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X-Men: Fatal Attractions (Review/Retrospective)

I’ll freely concede that I feel a bit conflicted when it comes to the X-Men comic books in the nineties. On the one hand, they were prone to nineties excesses, seemingly constantly in the midst of a sales-boasting crossover event, increasingly toyetic with steretypical portrayals and male and female anatomy. Also, to be entirely honest, they were never as exciting or creative as they had been when Claremont was directing the line – even his more esoteric efforts developed key themes and harboured a hint more ambition and sophistication than most of what followed.

However, I don’t want to give the impression I’m not fond of the X-Men in the nineties. That era, through the toys and the cartoon show, introduced me to the team. And, to be entirely fair, the books were very far ahead of the worst of what Marvel was publishing (as I’m currently reading The Crossing, I can vouch for that). I also have a certain amount of sympathy for a bunch of writers trying to find a direction for an entire line of books after a monumental and defining run by Chris Claremont. In many ways, Fatal Attractions reads like an attempt to draw a line in the sand under Claremont’s contributions to the franchise, and to boldly push forward with a modern take on the merry mutants.

It’s his magnetism, Charles…

By the way, it is worth pausing to acknowledge what a wonderful job the collected editions department at Marvel do on these titles, despite any reluctance about the story itself. There’s always a nice selection of extras on hand, including various covers and sketches, but Fatal Attractions also includes details on how Marvel consctructed the famous-y gimmick-y 3D holographic covers for the issues, and an article on model-making.

These are nice touches, betraying a lot of love from the editors working on these books, and it seems that these classic X-Men stories are always lovingly packaged and released. Indeed, other editors in Marvel would do well to learn from the care and pride on-show here. For example, The Crossing omnibus only comes with a single page of special features, with variant covers on it at less than one-quarter size. It doesn’t matter that the story is universally reviled, a premiere collected edition should, at the very least, seem like a lavish celebration.

The bigger they are…

I’ll also praise the X-Men collected editions department once again for actively making an effort in collecting these issues. The actual Fatal Attractions crossover is relatively short, but the collection itself is absolutely mammoth. It makes a point of picking up both Uncanny X-Men and X-Factor from the last issues in X-Cutioner’s Song, and I actually really appreciate the effort.

While it’s ridiculous to expect every Uncanny X-Men issue to be collected in oversized hardcover, I’m impressed at how solid a continuous chunk the department has put out, running from Uncanny X-Men #235 to Uncanny X-Men #305. That is an awesome accomplishment, and my inner geek is quite proud. Now, if only we get some more of the early Claremont run released! But the work and attention put into these editions is simply breathtaking, and it’s hard to imagine any X-Men fan being disappointed.

He knows Cable inside out…

Outside of the lavish production values, I’ll confess that I’m somewhat torn on the Fatal Attractions story-arc itself. Leading directly out of X-Cutioner’s Song, it feels like a continuation of the same core theme – an attempt by the two driving X-Men writers (Scott Lobdell and Fabian Nicieza) to effectively distance themselves from the monumental work of their predecessor. After Claremont departed, it seemed like the X-Men books had a bit of an indentity crisis, and Lobdell and Nicieza very firmly tried to put their own stamp on things.

Fatal Attractions, as such, feels like a much firmer departure point from the Claremont era than X-Cutioner’s Song did. Indeed, it radically alters the status quo of the two X-Men characters most carefully developed by Claremont. Wolverine has his adamantium metal torn from his body, in an attempt to pull the character back from his nigh-invulnerability and to inject some more pathos into the character. Magneto, the villain painstakingly and carefully developed by Claremont to transcend his modest Silver Age roots, is reverted to a cackling power-hungry genocidal madman, and then unceremoniously “wiped out” by Charles Xavier.

He’s got some pull…

However, this attempt to radically strike away from Claremont is somewhat undermined by the fact that Scott Lobdell seems to be consciously emulating the writer’s famous quirks. There’s a lot of antagonism on the team, a lot of mysterious subplots ticking away, with both Gambit and Bishop presented as mysterious outsides. Lobdell’s writing apes the more awkward stylistic quirks that one associates with Claremont.

