a whole new team of untrained cadets for a possible slaughtering. This is explained as Krakoa (the island) possessing both Xavier & Cyclops thoughts and forcing them to bring it more mutants for it to feed on.

Since we all know they were victorious in their endeavor, let’s take that time and admire the iconic cover. It’s just fantastic and what a great visual blending of old and new. Although it always did bother me that some of the new recruits were missing, but whatever. The first page corrects that error, but strangely makes Beast the furry blue Beast he had become during the era the book was being reprinted (but isn’t in the story).

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So, with the prep out of the way I dove into Brubaker’s Second Genesis and one of the things that struck me right away was how good it felt to see Wolverine and Cyclops working on the same side of things again. The current Bendis run always has them at odds so this was comforting to see. The team itself was a small manageable size made up of members that were familiar to me. Colossus, Rachel Grey, Kitty Pryde, Cyclops, Wolverine, Emma Frost, Havok, Beast and Nightcrawler all rounded out this iteration.

After a plane crashes not far from the mansion, Cyclops, Rachel Grey and Wolverine are dispatched to investigate. Someone very powerful takes them out immediately, capturing Scott and Rachel and leaving Wolverine for dead. Banshee who seems to have found something important in the recently deceased Moria McTagert’s files, rushes on a plane to get it to the X-Men post haste. Another plane is posed to take out the one Banshee is flying on (orchestrated by our assailant from earlier) and he exits in an attempts to save them with his powers but ends up being killed along with a ton of other people. I’ll address this right now; this is one of those pointless and ineffectual comic book deaths. It happens so quickly and carries about zero resonance.

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Turns out what he was carrying was a confessional from Moira that prior to the All New, All Different X-Mean team of Giant Size X-Men #1, Xavier had recruited a team of 4 other students that were sent off first. Petra, who can control earth and rocks, Darwin who can adapt his body into any circumstance to survive, a time controller named Sway and Vulcan who manipulates energy. They were killed in their attempt and Xavier wiped Cyclops memory of the event. Each of the 4 issues leading up to this reveal have little vignettes about these characters and the time they first manifested their powers and were subsequently recruited.

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Now, I knew about this plot point going into the story, but I happen to think that this retcon in particular works. I find it very interesting that it could fit into a window of the original events without really fucking everything up. I understand why people complain, really I get it. In a way, retcons are kind of like cheating. The bigger bang though is when this mysterious man who has captured Cyclops and Rachel turns out to be the mysterious third Summers brother. The plot thread had long been dangling since it was first mentioned way back in 1993 (you can read more about it’s complicated past here). The way it shakes out was that Cyclops and Havok’s mom was 2 months pregnant when they were captured by the Shi’ar and Vulcan was born in space. I can dig it.

I am ok with all this. What I don’t care for is how one dimensional Vulcan comes off. For someone that has a strange and interesting history (that we thankfully do get a taste of) it seems like all he cares about is revenge. Hopefully we’ll get to find out more in the follow up series The Rise and Fall of the Shi’ar Empire of which Kang has specifically warned me to avoid. Yet, how I can I say no to a space opera? I understand Vulcan being upset with Xavier, but why Cyclops? Scott was really an unwilling participant. Xavier comes off as the huge asshole, being a manipulative old man who is willing to risk the lives of others and then make it all disappear. He doesn’t even tell Vulcan that Cyclops is his brother until right before the mission to properly motivate him. Cyclops basically disowns Xavier after this and you can really see the rift between them begin to form. It also gives a little more credence into the whole Onslaught thing of yesteryear…

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As a whole, I found this to be enjoyable. The writing was just fine and an ample page turner, I think it all comes down to the outcome. People are pissed when you tamper with history, especially comic fans. They don’t want to disregard something they’ve known as fact for decades. While I understand that completely, to me it all comes down to how the retcon was treated. Sometimes it’s done to service the writer, sometimes it’s done for a quick buck and sometimes it’s done out of interest in the source material. Hard for me to say which this was about and yea Brubaker probably wasn’t the best man for the job, but I can appreciate where he was coming from on this. Forget the haters and read this with an open mind.

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About Biff Tannen

Film Noir, Pulp, Comic Books and Hitchcock.

Posted on August 6, 2014, in COMICS!, Evil Geek Book Report, Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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