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X-Men: Operation Zero Tolerance (Review/Retrospective)

To celebrate the release of The Wolverine this month, we’re taking a look at some classic and modern X-Men and Wolverine comics. I’m also writing a series of reviews of the classic X-Men television show at comicbuzz every weekday, so feel free to check those out.

Operation Zero Tolerance is very much an artefact of the nineties. It’s a big bombastic X-Men romp, one that manages to hit on a lot of the key themes and ideas of the franchise (making them resonate with the public mood), while still seeming loud and simply and incredibly hollow. After all, it’s a comic about the prejudice facing a minority in the nineties, with repeated references to the Holocaust. “Zero tolerance?” Senator Robert Kelly asks towards the end of the event. “Isn’t that what the Nazis had for the Jews in the last World War?” The villain, Bastion, is presented as a “wannabe Hitler.”

Operation Zero Tolerance is, in a word, blunt. With so many of the high-profile comics of the nineties, from both Marvel and DC, “subtlety” is an alien concept. This is an X-Men comic where racial intolerance and prejudice are expressed through nothing short of attempted genocide. On the one hand, it’s very clearly the mutant prejudice idea pushed to its logical extreme. On the other hand, the notion of the United States government even passively condoning an attempted genocide feels like it robs the franchise of the social relevance which had made it so compelling and intriguing.

Still, the event’s impact is quite obvious. It’s hard not to see Operation Zero Tolerance as the driving influence on the entire X-Men franchise from House of M through to Second Coming.

Chances of survival are Slim...

Chances of survival are Slim…

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X-Men: Messiah War (Review/Retrospective)

This is the eleventh in a series of comic book reviews that will look at the direction of Marvel’s shared universe (particularly their “Avengers” franchise) over the past five or so years, as they’ve been attempting to position the property at the heart of their fictional universe. With The Avengers planned for a cinematic release in 2012, I thought I’d bring myself up to speed by taking a look at Marvel’s tangled web of continuity.

Messiah Complex is billed as the “second instalment” of the X-Men “Messiah Trilogy”, following on from Messiah Complex and leading into Second Coming. The arc essentially follows Hope, the first mutant baby born in the wake of the infamous House of M crossover and the quest by various factions to exploit her – will she be a salvation of Marvel’s erstwhile bunch of mutants, or their ultimate damnation? Messiah War essential combines the two on-going X-Men books launched in the wake of Messiah Complex, with Cable following Hope and the time-travelling X-Man as they flee those who wish the child harm and X-Force following Wolverine’s bunch of “black-ops” “darker and edgier” X-Men strike force. Of course, the only way it could get more nineties was if you threw in Deadpool, Apocalypse and Stryfe… oh, wait. They did.

Has the bar been raised?

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Robert Kirkman’s Run on Ultimate X-Men – Vol. 7-9 (Hardcover)

Ultimate X-Men is a tough title to get a read on. The fact that the run has been broken down into blocks by all manner of superstar writers means that there’s really no consistent underlying principle feeding through the eight-year life of the title. On the other hand, the fact that none of these big name writers like Mark Millar or Brian Michael Bendis could create a book living up to the series’ potential indicates that maybe there wasn’t a writer who could steward the book through its entire life cycle. Ultimate Spider-Man serves in many ways as a fulfillment of the promise of the Ultimate line, it’s almost a single, decade-long story of growth and development, the very evolution of a world of superheroes. Ultimate X-Men is very much the opposite, the constantly bending backwards over itself, jolting, starting and reversing as it seems unable to decide where exactly it’s going at any given moment. Robert Kirkman’s run is perhaps the best examples of the series’ strengths and ultimately (ha!) its weaknesses.

Somebody's been watching Terminator a bit too often...

Note: Some of Aron Coleitte’s work is covered in the Hardcover Volume 9 (with the rest of his short run spilling over into the Ultimatum Hardcover). If I can bring myself to pick up Ultimatum, I will run a review of his rather short tenure on the title. This review is only concerned with Kirkman’s run – up until the end of the Apocalypse arc.

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