He’s found of repeating exposition, as we’re repeatedly offered some variation on the same formula when he introduces Storm, “There are many reasons why Storm is the leader of the X-Men’s Gold Team. Not the least of which is her mutant ability to control the elements.” Like Claremont, he’s fond of repeating generic catchphrases, even if Storm’s “by the bright lady!” is nowhere near as catchy as “I’m the best there is..” While Claremont adored melodramatic inner monologues, it’s still painful to hear Storm’s internal voice refer to herself in the third person as “Wind Rider.”

Cliché Storm!

I’ll concede that Claremont used all these tools, but they never seemed to grate as much. Perhaps it’s the fact that Lobdell’s writing is missing that same sense of irony, for the most part. His cast seem to play all this dead straight, while Claremont seemed to write his more over-the-top lines with a keen self-awareness. Most of the stuff here is so!damn!serious! that it seems absurd. “A group of mutants — risking their lives to create a world where everyone is treated equally?” Forge asks Nightcrawler, at one point. “It’s the stuff of dreams, Kurt — and dreams are for people that sleep.” It might seem like a solemn reflection on a shattered dream, but the effect is kinda ruined when Forge, still glowering, flies away on a rocket bike.

On discovering that Cyclops, Storm and Professor Xavier have been attacked by a mutant, Bishop asks, “An ‘evil’ mutant, then?” It seems just a little bit redundant, given that this mutant attacked the X-Men in mid-flight. However, Lobdell pushes the awkward redundancy of the scene just that little bit further as Psylocke offers the most pretentious response imaginable.  “So it would appear,” she replies, “although ‘evil’ is a subjective term.”Now, that might be a nice way of foreshadowing the villain was misunderstood, or the attack was an accident, but the villain is the most stereotypical villain ever, making that entire obnoxious exchange completely pointless.

Cyclops has got his eye on things…

We get more ham-fisted awkwardness throughout as Lobdell tries to convince us that this is some epic sweeping emotionally-affecting drama. In one cringeworthy moment, one of Magneto’s Acolytes attacks a child with Downs’ Syndrome. “This child is obviously flawed — even by human standards!” she claims, just in case you didn’t get that she’s a very!bad!person! Later on, there’s a “very special issue” where young Jubilee must cope with the death of one of the young X-Men, one that reads like a forced after-school special.

It might seem like I’m being a bit harsh on Lobdell, and maybe I am. I think he gets much better once he fully emerges from the shadow of his predecessor. Free from the weight of back story, his contributions to Age of Apocalypse are really impressive. I’ll concede that I actually really like some of his ideas, and I think he writes a far more compelling Professor Xavier than any of his predecessors, including Claremont himself. For example, I kinda like “the Upstarts”, Lobdell’s deliciously nineties collection of yuppie supervillains. They’re kinda like what might happen if Patrick Bateman had been born a mutant in the Marvel Universe.

Can’t get her out of my head…

Transparently evil for the sake of being evil, competing for the ability to be evil more evil by harnessing the evil of others, there’s something delightfully nihilistic about them, which seems like Lobdell is actually having a bit of fun at the expense of the Generation X-er’s born into a life of class and luxury with nothing to do with their wealth and time. As Sinobi Shaw explains, “The Upstarts were formed as escapist fare of the highest order — a brief respite from the sheer tedium inherent in massive wealth and power.”

That’s really all you need to know. There’s no complex motivation at work, no sophisticated characterisation. Lobdell even concedes as much. He has Bishop explicitly tell us not to even attempt to rationalise Fitzroy’s actions. “Fitzroy was a psychopath, never one given to motivation. Fitzroy only does what he does — because he can.” I’m not saying that I’d want everyvillain to be so one-dimensionally evil, but I can enjoy the hokey appeal of such a bad guy.

Wipeout…

That said, I couldn’t help but wonder about the character of the Gamesmaster, the referee in this yuppie mutant version of The Deadliest Game. The character is seemingly both omnipotent and omniscient. He’s able to pull the contestants together despite the fact they are separated by hundreds (if not thousands) of miles. He knows all, even when advanced scientific equipment couldn’t provide a detailed read-out.

