Now I know I won’t get much sympathy from older fans who have been complaining about too many X-books since the late ‘80s when the franchise expanded to five with Excalibur and Wolverine. Or maybe they had started complaining already in the mid ‘80s when New Mutants and X-Factor made it three. But this is different. I’m not talking about solo series or spin-off books. I’m talking about actual X-Men books.
Since last summer, there have been four X-Men titles: Astonishing X-Men, Uncanny X-Men, X-Men and X-Men Legacy. Entering this summer, those X-books are also all shipping twice a month. Plus, there’s an all-X-Men mini-series special event. If I was so inclined, I could buy 10 books a month that are just X-Men. And that’s not counting solo stars or spin-off series like Wolverine or X-Factor.
I suppose that Spider-Man, Superman and Batman fans are used to this. Those characters have all had four and sometimes five titles. And Batman’s had a slew of spin-off titles for years.
The easy solution might be to drop a couple of X-books. That would clear some room on my pull list. And I’m sure that would teach Marvel a lesson too. But here’s my dilemma. I don’t buy comics in order to send messages. I buy comics that I enjoy reading.
Plus I don’t I want to drop comic books that are good so that I can buy something else that may or may not be good. That’s another thing about these current X-Men comics. They’re all good.
X-Men Legacy has been the most distinctive title for the past year and a half. Rogue has been the nominal lead and the book has focused on her as a mentor to the younger heroes. It’s been a great way to keep up with many of the characters from New X-Men: Academy X. And writer Mike Carey has done a great job of balancing Rogue’s relationships with the other X-Men, especially Gambit and Magneto.
More recently, X-Men Legacy has embarked on a mini-crossover with New Mutants in the alternate reality story Age of X. I was a little hesitant about the story based on an extra prelude piece but the actual story has been incredible. Carey has done a great job of putting familiar characters into unfamiliar situations (Cyclops as the rough outsider Basilisk, Magneto as the inspirational leader, etc.). And there’s been a very cool mystery at the heart of this alternate reality.
I can’t wait to see how Age of X is going to end. So X-Men Legacy isn’t exactly a candidate for the chopping block.
X-Men, sans adjective, is the newest of the X-Men titles. It’s also the current flagship in that it sets the direction for the line. It launched with the big Curse of the Mutants story which pitted the X-Men versus vampires and spilled over into several other titles. It’s currently running a story called Protect and Serve, which has been accompanied by an anthology called To Serve and Protect.
Ignore its flagship status and focus on the story itself: X-Men is really good. In the current story, Storm and a team of X-Men flew off to New York to investigate rumors of kidnappings in the sewers. They thought they were going to encounter a new gang of Morlocks. Instead, they’ve run into a new breed of reptile warriors. The result is a surprise team-up with Spider-Man in a follow-up to Shed, Spidey’s excellent Lizard story from last year. The sneak sequel is even drawn by the same artist, the amazing Chris Bachalo.
That’s pretty cool. I’m not about to drop the X-Men in the middle of an amazing Spider-Man team-up.
Uncanny X-Men is the original X-Men title and it’s still the heart of the franchise. It was the driving force behind the Utopia and Second Coming stories- and Second Coming was the best X-Men crossover in more than a decade.
The most recent story was called Quarantine. A villain had devised a mutant-specific flu and released it on the X-Men’s home island. On the island, we watched as the science team worked for a cure while their teammates slowly succumbed to the illness. Meanwhile, a select squad of X-Men, absent when the virus hit, were tasked with protecting the city of San Francisco by themselves. They also took it upon themselves to take down the villain. Quarantine was a great underdog story as the X-Men had to overcome overwhelming odds.
Now, Uncanny is starting a new story: a sequel to Joss Whedon and John Cassaday’s astonishing adventure on Breakworld. Even if it doesn’t match the original, that’s a story worth checking out.
Astonishing X-Men used to be the premier X-Men title. It was the showcase for superstars like the aforementioned Joss Whedon and John Cassaday. They were followed by Warren Ellis and star artists like Simone Bianchi and Phil Jimenez. That’s not the case anymore. Apologies to Daniel Way fans, but he doesn’t exactly carry the same cachet as those other creators.
I almost didn’t pick up the newest arc of Astonishing X-Men. I preordered it out of habit before I realized the creative team had changed. But I’m glad I got it. The current story is Monstrous and the basic premise is the X-Men versus gigantic Japanese monsters. Marvel’s own dragon, Fin Fang Foom, has escaped from Monster Island and is attacking Tokyo. Before you can say “Godzilla,” the X-Men are called in to combat it. It’s just a fun, crazy story.
I suppose that if the story was badly told, I’d have no problem cutting Astonishing X-Men. But I’m not about to jump ship on this kind of crazy.
So there’s my dilemma. The four X-Men titles are, at least right now, all different and all good.
I have a few possible solutions. I might stop preordering a couple of the titles and pick up shelf copies. That way, I’m better positioned to drop one of them if they change to a story or a creative team that I don’t like as much.
Yet as long as they’re all this good, I guess I don’t mind if they continue to take up a big part of my pull list. It may not allow for as much variety as I’ve been used to in the past. But at least I know that I’m reading stories I like.