X-Men

X-Men: Grand Design #2 (March 2018)

X-Men: Grand Design #2Piskor is into the original Uncanny X-Men series proper now with Grand Design. He summarizes about sixty-five issues. He covers costume changes–without fanfare, though often with humor–he covers all the weird sixties villains. The space aliens. The coming Phoenix force.

There aren’t any asides. The closest is when Jean Grey goes off to college, but she’s not there for long. A couple pages. But there’s no intense focus on any on character or part of the history Piskor covers here. He’s just getting it out on the page, efficiently, with the right mix of foreshadowing, brevity, and humor. Piskor rarely goes for anything approaching a laugh, but when he does a sight gag, it’s great. When he does a written gag, it’s great too.

The voice of Grand Design–so the Watcher’s voice, as the Watcher is still narrating–keeps the comic calm. It’s still very active, it just doesn’t have overarching intensity. Scenes and sequences can have intensity, but it’s history. Removing the intensity is why Grand Design can get away cataloging all the dumb ideas in X-Men comics and make them great.

Piskor’s art is fantastic. Again, he doesn’t really take any time out on any one thing this issue so there aren’t any art focuses. But it’s fantastic cartooning even without a special topic.

Grand Design continues to amaze.

CREDITS

Cartoonist, Ed Piskor; editor, Chris Robinson; publisher, Marvel Comics.

X-Men: Grand Design #1 (February 2018)

X-Men: Grand Design #1Ed Piskor is credited as “cartoonist” in X-Men: Grand Design. I’m even sure, with the Internet, you can easily find out the last time someone got credited as a cartoonist in a Marvel book. Marvel is the antithesis of cartoonist books. Yet here we are.

With an X-Men comic no less. I should just get this statement out of the way. I can’t stand X-Men comics. Never have I ever. Because there’s always something wrong with the way the story’s being told (i.e. why has the third movie got better symbolism than anything else ever did but it still is crap). So. I’m going into this book not liking X-Men.

It’s unclear if the title’s going to be ironic. Grand Design is a comic book history of X-Men, the comic book. Piskor opens the book in “safe” Marvel territory with the Watcher. He’s telling his Iron Man-looking recorder android thing he needs to relate some history. It starts back in the forties with the Human Torch and Namor, which is pretty traditional Marvel Universe history stuff. It was in Marvels, right?

But then there are these Golden Age heroes tracking down Namor, which seems a little strange for a Golden Age story. Turns out it involves Professor X’s dad. Then there’s Captain America and Logan. And young Magneto. Only that scene never happened in a comic, it happened on a cartoon episode. Piskor’s taking all these terrible retcons and making them into what they never were, a grand design.

Wokka wokka. Or maybe Grand Design is just going to be Marvel’s branding for Piskor doing a history of The Avengers and then Spider-Man. Hint hint. Because Grand Design is something else. It’s making X-Men comics–their dumb continuity, stupid aliens, Professor X bickering with young Juggernaut, Jean Grey killing some dudes, whatever–it’s making X-Men literary. Through an amazing “cartoonist.” Piskor’s able to get about a scene a page. Professor X gets more, but they’re long sequences setting him up. Because if it’s the story of the X-Men, it’s the story of Professor X.

Only not really, because, it’s history. It’s a comic history of comics. And holy shit, it’s amazing.

Piskor’s sense of visual pacing for getting information across is unreal. He’ll go from broad summary to intense close-up–because he’s got a lot to cover. There’s Professor X, Bobby Drake, Magneto, Magneto’s kids, Jean a little, Scott, Hank. And it’s the “regular” origin and then, all of a sudden, it’s got these obvious retcons. Sometimes terrible details, but Piskor just fits them in. The storytelling style, how Piskor’s exposition reads–sorry, the Watcher’s–it’s dry, but with sympathy.

