In 1963 the original X-Men comic
, by the now legendary [a:Stan Lee|10303|Stan Lee|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/authors/1206594565p2/10303.jpg] and [a:Jack Kirby|10299|Jack Kirby|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/authors/1206594751p2/10299.jpg], was released to mild success, not bringing in sales as big as some of Marvel's other titles, but nonetheless profiting and forming a considerable fanbase. That didn't last very long, however, and by 1969, despite numerous attempts at rejuvenation, sales plummeted drastically and X-Men
was cancelled and continued only in reprints. It wasn't necessarily that the quality of the comics fell--indeed [a:Roy Thomas|10180|Roy Thomas|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/authors/1317242199p2/10180.jpg] wrote some very memorable issues--but it was, more than anything I think, that X-Men
had failed to show readers anything new; it became stale.
In 1975 that all changed. Writer [a:Len Wein|10295|Len Wein|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/authors/1266561441p2/10295.jpg] and artist [a:Dave Cockrum|15084|Dave Cockrum|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/authors/1298866421p2/15084.jpg] released the first new X-Men story in years: Giant-Size X-Men #1
, and with it a whole new team of mutants, bringing interest, and money, back into the series. [a:Chris Claremont|15091|Chris Claremont|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/authors/1206644417p2/15091.jpg] continued the new series as writer, with Dave Cockrum as artist, and made X-Men
a bestseller for Marvel and saved what is now one of Marvel's most popular titles from near extinction. Many fans today consider the Claremont-Cockrum duo even more important than the Lee-Kirby duo which created the team, for it was Claremont and Cockrum that really made the series what it is today.
The premise of the "All New, All Different" X-Men
is an interesting one. A new team of mutants is formed by Professor Xavier and Cyclops, the only returning members, in order to save the old X-Men, who have been captured. In the 60s, with Angel, Iceman, Jean Grey, and Beast, the X-Men were an ensemble of inexperienced teenagers, whereas the "All New, All Different" X-Men are older and much more experienced.
The backgrounds of the characters are also much more varied. Thunderbird is a Native American, Colossus is from the Soviet Union, Night Crawler from Germany, Storm from Kenya, Banshee from Ireland, Sunfire from Japan, and Wolverine from Canada. This not only gives the team a more worldly feel (rather than just being an American team), but it also allows for the inherent allegorical nature of the team, which is of course racism and prejudice, to be touched on in new ways. In some ways the team itself almost represents a microcosm of the world's prejudices, or at the very least the world's differences.
Jean Grey as a character was immensely improved as well. In the 60s she was a very flat, unimportant character, arguably the weakest of the team. Here she becomes a very powerful and developed character and, as any X-Men
fan knows, one of the most important and critical characters in the comic's history. All the characters are, to say the least, incredibly memorable. This series created some classic characters of the Marvel Universe.
Claremont makes an obvious attempt at better, more serious writing here compared to the earlier X-Men
issues (instead of every sentence ending in an exclamation mark there's actually a few periods being used here!), and for the most part he succeeds impressively. There's some excellent dialogue and some well-handled dramatic moments. All the characters more or less find their own voice and personality. There's more of a sense of arc in the story, as if each issue is serving a greater narrative. Perhaps the greatest fault of 60s comic books was that each issue was essentially a contained story (with the exception of the occassional two- or three-parters), existing separate from all the other issues. Claremont corrects this, and likely changed the way comic book stories were told from then on. In these early issues we can see glimpses of future events, mysteries to be solved, and the very first seeds of what would eventually, nearly 30 issues later, become the renowned Dark Phoenix Saga
Cockrum's art deserves praise as well. Though I tend to prefer Jack Kirby over most anyone, some big improvements were made here. For one, Cyclops looks fantastic; I love the detail given to his visor and how rather than being all red, you can see the glow of each of his eyes: burning and screaming to be released. The action is handled well and the facial work interprets the emotion of the writing well. The scenes in outer space are also conveyed very well.
In the issues collected here the heroes tend to be far more memorable than the villains (there's an unfortunate lack of Magneto), and really the only foe of note here is the return of the Sentinels, whom star in a three-parter just as good as the Sentinel trilogy of the 60s. Subsequent issues fix this problem, and I look forward to reading the next volume, which features some very memorable baddies indeed.
These first issues of the new X-Men
are classics to the series and a must read for any fan. Incredibly important to not only the history of the series but to the history of all comic books as well, and still plenty enjoyable to this day. It's not the greatest comic story ever told, but it's one of the first greats.
Favorite issues: The Sentinel Trilogy (#98, 99, 100)
Best Cover Art: Deathstar Rising (#99), Greater Love Hath No X-Man (#100)
Rating: 3.25 out of 5