The X-Men family of comic series have varied greatly in quality over the years. They’ve gone from some of the most entertaining and poignant stories in the medium to unreadable dreck and back again. Like most readers in my generation, I cut my teeth on X-Men comics and that undoubtedly shaped my tastes regarding all types of fantasy. And naturally, many of the best and brightest authors in the industry are eager to take a shot at writing these characters, and while some of these new takes on Marvel’s Merry Mutants have redefined the characters for a new generation, other visions fell so very, very flat. And the remarkable aspect, of this creative quagmire is that some of the most spectacular failures in the history of X-Men comics have been at the hands of otherwise phenomenal writers.
There are a great many runs of the series that are either forgettable or contemptible, but nonetheless unsurprising. For instance, Scott Lobdell’s long tenure as writer of both core X-Men series in the 1990s. These issues, despite being published at the height of the X-Men’s popularity, are largely forgotten. And that was no accident. Any stories in his run that aren’t shunned are remembered only for their art. But no one is doing a spit-take over a shitty Scott Lobdell story. Lobdell is a master of ruination, he’s currently hard at work in his efforts to make Superman an irrelevant footnote over at DC and seems to be doing a wonderful job of it. Similarly, Chuck Austen’s runs on X-Men and Uncanny X-Men are often cited as the worst in the history of these series, but it’s not as if we had any reason to suspect they wouldn’t be. Everything else he had done up to that point had been unimpressive, so the clusterfuck he left behind at the Xavier Institute only stands to reason.
And that’s my point. When bad writers write bad stories, it doesn’t come as a shock. However, when otherwise acclaimed writers step up to the plate to work on the X-Men, they very often fail as well. These books are, in that sense, sort of akin to the Sword in the Stone. These capable knights, so to speak, approach this task with confidence and great expectations, and then shamble away in defeat a few months later. Today, I give a few of those enormous letdowns.
Read the rest of this entry