“There is not a single thought on all the planet that escapes my attention,” he boasts at one point, and we see nothing to cast doubt on it. Surely there must be something more constructive he could be doing with that power? I know that it’s an easy question to ask about villains – why don’t they use their evil genius to make money or earn respect – but it feels especially glaring here. The problem isn’t that the Gamesmaster’s use of his powers is illogical or insane… it’s that it’s boring.

No bones about it…

I remarked above that Lobdell’s characters take themselves too seriously, and it is a major problem. That said, there’s an absolutely brilliant sequence where Lobdell has a bit of fun at the expense of the X-Men marketing machine during the nineties. In a scene that would undoubtedly seem familiar to my parents, Jean Grey finds her son immediately drawn to a stand of X-Men merchandise. “Oh, Mom– I can’t believe it! they have the entire X-line! They even have the Icemaster figure — nobody sells them anywhere! Pleasesaywecangetone, please?!”

When the X-Men team show up, much to Bishop’s chagrin, we’re shown that Bobby Drake has constructed a super!cool version of the team, in what must seem like a parody of the over-the-top self-importance of various superhero titles of the time. Foreshadowing what many would think about that particular decade in comics, Havok remarks to Bishop, “You’re still thinking substance over style, B. The X-Men of the nineties are about giving the people what they want.”It is wry self-criticism and awareness, and it’s precisely the sort of thing that the title could used done a lot more.

Talk about bi-polar!

In contrast, for example, the Peter David issues of X-Factor collected here strike the perfect balance. They are wry, self-aware and self-deprecating, but still feature more complex and compelling character-building than anything going on in X-Men or Uncanny X-Men. It’s great that Marvel went to the bother of collecting the issues included here, because they’re actually fairly awesome, from the psychiatric evaluation of the team to the trip to Genosha, the Marvel Universe’s equivalent to South Africa.

David is never heavy-handed, and he’s always aware of all his characters in a given situation. I imagine the fact that he’s working with characters he pretty much developed from scratch helped. Certainly the character development given to Jamie Maddrox must be on-par with the character development of Chris Claremont’s Wolverine or Storm – in fact, I’d argue it’s possibly better. You can tell that the Maddrox David writes today is the same character, albeit one who has grown and changed and evolved.

Quick on the uptake…

If Marvel is looking to continue collecting oversized hardcovers, and I imagine they sell well enough to justify continuing the line, I would love to see a Peter David X-Factor omnibus collection. Any Peter David X-Factor omnibus. Hell, I’d settle for a Peter David Incredible Hulk omnibus. If Marvel can announce a Rob Liefeld X-Force omnibus, surely there must be room on the schedule for Peter David? But I digress.

Fatal Attractions is a story of dichotomies. It’s about polar opposites. It’s fitting, then, that I am so torn about it. And, even more appropriately, that I am torn about the way the story treats its two poles. Before we get to the quagmire that is Magneto, I actually really like Lobdell’s Charles Xavier. I think that Lobdell was one of the first writers to latch on to Charles as an interesting protagonist in his own right, rather than a plot device to pull the team together and deliver exposition.

Jean bomb…

In that respect, Lobdell seems to foreshadow Mark Millar’s Ultimate X-Men and even Matthew Vaughan’s X-Men: First Class, in that he’s telling a story in which Xavier is an active, and morally questionable, figure. On the first pages of the collection, Lobdell introduces the notion that there’s something inherently sinister about Charles Xavier. We join him deep underground. “In this computer chamber several hundred meters below his Westchester Estate,” we’re told, “Charles Xavier has access to information-gathering sources from across the globe. Some obtained legally. Others, less so.”

While writers have explored Xavier’s telepathy before, here we see several close friends begin to actively question it. Much like in Mark Millar’s Ultimate X-Men, character wonder how much they can trust Xavier, and how much they can trust themselves around him. handing over sensitive information, Detective Charlotte Jones asks, “Tell me, how do I know I’m doing this of my own free will? How can I be sure that you’re not using your mental powers on me?” When Xavier controls an angry mob to allow a tactical withdrawal, Wolverine seems notably uneasy, “Mind control, Chuck? Don’t seem like your style.”

