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Kieron Gillen’s Run on Uncanny X-Men – Avengers vs. X-Men (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.

Kieron Gillen is one of the unsung heroes of modern superhero comics. Over the past few years, Gillen has come to the attention of readers for replacing or supplementing a-list talent on a-list books. He took over Thor after J. Michael Straczynski abruptly wrapped up his run on the Norse god, only to shuffle off the book when Matt Fraction took over. While Straczynzki’s run was collected in an omnibus, Gillen’s has yet to receive hardcover status. He wrote the wonderfully underrated Journey into Mystery as a supplement to Fraction’s Thor, which might hopefully get a deluxe reprinting at some point in the future.

He took over Uncanny X-Men following Fraction’s departure. He barely had time to establish his run on Marvel’s merry mutants before writer Jason Aaron up-ended the status quo with Schism, essentially restructuring Marvel’s X-Men line. Gillen remained on Uncanny X-Men in the wake of Schism, the title resetting to #1. However, less than a year into the run, Gillen’s Uncanny X-Men was caught up in Marvel’s high profile crossover of the year, Avengers vs. X-Men.

Explosive...

Explosive…

Gillen departed the book following Avengers vs. X-Men, in yet another reshuffle of Marvel’s X-Men line. (Brian Bendis promised to push the line in a new direction, writing both All-New X-Men and Uncanny X-Men.) Half of Gillen’s run on the relaunched Uncanny X-Men was tied into the gigantic Avengers vs. X-Men.

But don’t let that fool you. It’s really very, very good. In fact, it ranks as among the very best X-Men work since Joss Whedon and John Cassaday left Astonishing X-Men.

All fired up...

All fired up…

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Avengers vs. X-Men (Review/Retrospective)

To get ready for Iron Man 3, we’ll be taking a look at some Iron Man and Avengers stories, both modern and classic. We hope to do two or three a week throughout the month, so check back regularly for the latest update.

I’ll admit, I’ve always been broadly curious about how the Avengers and the X-Men franchises fit together. I’m not normally a massive fan of over-thinking the whole “shared universe” aspect of superhero comics. After all, how can Spider-Man continue to have it so tough when there’s a bunch of wealthy and well-loved superheroes who could vouch for him? Why wouldn’t Batman use Superman or Green Lantern for back-up all the time? It’s best not to dwell on the implication that all these comic books are unfolding at the same time, despite how fun the occasional crossover might be.

Still, I’ve always found it interesting that the X-Men books apparently share a continuity with Marvel’s publishing line. After all, the merry mutants are frequent victims of persecution and attempted genocide, the subjects of institutionalised racism and seem to spend the majority of their time as pariahs or outlaws. You’d assume that at least Captain America – the Sentinel of Liberty and all that – would probably want to take an interest in mutant affairs, or try to help them out a little.

Avengers vs. X-Men is a massive line-wide crossover between Marvel’s two largest and most iconic franchises. It is – as you might expect – mostly an excuse to throw the two sets of toys against each other, but it still has its fair share of interesting ideas. It doesn’t necessarily develop those interesting ideas in the most satisfactory direction, but it is surprisingly coherent for a twelve-issue series from five of Marvel’s highest profile writers and three of the company’s most respected artists.

Exactly what it says on the tin...

Exactly what it says on the tin…

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Looking at it Sideways: 2012, The Year of Unconventional Franchise Narratives…

By now I think we’ve all become quite familiar with the cycle of Hollywood movie franchises. I’m not inherently opposed to the concept – I think that Sturgeon’s Law applies at least as much to original and independent films as it does to big-budget franchise films. The prospect of movie sequels, reboots, prequels and remakes isn’t a new thing, after all. Hollywood has always had a tendency to emulate financially successful movies, finding a way to exploit the movie property to maximise the profit off the back of it. It’s an inherently commercial prospect, but virtually any form of mass media must be in order to be viable. However, I’ve been fascinated with how the Hollywood franchise train seems to be working this year – it seems like we’ve been getting stuff that’s a little different than the conventional reboots, sequels and remakes.

It’s a whole other universe out there…

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X-Men: Age of X (Review)

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.

Age of X is a weird little story. On the surface, it appears like an homage to the classic Age of Apocalypse storyline, an alternate universe yarn that swept through the X-Men titles back in the nineties. It odes, after all, portray a universe very different to the one that we recognise, and the one that we’re familiar with. However, on inspection, it seems like writer Mike Carey might have been attempting something just a bit bolder, a critical examination of the X-Men books, and how far they’ve moved since the nineties – an attempt to determine if the editorial policy that has reshaped their fictional world – is truly for the best.

X-over time…

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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: X-Tinction Agenda (Hardcover) (Review)

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.

X-Tinction Agenda makes for a potentially fascinating X-Men crossover, tying together Uncanny X-Men, X-Factor and New Mutants to tell a single cohesive story. It’s not a new approach – it was pioneered by The Mutant Massacre and Inferno – but it is perhaps the definitive approach to X-Men related crossovers (it’s still in use today for stories like Second Coming). It’s fascinating, because it sees the creative teams pick up on something that Claremont had introduced over thirty issues earlier, as if recognising a gem of an idea really deserved further development. That said, despite some decent writing and art, X-Tinction Agenda can’t help but feel like it wastes its potential, hitting on an absolutely fascinating premise and deftly tying the three on-going monthly comic books together, but ending up as little more than an explosive knock-down brawl.

The Wolv pack…

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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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