X-Men

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Thad
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Re: X-Men

Postby Thad » Mon Nov 15, 2021 1:07 am

"Proteus" kicks off with a series of flashbacks about Xavier's relationship with Moira. At first it's stuff we haven't seen before -- he proposes, goes to war, she returns his ring -- but then it starts showing clips from previous episodes. Eventually we see the scene with Xavier arriving at Muir Island from The Phoenix Saga, but before that we see the clip of Xavier's breakup with...Amelia Voght.

I'm kinda morbidly curious what the fuck that's doing in there. I think they were just padding out the runtime with any old footage they could find that was tangentially related -- like, in part 2 they reuse the clip of Rogue's father kicking her out of the house, to illustrate that she knows what it's like to be rejected by your father because you're a mutant. So based on that theory, I think maybe they just threw the Voght scene in because "hey, that was a scene of Charles getting dumped by his girlfriend, here's another one" and if they'd had any other Xavier breakups to add to that sequence they would have; like, if Gabby Haller had been on the show they would have thrown her in there too, just because. But, on the other hand...I can't help wondering if maybe whoever put those clips together just didn't know Amelia Voght is not Moira MacTaggert?

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Re: X-Men

Postby Thad » Wed Nov 17, 2021 4:50 pm

The weird thing about watching episodes in production order is you get Bloodlines (the one where Nightcrawler and Graydon Creed find out Mystique is their mother) right after Family Ties (the one where Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch find out Magneto is their father).

Also: god damn, is Bloodlines the first time Jubilee's appeared in 21 episodes?

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Re: X-Men

Postby Büge » Wed Nov 17, 2021 10:22 pm

Thad wrote:The weird thing about watching episodes in production order is you get Bloodlines (the one where Nightcrawler and Graydon Creed find out Mystique is their mother) right after Family Ties (the one where Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch find out Magneto is their father).


Talk about your soap operas!
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Re: X-Men

Postby Thad » Thu Nov 18, 2021 3:51 pm

FYI, anybody trying to figure out what the fuck order to watch X-Men in, script order mostly works but "Weapon X, Lies, and Video Tape" definitely takes place before "Lotus and the Steel", as the latter has several flashbacks to the former.

That's mentioned on Wikipedia but the various other sites that list the episodes in script order tend to omit that information.

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Re: X-Men

Postby Thad » Tue Nov 23, 2021 4:45 pm

I have a lot of questions about Mr. Sinister disrupting Cyclops and Jean's wedding a second time.

Incidentally, Beyond Good and Evil, Part One is missing from the list of Sims's X-Men reviews, but it's still up if you search for it.

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Re: X-Men

Postby Thad » Wed Nov 24, 2021 1:15 am

Thad wrote:And frankly I don't think Cyclops has ever had a good costume.

I take it back. 1980s, Walter Simonson, X-Factor.
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And here's another take on that second version, by Mike Mignola.
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I like the blue-and-white. I think a big problem with the original blue-and-gold design is that the yellow's just too loud -- there have been good versions of the original blue-and-yellow X-Men uniform, but the original 4-color process made for a really bright blue and a really bright yellow and I feel like it was just too much. Substituting white for yellow was a good call that toned it down some, while leaving his visor yellow so it draws the eye, because as always the visor is the most interesting thing about the costume. (As it should be, because it doesn't just call attention to his power, it calls attention to his lack of control over it, which is the key to Cyclops as a character.)

The other big problem with Cyclops's uniform is that it's a hell of a lot of blue and needs something to break it up. In the '70s he just had the yellow trunks, gloves, and boots and blue everything else

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and that feels like too much solid blue to me.

In the '90s, Jim Lee gave him that goofy asymmetrical pouch-bandolier look, which at least broke up all the blue but is just so damn '90s.

I think Jackson Guice had the right idea with the yellow "X" across his chest

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but Simonson perfected it by muting the palette a bit. I don't love the stripe across the middle of his mask in Simonson's version, but aside from that the blue-and-white look really strikes a good balance. It's not too simple and it's not too busy.

(It occurs to me that the Cyclops toy I had when I was a kid had the Simonson costume
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but I don't think that's influencing my judgement here because I don't think it looks that good as a toy.)

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Re: X-Men

Postby Büge » Wed Nov 24, 2021 10:02 am

Thad wrote:Image

And here's another take on that second version, by Mike Mignola.
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Damn. Was there ever a bad Mignola cover?

Also, who's the purple pistol man? I feel like I know his name. Wasn't he a C-tier Captain America villain or something?
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Re: X-Men

Postby mharr » Wed Nov 24, 2021 10:04 am

That would be Paladin. Mercenary antagonist/ally hailing from Daredevil.