It’s a beautiful comic. Wonderful. I can’t wait until the next one, and the next one, and the next one. And then the hardcover. Because even if X-Men is goofy and often terrible, it can also be good. I think? I can’t remember. It’s pop culture now. X-Men has transcended enough. It’s just pop culture.

I can’t wait to see Piskor expertly, beautifully retell some lame X-Men comics. Wolverine and Scott are going to meet. There’s going to be Dazzler. Then there’s all that Morrison stuff I never got around to reading. And whatever the hell they’ve done since.

Holy shit.

What if Piskor makes me enjoy reading a Deadpool comic.

I can’t wait.

Marvel Graphic Novel 17: Revenge of the Living Monolith (1985)

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I’m not even sure where to start.

About half the comic deals with the Living Pharaoh’s origin and his escape from prison. It’s a strange origin; he seems a lot like an Egyptian Peter Parker for a bunch of it (you know, if Peter weren’t a college dropout or whatever). Michelinie does everything he can, for a while, to making the character sympathetic and tragic. Then the Living Pharaoh kills his daughter and the sympathy is out the window.

He’s got a cult of followers and she’s, unbeknownst to him, now one of them. The whole Egyptian cult thing–there are terrorist comments a plenty–makes it seem like Marvel could publish the thing today (if only Frank Miller worked at Marvel these days). But what Michelinie fails to realize is how bad a plot choice making the character utterly unsympathetic halfway through does to the comic. It makes the second half barely tolerable.

The second half, according to Michelinie’s introduction, is where the actual story idea comes to fruition. A giant monster attacking New York, only it’s the Living Pharaoh jumbo-sized off the Fantastic Four’s powers.

Michelinie writes a good Captain America and Fantastic Four. Everyone else–particularly Spider-Man and She-Hulk (though she’s technically an FF member at this time)–is spotty.

The art is sometimes good, sometimes bad, it depends one of the seven inkers. It opens well though. The colors are very nice at times.

It’s pointless, but I guess it could be worse.

CREDITS

Writers, Christopher Priest and David Michelinie; penciller, Marc Silvestri; inkers, Geof Isherwood, Mike Witherby, Brad Joyce, Phil Lord, Keith Williams, Tom Morgan and Jerry Acerno; colorists, Bob Sharen, Christie Scheele, Steve Oliff, Mark Bright, Michael Davis, Charles Vess, Paul Becton, Janet Jackson, Petra Scotese and Paty Cockrum; letterers, Joe Rosen, Rick Parker, Janice Chiang, John Morelli and Phil Felix; editors, Keith Williams and Christopher Priest; publisher, Marvel Comics.

The Uncanny X-Men 203 (March 1986)

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I’m banging my head against the wall trying to figure out this question–how the heck did Uncanny X-Men sell? I mean, Claremont’s writing is the wordiest drivel I think I’ve ever read in a mainstream comic book, possibly because he refuses to shut up. He writes on and on in his exposition, on and on in his declarative dialogue. It’s just endless.

Unfortunately, the Beyonder doesn’t kill all of the X-Men this issue and I really, really, really wish he had. They’re all obnoxious and whiney. Only Storm comes across as less that a complete twit and only by a hair. Everyone else spends the issue having personal revelation after revelation.

I always mocked X-Men comics without having read them. Having now done so, I just feel sorry for myself. These fifteen minutes are never coming back.

And apparently Romita Jr. could never draw. Art’s awful.

CREDITS

Crossroads; writer, Chris Claremont; penciller, John Romita Jr.; inker, Al Williamson; colorist, Glynis Oliver; letterer, Tom Orzechowski; editors, Terry Kavanagh and Ann Nocenti; publisher, Marvel Comics.

The Uncanny X-Men 202 (February 1986)

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Say what one may about Romita’s artwork, but damn if he doesn’t draw the cutest little feet on the Beyonder the last issue? Does Secret Wars II really boil down to penis envy?

