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X-Men: The End – Book Two: Heroes and Martyrs (Review/Retrospective)

This May, to celebrate the release of X-Men: Days of Future Past, we’re taking a look at some classic and modern X-Men (and X-Men-related) comics. Check back daily for the latest review.

To describe Chris Claremont’s three six-part miniseries that comprise X-Men: The End as “convoluted” is to miss the point. Of course they are convoluted. Claremont is essentially writing a gigantic epilogue to his work on Uncanny X-Men. He is tidying away decades of continuity and offering a sense of closure to his work on these characters and their world. Claremont is an exceptional storyteller when it comes to long-form serialised storytelling.

As a writer, Claremont tends to layer interesting twists on top of interesting twists, with every resolution opening up more avenues for future stories to explore. He has demonstrated an ability to string along plots for decades, revisiting characters and situations years after most readers had forgotten about them. These are the qualities that make his Uncanny X-Men run so deeply fascinating, but they are also the qualities that make him a bit of an awkward fit for a concept like The End, an epic miniseries built around the idea of wrapping up the entire X-Men mythos.

Some things never go into fashion...

Some things never go into fashion…

However, what is so fascinating about X-Men: The End is that all of the elements that Claremont uses are the same elements that he has been playing with since he took over Uncanny X-Men. The story beats have a familiar pattern to them, the themes are familiar, the characters speak as they did in the years that Claremont wrote them. What is fascinating about X-Men: The End is the way that it serves to really set Claremont’s take on the X-Men in stone, treating the elements associated with Claremont as a truly inexorable part of the comic’s mythology.

X-Men: The End is very much a Chris Claremont comic, through-and-through. That’s what makes it feel like such a perfect fit.

A wing and a prayer...

A wing and a prayer…

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X-Men – Days of Future Past (Review/Retrospective)

This May, to celebrate the release of X-Men: Days of Future Past, we’re taking a look at some classic and modern X-Men (and X-Men-related) comics. Check back daily for the latest review.

What’s striking about Days of Future Past is how incredibly short it is.

That’s not to suggest that the comic “feels” small or has a shortage of ideas or anything like that. In Days of Future Past, writer Chris Claremont and artist John Byrne toss out a whole host of ideas that shape and define the entire X-Men mythos. These issues continue to inspire the X-Men comic book line. Without Days of Future Past, there would be no Age of Apocalypse. The franchise’s fiftieth anniversary “event”Battle of the Atom – is essentially a gigantic tribute to Days of Future Past.

Everything burns...

Everything burns…

In fact, the influence of this story extends beyond the X-Men as a comic book franchise. “Bad alternate future” may be a trope favoured by the X-Men comics, but it’s a staple of the genre and – arguably – the medium. There’s a reason that the iconic cover to the first issue of this story arc has been emulated so often, or that Alan Moore planned to riff on the story’s central idea for his proposed Twilight of the Superheroes. Days of Future Past is just a great story hook.

However, reading it today, it’s striking how short it is. All of this come from two issues.

The poster child for this sort of story...

The poster child for this sort of story…

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Kitty Pryde and Wolverine (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.

Chris Claremont didn’t invent Wolverine, but he defined him. Long before Wolverine was appearing in multiple team books and multiple solo series, the short and hairy Canadian was developed within Claremont’s Uncanny X-Men. When the time came to develop the character beyond that, it was Claremont that handled the four-issue Wolverine series, and it was Claremont who handled this six-issue Kitty Pryde & Wolverine miniseries. The market had yet to reach Wolverine saturation. However, Kitty Pryde & Wolverine is remarkable as a spiritual extension of Claremont’s Uncanny X-Men run. Without the influence of Frank Miller, this six-issue collection feels more distinctly like a microcosm of Claremont’s extended work on the franchise, bringing into focus his strong character work, his pulpy sense of storytelling and, occasionally, his excessively purple prose.

Stayin’ sharp…

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X-Men: Inferno – Excalibur (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.

This weekend, we’re taking a look at one or two of the smaller Inferno crossovers. These issues are collected in the crossovers companion book.

It’s actually quite impressive to think of the mythology-building that Chris Claremont was responsible during his incredible run on Uncanny X-Men. The X-Men had, of course, been confined to reprints for years before Len Wein revived the concept in Giant-Sized X-Men #1, but Claremont guided Marvel’s merry mutants to the heights of success. I think it’s entirely appropriate that the first issue in his last arc, X-Men #1, remains the biggest-selling comic book of all time – cementing Claremont’s impact.

Even though many people would argue the X-Men only really exploded during the speculation bubble of the nineties, it’s remarkable just how much Claremont and his collaborators were expanding the line. By the end of the eighties, Uncanny X-Men had accumulated several satellite books. Of those, Claremont had the pleasure of working with renowned artist Bill Sienkiewicz on New Mutants, while Excalibur paired the scribe with Alan Davis, one of the most respected artists in the business.

What possessed them to come to New York?

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Pottering Away: Reflections on the Harry Potter franchise…

It’s quite strange, considering a movie series as opposed to its independent constituent elements. It seems like in taking in the broad tapestry of adventure allows the viewer a completely different appreciation for the story being told, especially when measured against considering each individual film on its own terms. With the Harry Potter series finally ending, I had an excuse to go back and dig through the old DVDs, watching each and every instalment in the series as a means of saying one final goodbye. However, despite the fact that some of the films may have been less impressive than others, or the fact that the plots didn’t always flow consistently from one film to the next, I still think that the eight films taken in their totality represent a rather wonderful accomplishment for all involved.

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Matt Fraction’s Run on Uncanny X-Men – Nation X (Review/Retrospective)

I am doing a weekly look at Marvel’s complicated crossover chronology, following various key crossovers to see if they might give me a better idea of what I’m missing by avoiding mainstream comic book continuity. While – with The Avengers due for release in 2012 – I am focusing on the stories told featuring those characters over the past five years, I also have time for the X-Men. While this isn’t strictly speaking a crossover, it is a series of issues which connect Utopia to Second Coming, so I figured it was worth a look.

Utopia ended with a heck of a plot twist. Cyclops decided that his merry band of mutants have had enough of being looked down upon in New York and , more recently, San Francisco, so he decides to build himself an island from the remains of Magneto’s “Asteroid M” just off the San Francisco Bay. Announcing the new nation of “Utopia”, he declares the island a haven for mutants. Nation X provides a hardcover collection of the issues from Matt Fraction’s Uncanny X-Men which bridge the gap between Utopia and Second Coming, as well as the four-issue Nation X anthology miniseries. And, while it’s a decidedly uneven reading experience, I have to admit that some of Fraction’s portrayal of the mutant team is a little bit interesting – even if most is slightly boring and deeply convoluted.

Magneto has a magnetic personality...

Note: This collection opens with Dark Reign tie-in X-Men: The List written by Matt Fraction and following an attempted assassination attempt on Namor by Norman Osborn. Accordingly, I think I should open this review with a link to Abhay’s quite excellent article on the issue, which – among some more serious points – suggests that Namor is starring in his own private version of You Don’t Mess With The Zohan. Seriously, check it out.

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