Head to head…

Storm explicitly doubts her decision to join the team all those year ago. Asked by her former teacher to violate her code of ethics, she questions her recruitment to the team. “Whether I did so of my own resolve,” she muses, “or because I had little choice in denying any request from the most powerful mutant mind on the planet — is a question to which I may never truly know the answer.”

Colossus is somewhat harsher on the Professor, comparing him to the sorts of threat the team routinely faces. “Since the day I joined the X-Men… I’ve been subjected to one would-be mutant warlord after another! Everyone from Krakoa, to Proteus, to Mr. Sinister — even Professor Xavier, in his own fashion — has sought to dictate how the rest of mutantkind should live their lives!”It’s a fairly harsh criticism of the Professor, but it’s not one entirely without merit.

Not-so-random…

Even after all these years, Lobdell reveals that Xavier has been keeping secrets from his students… and from his friends. Studying the Legacy Virus together, Moira observes, “I’ll confess, Charles, I didna know this ‘ready room’ of yours even existed. And I posed as yuir housekeeper for not a short period of time.” Xavier responds, “Until recently, I deemed this room off-limits to everyone but myself — justified, I believed, by the occasional need to escape. At Jubilee’s insistence I become… as she put it, ‘more nineties’… I’m trying to make myself more accessible.” It is revealed that Xavier even has a network of secret spies prepared for an occasion like this. “My mutant underground consist of people who understand there are dangers which transcend racial boundaries.” Plans within plans.

It’s worth noting that, despite what some might claim, there’s always been something vaguely sinister about Charles Xavier. Even when Stan Lee was writing the book and Jack Kirby was illustrating, Xavier was shown to lust after his student Jean Grey – a girl still a teenager at the time, and a girl signed over to his care by her parents. Of course, other writers have developed the character into an even more ambiguous figure (Ed Brubaker’s Deadly Genesis being the most obvious example).

He’s loving Angels instead…

However, Lobdell’s work here seems to foreshadow Mark Millar’s suggestion that Xavier struggles with basic human ethics – due to the nature of his powers. To most writer’s, Xavier’s telepathy is a massive plot-breaking power, one that necessitates writing the character out of various on-going story arcs, lest he provide too easy a solution. It’s rare to see a writer deal with the moral implications of that sort of power – Charles can literally change people’s minds, as well as look into their souls. Doesn’t that immediately make him subject to intense moral scrutiny.

Still, the strongest criticism that Fatal Attractions levels at Charles is a somewhat damning one. It accuses Charles of enabling Magneto, by being unwilling to take the necessary steps to stop the supervillain. “And with that, Xavier magnetically hurls Avalon into space… lacking the courage, the resolve, to take the life of the man who he knows… will certainly return… and once more threaten the entire world.” Lobdell’s narrative seems to place at least some of the blame for Magneto’s actions on Charles, because Charles knows how to stop his old friend, but won’t.

No cause for Jubilation…

And this is where Fatal Attractions is conceptually fascinating, because it lays all this guilt at Xavier’s feet, and pushes the character to break the status quo. It’s a very radical attempt to shatter a dynamic that had been in place nearly since the beginning of the book. For the franchise’s thirtieth anniversary, it is a game changer. There’s something quite clever about the way that Fatal Attractions forces Xavier to that epiphany, and something unnerving about the potential outcome.

Beast is shocked, reviewing the plan, “Oh, my stars and garters! He does mean to put an end to this cycle of violence once and for all.” Xavier is going to try to consciously break the vicious cycle once and for all. “You have shown an inability to change your ways,” he warns Magneto, “and I, an unwillingness to make the hard decisions! Maybe, in our own ways, we are both failures, Magnus!” It’s a very interesting place to put Xavier, as he seems to concede that this old played-out dynamic has actually harmed the X-Men as a franchise. He speaks of “people who depend on me not to allow this inevitable confrontation to end like every other.”

Yeah, you and what army?

At its best, Fatal Attractions suggests that the old dynamic between Xavier and Magneto strangles the comics. During his attack on Earth, Magneto seems focused primarily on the next generation of mutants, the future. Considering his options, Magneto comments of Charles, “Since my own children are unattainable, let us then invite his.” Charles and Magneto are just old men in a changing game. It’s tired and worn out. Xavier will generally win, and Magneto will be vanquished but survive to face the team again. Cable suggests, “Time is something I’ve seen plenty of, Magneto. And in all that time, I’ve only seen you fail.” It’s a pattern the pair have found themselves trapped in.