Similarly, even with Claremont’s awful writing–he really thought he needed to explain Cerebro to readers in an endless expository thought balloon–he does pack the issue. It’s a chore to get through it, because it’s so lame, but it’s a packed issue. Lots of thoughts, lots of action, lots of dialogue. Though I don’t know where Nightcrawler went. He wasn’t in the big battle scene.

The more I read Secret Wars II and its endless tie-in issues, the more it’s clear what dumb ideas Shooter had for it. Seriously, they could have left the Beyonder alone–he doesn’t really do anything this issue to provoke an attack from the “heroes”–they’ve decided to preemptively strike.

CREDITS

X-Men, I’ve Gone To Kill the Beyonder; writer, Chris Claremont; penciller, John Romita Jr.; inker, Al Williamson; colorist, Glynis Oliver; letterer, Tom Orzechowski; editors, Terry Kavanagh and Ann Nocenti; publisher, Marvel Comics.

X-Men vs. Agents of Atlas 2 (January 2010)

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Wait, what?

Okay, I get it. Agents of Atlas can’t make the grade sales-wise so there need to be team-ups–Parker’s the best writer Marvel has working on their mainstream stuff right now (sorry, Ed, but I can’t forgive some of the Daredevil and X-Men lows)–someone realizes it and doesn’t want him to jump ship to DC, who wouldn’t appreciate him, but he more jibes with their stuff anyway.

This issue reveals the whole series just to be an Atlas comic. It’s got nothing to do with X-Men other than as a McGuffin. I mean, whatever, I get it… but still, it’s shameful Atlas can’t get a solid reading audience.

What am I saying? I should be grateful for any good comic books at all, given the depths of idiocy pop culture has descended to in the last fifteen years.

Oh, yeah. Great comic book.

CREDITS

The X-Heist, Part 2; writer, Jeff Parker; pencillers, Carlo Pagulayan, Gabriel Hardman, Chris Samnee and Carlos Rodriguez; inkers, Jason Paz, Hardman, Samnee and Terry Pallot; colorists, Will Quintana and Veronica Gandini. Godmarked; writer, Parker; artist, Hardman; colorist, Quintana. Letterer, Joe Caramagna; editors, Michael Horwitz, Nathan Cosby and Mark Paniccia; publisher, Marvel Comics.

X-Men vs. Agents of Atlas 1 (December 2009)

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Ok, so I’m not sure it’s really a “versus” book. I mean, sure, it’s got the Atlas guys fighting the X-Men, but it’s really just an Agents of Atlas issue with an X-Men crossover (much like the New Avengers crossover early in the Atlas series).

Parker does an unsurprisingly fantastic job, though I wish there’d been a little more recap–I can’t remember if Venus got snatched in the Atlas finale, though I know for sure Parker did start laying the groundwork. He mixes the unfunny X-Men brilliantly with the humorous, but serious, Atlas team.

Pagulayan’s artwork is excellent as always, a slick modern Marvel style without sacrificing expressiveness. The backup, which is just a fun insert instead of dramatically important, has lovely art from Samnee. Along with the other Atlas backups, it does more to establish the series’s perceived playfulness than anything in the modern stories.

CREDITS

The X-Heist; writer, Jeff Parker; penciller, Carlo Pagulayan; inker, Jason Paz; colorist, Will Quintana. Atomic Age Heroes; writer, Parker; artist, Chris Samnee; colorist, Veronica Gandini. Letterer, Joe Caramagna; editors, Nathan Cosby and Mark Paniccia; publisher, Marvel Comics.

The Uncanny X-Men 196 (August 1985)

31152.jpgI thought this issue was going to be a mystery, but it’s not. It doesn’t even have the pretense of one, except for Professor X asking the X-Men to investigate something. It’s too bad, since it might have been a better comic book with that approach.

It’s an X-Men book so I can identify the more popular ones, but when it comes to all the girls, I’m lost. What’s the difference between Kitty Pryde, Rogue and Rachel Summers? How do people keep up with this stuff? And do X-Men readers make fun of soap opera fanatics; they really shouldn’t.

