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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 by Jim Lee and Chris Claremont (and Whilce Portacio) Omnibus, Vol. 2 (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.

Gotta say this for the man — he knows how to make an exit.

– Archangel, X-Men #3 (Claremont’s last issue)

And so, this is the end. The end of Claremont’s quite simply epic run on the X-Men books. It’s amazing to look back on the writer’s output today, and simply try to consider the size of his contribution to the franchise. While he departed the books as they were at the height of their appeal (X-Men #1 famously being the best-selling comic book of all time), it’s hard to argue that X-Men ever would have reached that height without Claremont’s vision and style. While the writer undoubtedly had his weaknesses, I think his contributions to the medium are rather undervalued. While writers like Alan Moore and Frank Miller reinvented comic books, I think that Claremont was an expert at incorporating those radical changes into his work, and a writer who managed to secure the support of his fans by giving the X-Men a sense of pop culture resonance that a lot of subsequent writers tried and failed to capture.

Through X-tremes…

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X-Men: Inferno (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.

I don’t like Inferno. There, I said it. There have been dry patches in Claremont’s Uncanny X-Men run before, and some would argue that his work following Inferno would be quite esoteric, but Inferno has always represented, to me at least, the creative low-point of Claremont’s Uncanny X-Men run. That doesn’t mean that I can’t appreciate it for what it is, or acknowledge the care with which the writer crafted it, but it is just too much of a big random mess to really enjoy it. It’s a disjointed crossover that resolves the long-running Madelyne Pryor mystery that Claremont had been weaving through the book, but also features demons and goblins for some reason. It’s just a great big mess.

There’s a Storm comin’…

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Fall of the Mutants: Uncanny X-Men (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.

Part of me does feel a little bit sorry for Chris Claremont. After all, his Uncanny X-Men run was trapped in a perpetual second act. He hadn’t introduced the franchise, inheriting it from a bunch of other writers and artists, and he couldn’t resolve it either. So, as a writer, Claremont was charged with keeping readers interested in an on-going narrative that spanned well over a decade. Occasionally, the writer would try to keep things fresh, and Fall of the Mutants represents just such an attempt. Trying to transition his team from one status quo to another, you have to give the writer credit for pitting the team against an enemy who is (effectively) God, even if it does make this chapter in his on-going saga the equivalent of Star Trek V: The Final Frontier.

United we fall…

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Fall of the Mutants: X-Factor (Review/Retrospective)

I’ll freely concede that I’m generally wary of Louise Simonson’s X-Factor. Her contributions to the Mutant Massacre were the weakest part of the crossover, and she didn’t exactly make Inferno an exceptionally readable event. While I can understand why some fans are fond of her writing, I’ve found the X-Factor I’ve read to generally be an awkward and heavy-handed attempt to emulate Chris Claremont’s patented soap opera stylings.

However, I will concede when I’m impressed, and Simonson has more than impressed me here. While I respect Claremont’s Uncanny X-Men tie-in to Fall of the Mutants more than I enjoy it, Simonson’s X-Factor feels like a much stronger offering, feeling like the book is really firing on all cylinders. Fall of the Mutants allows Simonson to bring all manner of plotlines to a head, tying together years of build-up into a fascinating, exciting and compelling pay-off. I have no qualms in suggesting that Simonson’s X-Factor is the highlight of this gigantic collection.

A wing and a prayer…

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Acts of Vengeance: Fantastic Four vs. Congress (Review/Retrospective)

April (and a little bit of May) are “Avengers month” at the m0vie blog. In anticipation of Joss Whedon’s superhero epic, we’ll have a variety of articles and reviews published looking at various aspects of “Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.”

In celebration of the release of The Avengers, this weekend we’re taking a look at the massive 1989-90 crossover “Acts of Vengeance”, which pitted various villains against some unlikely heroes. I’ll be looking at some of the most fun match-ups. This arc is collected in the companion omnibus.

The more I read of Acts of Vengeance and its related crossovers, the more I think that the collections work best as a slice of Marvel, capturing a couple of issues from a vast array of creative teams working on a huge number of titles, to give a sampling of Marvel’s output at the time. Walt Simonson’s Fantastic Four is very highly regarded by quite a few fans of the comic book series. While it arguably hasn’t become as popular as John Byrne’s Fantastic Four or even Mark Waid’s Fantastic Four, I have to admit that I’m delighted to be able to sample three issues collected in a nice oversized hardcover. Simonson seems to gently (or not-so-gently) mock the premise of the event itself, but his three issue story arc here is fascinating and decades ahead of its time.

No, Ben, we ain’t…

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Acts of Vengeance: X-Factor – Apocalypse vs. Loki (Review/Retrospective)

April (and a little bit of May) are “Avengers month” at the m0vie blog. In anticipation of Joss Whedon’s superhero epic, we’ll have a variety of articles and reviews published looking at various aspects of “Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.”

In celebration of the release of The Avengers, this weekend we’re taking a look at the massive 1989-90 crossover “Acts of Vengeance”, which pitted various villains against some unlikely heroes. I’ll be looking at some of the most fun match-ups. This arc is collected in the companion omnibus.

It is very clear, reading some of the issues connected to John Byrne’s Acts of Vengeance, that some writers weren’t entirely on board with the crossover. After all, it was a giant line-wide event that existed purely to pit heroes against villains who traditionally faced other heroes – there was no more rhyme or reason than that. In many cases, that meant derailing whatever was happening in the book at the time, or even reversing or setting back characterisation. Magneto, in particular, found himself reverted back to little more than a villain. While a lot of books were implicitly critical of the event, Louise Simonson’s X-Factor seems particularly bothered by the intrusion, to the point that the only real tie-in to Acts of Vengeance sees the big villain Apocalypse effectively booting Loki out of his book.

I’m not sure Loki’s enthusiasm will crossover quite well…

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