Fear Itself, Uncanny X-Men 540-543, 2011: The last couple of years have been somewhat crossover heavy for the X-Men, especially following the success of Messiah Complex. And yet, these crossovers have generated some very good stories- especially on the periphery. The X-Men aren’t featured stars in the Marvel crossover fear itself, but they do join in for a tie-in story in this arc. The premise is fairly simple. Juggernaut’s powers have been exponentially increased and he’s about to attack San Francisco. The X-Men have to stop him. But how do you stop an unstoppable force? Fear Itself features some great action scenes and showcases Cyclops as a great, decisive and creative leader. The best part is the solution. I don’t want to give too much away but Magik and Colossus make an end run around Juggernaut by depriving him of his powers. The ending is fraught with tension- time is running short before Juggernaut reaches the city limits- and emotion.
Five Miles South of the Universe, X-Men Legacy 254-258, 2011: “Five Miles South of the Universe” represents the end of a multi-year saga spanning multiple titles. It all began with Ed Brubaker’s “Rise and Fall of the Shi’ar Empire.” At the end of that story, Havok, Polaris and Phoenix were left stranded in Shi’ar space. They joined up with the Starjammers and continued a guerrilla campaign against the new emperor, Vulcan, who also happens to be Havok’s brother. Their story continued through a number of mini-series before finally culminating in X-Men Legacy. Rogue borrowed powers from a Phoenix avatar, allowing her to pinpoint the location of their missing X-Men. She then leads a team into Shi’ar space to rescue them. But it’s not quite as easy as that. They’re in the midst of a battle on a space station that’s in danger of falling into the sun. The X-Men have to quickly work resolve suspicions and forge allegiances so that they can save friend and enemy alike. It’s a very good space story with the added bonus of returning X-Men favorites to the fold.
Schism, 2011: This is one of the better X-Men events. In this self-contained mini-series, Cyclops and Wolverine finally come to blows over the differences that have been building up for several years. Cyclops sees himself as the steward of mutantkind, staving off extinction for his people as they face a world that hates and fears them. Wolverine sees himself as a mentor to the next generation, teaching and training them- not necessarily turning them into soldiers but instead allowing them to find their own place in the world. It’s the classic argument between “protect” and “prepare.” The argument is heightened by several momentous occasions. Quentin Quire attacks the United Nations. The Generation Hope kids are ambushed at a museum. And a squad of sentinels attack the island refuge of Utopia. These big moments and the major emotional conflict make for a great story. However, I do wish that the X-Men faced a more compelling set of villains. I find this child prodigy version of the Hellfire Club to be both precocious and boring.
The X-Club, 2012: This oddball mini-series took time to grow on me. I like the idea of the X-Club, the X-Men’s science team. And I’ve enjoyed their independent adventures, including a one-shot during Curse of the Mutants. But the first issue of this mini didn’t grab me right away. I’m glad I stuck around. Simon Spurrier splits the club up into separate but connected adventures. And issue after issue, he ratchets up the action and the comedy. Dr. Nemesis has an alien telepath leech onto his skull which translates his thoughts for the rest of the world. It’s a hilarious shtick, exposing his self-assuredness as a false front while providing a handful of laughs. Meanwhile, Madison Jefferies is portrayed as a lovesick admirer of the android Danger in a hilarious, and occasionally slapstick, romantic comedy. I’d guess that a lot of fans didn’t know what to make of this mini-series but if you’re willing to sit back and enjoy the ride, the excessive silliness of the X-Club can be a winning formula.
Inner Space/Outer Space, Wolverine & the X-Men 5-7, 2012: I would have loved to include this set of issues from Wolverine & the X-Men. It was the last one I cut to get down to my self-imposed limit of 12. These issues actually contain two stories. In one story, Kitty has been impregnated by the Brood and her gestation is progressing very rapidly. Beast leads a science team to discover the cause of the pregnancy and to see if they can stop it before she dies in an explosion out of Ridley Scott’s Alien. Several characters, including students Broo and Kid Gladiator, are shrunk down and sent into Kitty’s blood stream in order to destroy the alien invaders. Hence, inner space. In the other story, Wolverine has to find a way to fund the school now that Angel’s resources have been tied up in legal issues. He flies to an alien gambling world with Quentin Quire in tow. The two get involved in all kinds of hijinx as they try to get off of the planet with both their winnings and their lives. Hence, outer space. The juxtaposition of the two stories is well done. Jason Aaron does a great job of highlighting his large cast and the students in particular come to fore. Plus, both tales are a lot of fast-paced fun making Wolverine & the X-Men the best X title on the stands today.
And that’s it. Well, unless I decide to write another one of these in 4 or 5 years. Thanks for reading along. I hope you enjoyed these reflections (and these stories) as much as I did.