Claremont packs the issue, which is impressive, I suppose, and desirable for its audience. I just couldn’t wait for the damn comic to end.

The artwork is incredibly loose and uninteresting.

The Secret Wars tie-in is all red skies.

I don’t get X-Men comics at all.

CREDITS

What Was That?!; writer, Chris Claremont; pencillers, John Romita Jr. and Dan Green; inker, Dan Green; colorist, Glynis Oliver; letterer, Tom Orzechowski; editors, Peter Sanderson and Ann Nocenti; publisher, Marvel Comics.

X-Men (2000, Bryan Singer)

My wife wanted me to mention the only reason we watched X-Men was because she wanted to see Hugh Jackman with his shirt off… I watched it to insure she didn’t have a cardiac arrest.

Back in the old days, before IMDb edited their trivia section, the X-Men trivia featured defenses of some of the terrible performances. There was some excuse for Halle Berry’s terrible accent and another for Anna Paquin’s mysteriously appearing and disappearing one. It’s too bad IMDb got classy and took them down, because there were even more defenses and they were a lot of fun.

But if one is trapped and watching X-Men, in between parts where Hugh Jackman’s giving a fine performance, there are amusements. It’s fun to see Bryan Singer composing his shots for a pan-and-scan VHS version (faces occupy one half of the screen while empty space occupies the other or the action is in the center, with empty space on the sides). There’s also the obviously Canadian sets–which make the Statue of Liberty finale all the more amusing. I mean, X-Men is an action movie where one of the big sequences takes place in the Liberty Island gift shop. Not many movies can make that claim. Or the train station… wow, that one’s exciting.

There are more amusements, some not recognizable at the time. It’s not really an amusement, more an unfortunate reality–Michael Kamen’s embarrassing score, which would be terrible on a razor commercial, is one of his last. But on the more amusing things–like trying to take Tyler Mane seriously. The guy’s 6’8″ but the make-up and costume are so silly, he looks like he’s performing at a kid’s birthday party.

The most fun, however, is trying to figure who gives a worse performance, Patrick Stewart or Ian McKellan. The script, which has some of the worst dialogue in any major motion picture I think I’ve ever seen, does neither any favors, but I do think Stewart edges McKellan out. Though McKellan is worse, he’s in it a little bit less and doesn’t have the long expository monologues Stewart gets to deliver.

The plot is smartly bound to Jackman, which kind of makes the thing deceptively okay in parts. Thankfully, the moronic ending (it’s Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, get it?) erases any memory of his fine performance.

Speaking of performances, there really aren’t any good ones other than Jackman. James Marsden is hilariously bad, as is Berry, as is Rebecca Romijn. Famke Janssen’s bad, but nowhere near as terrible as the others. Bruce Davison, who really sets off those made in Canada flags, is awful.

I’ve seen X-Men three times now and I still don’t understand how it was a hit or how it is considered “good.” It kicked off the modern superhero movie genre, which has produced some worse entries, and maybe it just doesn’t seem as bad in comparison to those. But with the exception of Jackman, the whole thing feels like a syndicated, shot-in-Canada TV show. It’s like “RoboCop: The Series.” Only worse.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Bryan Singer; written by David Hayter, based on a story by Tom DeSanto and Singer; director of photography, Newton Thomas Sigel; edited by Steven Rosenblum, Kevin Stitt and John Wright; music by Michael Kamen; production designer, John Myhre; produced by Lauren Shuler Donner and Ralph Winter; released by 20th Century Fox.

Starring Hugh Jackman (Wolverine), Patrick Stewart (Xavier), Ian McKellen (Magneto), Famke Janssen (Jean Grey), James Marsden (Cyclops), Halle Berry (Storm), Anna Paquin (Rogue), Tyler Mane (Sabertooth), Ray Park (Toad), Rebecca Romijn (Mystique), Shawn Ashmore (Bobby Drake) and Bruce Davison (Senator Kelly).


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