“Do you really believe you are attempting anything original, Magus?” Xavier mocks at one point, leaning heavily on the fourth wall. It’s hard for any writer to try anything original while trapped within the same formula. Fatal Attractions seems like an attempt by Scott Lobdell and Fabien Nicieza to break that mold, and to try to get out of the long shadow that Chris Claremont cast. I admire that a lot, to be entirely honest.

Pretty fly for a bad guy…

Of course, the irony is that comic books never really change and there was no way magneto would ever really be gone. The story doesn’t even pretend to kill Magneto, and Lobdell is hinting that Magneto will return less than ten issues after the crossover concludes. Still, Fatal Attractions does offer an excuse to temporarily vanquish the spectre hanging over the franchise, and give Lobdell and Nicieza some breathing room.

That said, while I admire the audacity of the attempt, I can’t help but feel that the price was – in some cases – too high. Claremont’s Magneto was a villain decades ahead of his time. In fact, I’d argue that there hasn’t been a comic book villain anywhere near as tragic or complex as the holocaust survivor who vowed to avenge himself on the world. Lobdell and Nicieza fairly brutally and efficiently dismantle this character, reducing Magneto to little more than a cardboard cut-out.

Old school X-Men…

We’re told, in purple prose, that Magneto is living “a life that has since, it seems, been about nothing more than death and destruction. True, it is destruction in the same way a blank canvas is scarred by a swath of paint… but it is destruction nonetheless.” That sounds like a very eloquent way of describing him as an artist in death. Lobdell and Nicieza confine Magneto to the shadows for the first few acts of the story, and build an air of mystery around him. At one point, anonymously, he shows charity to Charles Xavier, perhaps alluding to his relationship with the Professor.

However, it isn’t long before the character is firmly in two-dimensional moustache-twirling territory. Offering the X-Men a place in Avalon, he doesn’t come as a friend to the school. Instead, he and his followers violently disturb the funeral of a girl he once considered his ward. Storm demands, “Have you become so intimate with the concept of death that you no longer respect the passing of others?” Later on, Magneto stages a massive attack on Earth. Xavier is unambiguous about the casualties, “We fear many hundreds… perhaps thousands, have died.”

A Silver of romance…

This new Magneto revels in the clichés of villainy. At one point, he punishes one of his followers, Senyaka. Senyaka had participated in a massacre a a human hospice; but Magneto does not kill his subject for that crime, he disciplines Senyaka for acting without permission. Magneto tells his son, “What you witnessed was the tossing of the gauntlet — the first sign of mutants taking the initiative to free themselves from humanity’s oppression at last.” They killed harmless sick people in their beds, the old and the weak.

Much like Morrison’s New X-Men would later do, Lobdell and Nicieza cast Magneto as little more than a modern Nazi. Havok challenges the Acolytes killing humans in Magneto’s name, “Out to destroy the ‘inferior race’ — in Magneto’s name? Don’t you know what an insult that is to the memory of the very man you claim to worship?” The comparisons are made on more than methodology. During an interrogation, Toad wonders, “How did Hitler rally his country around him? Through the incredible allure of his confidence — Magneto was much the same way, in that regard.”

They hate to rain on her parade…

Nicieza and Lobdell don’t ignore Magneto’s origin or back story, but that arguably makes it worse. Rather than simply ignoring the contradictions in their portrayal, they actively point them out. Indeed,Fatal Attractions – curiously enough – actually seems to wallow in Magneto’s Jewish heritage. It’s strange, because that aspect of the character is seldom explored outside his holocaust back story. It’s clear that Magneto is in supervillain mode, but not any modest superhero mode. He very clearly pictures himself as Yahweh, the Old Testament God.

The book is filled with references. A character who looks like an angel, named “Exodus”, is “the voice of Magneto” – much as Metatron used to speak for God. Both “heaven” and “haven” are interchangeably used to describe Magneto’s Avalon – although it’s very clearly something like a cross between Noah’s Ark and Passover. Exodus promises, “The harbinger of the magnetic storm wishes to carry you both away from here — and lift you to a better place.”

