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X-Force Omnibus by Rob Liefeld & Fabian Nicieza, Vol. 1 (Review/Retrospective)

To celebrate the release of The Wolverine later in the month, we’re taking a look at some classic X-Men and Wolverine comics every Monday, Wednesday and Friday here. 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.

Rob Liefeld has become something of a polarising force in comic books. The artist was a driving force in the industry in the nineties. Along with creators like Todd McFarlane and Jim Lee, Liefeld really helped turn comic books into an artist-driven medium during that decade. (Rather pointedly, X-Force #1 credits Liefeld as responsible for “everything but…” the specific tasks dolled out to other contributors.) The artist became a celebrity in his own right. He got his own Levi commercial. He famously sketched while speeding inside a car.

Liefeld has arguably become more a symbol than a creator. His heavily involvement in the second year of DC’s “new 52” reboot really solidified the impression that former Marvel head honcho and current DC editor-in-chief Bob Harras was trying to channel the nineties comic book market. (The fact the line has been heavily emphasising contributions by Jim Lee and Greg Capullo, other nineties superstars, really underscores the notion.)

It’s hard to look at X-Force without seeing it as a hugely symbolic work. This is really one of the comics which defined the nineties – arguably even more than Jim Lee’s X-Men or The Death and Return of Superman. If you wanted a glimpse into the mindset of American mainstream comics in the nineties, X-Force is the perfect glimpse.

Welcome to the nineties!

Welcome to the nineties!

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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…

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X-Men: X-Cutioner’s Song (Review/Retrospective)

With our month looking at Avengers comics officially over, we thought it might be fun to dig into that other iconic Marvel property, the X-Men. Join us for a month of X-Men related reviews and discussion.

In a way X-Cutioner’s Song marks a fairly significant turning point in the history of the X-Men franchise. The X-Men books were in a state of turmoil. They had lost their long-term writer Chris Claremont only recently, and Jim Lee had departed to work on other projects. The central theme of the books – exploring prejudice and racism – looked to be losing steam slightly as South Africa’s apartheid regime collapsed and the country developed into a truly democratic state. It seemed like the books were struggling to cope with all these changes occurring so rapidly, and X-Cutioner’s Song reads like an attempt to assert control on the franchise – as if to assure readers that everything was okay and it was business as usual.

They're playing our song!

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