I never tire of this…

Magneto claims to be accepting and forgiving, in exchange for warship. “I am here to offer each of you sanctuary from the coming fire-storm of death that will soon rage across this planet. I’ve returned to offer you an alternative to the genocide of our people. I’m here to offer you… salvation.” His former followers build shrines in his absence and swear “praise be to Magneto.” Magneto himself boasts about “the word of Magneto” and “divine right.”

In many ways, this feels like the predecessor to both Mark Millar and Grant Morrison’s portrayals of Magneto. Morrison portrayed a version of Magneto who was more powerful and influential dead than he ever had been alive. Mark Millar presented a power-made psychopath who was building his own version of Noah’s Ark. Neither iteration of the character was especially sophisticated, and Lobdell seems to lay the groundwork for both portrayals here.

Quite the Kitty…

More than that, though, Lobdell and Nicieza attempt to retroactively erase Claremont’s characterisation, by suggesting that Magneto never actually changed. As Xavier observes when Magneto’s new abode comes into view, “It’s not a haven… it’s a fortress! Laden down with Shi’ar weaponry he could only have appropriated during his time with the X-Men.” It implies that Magneto was always planning something like this and never genuinely embraced Xavier’s message. Magneto even mocks Charles’ notions that he could change. “Instead,” Erik warns his old friend, “I stand before you as I have always been…”

Nicieza attempts to acknowledge the earlier complexity of the character, but still ends up simplifying it too much. That’s the problem – every time the writers reference his back story or his history, it makes it clear just how uncomfortable this portrayal actually is, this hallow cardboard victory. Again, glimpsed through the eyes of the brother of one of his victims, Nicieza denies there’s any ambiguity or complexity to the character. “So many sides to one man,” a survivor of one attack muses. “How can that be? How can anyone see him for anything other than what he truly is — a murderer?”

Testing Wolverine’s metal…

The issue here also have one other major plot development, the Legacy Virus unleashed at the end of X-Cutioner’s Song. The plot line would dominate the X-Men books for years, ending with a completely contrived dramatic resolution that came out of nowhere. In fairness, I can understand why the writers used the plot point. After all, the X-Men work best as superhero as allegory. I think a huge part of the success of Claremont’s run was the mutants-as-minorities metaphor, and it was the best part of Grant Morrison’s New X-Men as well.

That said, modern comics have struggled a bit, with Matt Fraction trying mutants-as-gay and mutants-as-Israel to little avail. The Legacy Virus is a very thinly-concealed AIDS epidemic. I actually think it’s great that the X-Men did acknowledge the crisis. Even in the nineties, there were a lot of ignorant preconceptions about the condition, and those suffering were ostracized. Early in the collection, Professor X makes an explicit comparison between mutants and to AIDS victims, updating the series’ terms of reference.

The original X-Man…

The fundamental problem, however, is that the Legacy Virus is a really crap metaphor for the AIDS crisis, to the point where it has little value as an allegory, and it isn’t strong enough as a plot to support its role. It isn’t based on AIDS, but on rumours about AIDS. When AIDS was first discovered in 1981, it was initially believed that it only attacked members of a minority.

It was actually identified as GRID – Gay Related Immune Deficiency. This would by corrected by 1982, long before any of the stories here were published. There was also a crazy conspiracy theory that the AIDS epidemic had been manufactured as a biological weapon to attack those minorities. Both were assumptions and theories that were incredibly counter-productive in raising awareness and fighting the disease.

Burn, baby, burn…

The problem is that Fatal Attractions creates an analogy for this fictitious version of the virus, rather than the one that really existed. Much like many people originally believed that AIDS only affected gay people, the Legacy Virus only affects mutants. But that isn’t a popular misconception. It is an honest-to-goodness truth. The virus eventually mutates, but the Legacy Virus is originally incapable of infecting humans. And, of course, it is a biological weapon developed by Stryfe as a means of ethnic cleansing, or wiping out mutants.

These key distinctions render the Legacy Virus a little useless as a stand-in for the AIDS virus. In fact, it actually seems quite a bit exploitative to use all these misconceptions about AIDS and play them entirely straight. I imagine that many kids might have had lots of questions about the disease, and one chapter in this collection even sees a young kid die from the disease, so it feels like Lobdell and Nicieza might have been trying to raise awareness, but it just feels a little pointless.

Seeing red…

Fatal Attractions is decidedly nineties. Even reading through it, it seems a little excessively violent. “By the time I’ve decorated your home with your lower intestines — you’re going to want to finish the job yourself,” Fitzroy threatens Forge, which sounds delightful. As a character is stabbed, the narrative caption captures the moment in perfect detail. “It’s not a sound often attributed to torn flesh. Instead of ripping and tearing… it’s more like the noise a balloon makes when losing air… or the sound of breaking glass.”

A lot of people are quick to criticise nineties art as blatant rip-offs of Jim Lee and his contemporaries. I know it’s not for everybody, but I did kinda grow up with the stuff. Whenever I would get a comic book, it was from this era. So I like the artwork. Collected here is work by Joe Quesada, Andy and Adam Kubert and a lot of John Romita Jr. I really like Romita, even though I’ll concede that some of his modern work is not as good as his earlier Uncanny X-Men and Daredevil work. The lines are a bit too heavy here, but it’s still good.

Steel yourself…

Fatal Attractions isn’t a classic. But it’s an interesting comic book with a lot of clever ideas, let down by a disappointing execution. I seems like the book exists mainly to distance the title from Claremont’s epic run. Still, there is just about enough here to make it interesting, even if the good is perfectly countered by the bad. It’s certainly not the worst of Marvel’s nineties output, but I wouldn’t consider it a classic story arc.

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5 Responses

  1. Reblogged this on BookRepublic.

  2. Man. If there’s one X-Men story I have mixed opinions about, it’s Fatal Attractions. For those introduced to the X-Men reading those ’90s issues, it seemed at the time like the definitive version of the character, an amalgamation of the cruel Magneto of the Lee/Kirby/Thomas era with the complexities of Claremont’s version. Having read significantly more of Chris Claremont’s run since those days, however, I now see that it’s not a smooth union by any means. Magneto in Fatal Attractions was such a stark contrast from Claremont’s, and in many ways highly out of character. Nicieza and Lobdell mostly had the voice down, but Magneto’s actions and personality were very far removed from the one Claremont had spent years developing. Morrison at least gave a reason for his version of “mad Magneto”– mental control at the hands of Sublime– but Lobdell and Nicieza treated their maniacal take on Magneto as if that’s how the character should be. At least Claremont sort of gave them an “out” in X-Men #1-3 by suggesting that Magneto’s powers can affect his judgment sometimes…

    On the bright side, I agree that Lobdell– and I’d say Fabian Nicieza, too– really gave Xavier a chance to shine as a character. Lobdell was asked in the book “Comics Creators on X-Men” who his favorite X-Man was and he actually said Professor X, which warms my heart.

    • Professor X really is underserved, isn’t he? I think Mark Millar might be the best Professor X writer in comic books, which informed Matthew Vaughn and Jane Goldman as the best Professor X writers ever on First Class. I really think First Class is the best Professor X story ever written.

      • I definitely rank it among one of the top Professor X stories out there. It was a really clever move on Vaughan and Goldman’s part to start him off as such a different person and show his transformation to the Professor X we know (or take a few steps closer, anyway).

        It’s been a while since I’ve read Millar’s take on Professor X in the Ultimate books, but I remember he put a lot of emphasis on him: that issue where Charles almost disbands the team (but is convinced otherwise by a surprising source) was one of the highlights of that run.

        I think a lot of writers don’t always see Charles’ potential. Claremont thought the X-Men were meant to outgrow him (at least that’s how he felt during his first run), but writers like Lobdell, Millar and Morrison realized there’s more you can do with him. I miss his presence quite a bit, which is why the developments in the new Astonishing X-Men series give me hope.

      • Yeah, I think Charles gets the short shrift by virtue of being both overpowered and the grown-up in the room. It can be very hard to turn any adult in a teen-centric franchise into a compelling character. (Giles from Buffy might be the huge exception here.)

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