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Re: X-Men

Postby Thad » Wed Nov 24, 2021 12:15 pm

Yeah, here's the full wraparound cover.

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Re: X-Men

Postby Thad » Wed Nov 24, 2021 4:47 pm

Man, "Beyond Good and Evil" is overstuffed. It makes more sense knowing it was intended to be the series finale; that explains why they decided to kitchen-sink this sucker.

I'm only halfway through and we've already got (deep breath) Cable, Cable Junior, Apocalypse, Bishop, Shard, Forge, Mr. Sinister and the Nasty Boys, Lilandra, Gladiator, Deathbird, Archangel, Mystique, Sabretooth, Magneto, and the first appearance of Psylocke (not counting her cameo in "Mojovision").

Also, both Wolverine and Archangel describe Psylocke as having black hair. That's weird, right? Did the writers not know what Psylocke looks like?

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Re: X-Men

Postby Mongrel » Wed Nov 24, 2021 5:03 pm

Thad wrote:Yeah, here's the full wraparound cover.

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Disappointed it's not "PALADIN Pals Around!" :V
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Re: X-Men

Postby Büge » Thu Nov 25, 2021 9:21 pm

mharr wrote:That would be Paladin. Mercenary antagonist/ally hailing from Daredevil.


Thank you! I knew it was a character who'd been a member of the Thunderbolts, but I didn't have time to go digging through the team's history because I had to get ready for work.
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Re: X-Men

Postby Thad » Sat Nov 27, 2021 1:41 pm

I...guess I vaguely remember that.

It's kinda nice that Thunderbolts has had a long enough run for me to start to forget, like, half of the ones I've read.

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Re: X-Men

Postby Thad » Mon Nov 29, 2021 5:07 pm

Welp, season 4 done and dusted.

Beyond Good and Evil would have made a fitting end to the series, insofar as it's pretty much just a big box of Toy Biz figures smashing into each other for four episodes.

And it does a pretty good job of hitting all the '90s X-Men plot beats -- about the only way to get more '90s than "Magneto teams up with Cable and Bishop to fight Apocalypse and Mr. Sinister" would be if Stryfe were to show up.

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...oh, there he is.

And then the annoying Robin Williams guy who's been taunting Bishop for the last four episodes turns out to be Immortus, in the finest X-Men cartoon spirit of throwing in a random cameo and not bothering to explain it. Xavier can apparently walk now (no explanation) and...okay, I know this was intended to be the finale when it was written, but had the surprise season 5 pickup happened by the time it was completed? Because otherwise, ending it on Cable in his time ship announcing he's going home to see his son is fucking weird. Like, I'm no TV writer, but it seems like your final scene should include at least one of the main characters from the show.

Anyway! Season 4 had a couple of good moments (the fight with Proteus is a real highlight) but I think it's fair to say it's the worst season yet, overall. Definite sense of diminishing returns.

I saw at least two episodes of season 5 (The Phalanx Covenant) during the original run, but I don't know if I've seen any more than that. I know it's best remembered for the animation quality taking a nosedive -- which is really saying something, because (with a couple of exceptions) seasons 3 and 4 already looked really bad.

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Re: X-Men

Postby Thad » Mon Nov 29, 2021 5:21 pm

Sims wrote:But why? Why gather up all these psychics, including both a clone of Cable and an alternate future daughter of Cyclops and Jean? Well, it turns out that he needs their psychic powers in order to erase all of time so that he can recreate the universe and organize everything neatly to reflect his obsession with the survival of the fittest. Which, not to get too Cosmos in here, is kind of how the universe is actually organized already, but, y'know, whatever. He's a giant blue dude who turns his hand into guns sometimes. I don't really expect him to make sense.

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Re: X-Men

Postby Thad » Tue Nov 30, 2021 5:12 pm

I think the reason the animated Phalanx Covenant sticks in my memory is that the comic version was my first big superhero crossover. I'd picked up Fatal Attractions the year before, but that was just 4 books, 3 of which were my regular pickups anyway; Phalanx Covenant was the entire fucking X-line (Uncanny X-Men, adjectiveless X-Men, Wolverine, X-Factor, X-Force, Excalibur, and Cable) and I got the whole ridiculous thing. It was perhaps the first step on my path toward fucking hating giant superhero crossovers.

Like a lot of the series' adaptations of stories from the comics, it's a really loose adaptation. The Phalanx look more like the original Sinkiewicz design for Warlock than the busy '90s designs with all the wires and spikes and shit, and in the cartoon they're an alien race rather than humans who have infected themselves with an alien virus (except Cameron Hodge, who's just kinda there; I haven't re-watched part 2 yet so I'm not sure if they bother explaining what his deal is or if it's just another example of the series' trademark "let's just put it in there and not bother explaining it" approach to X-Men continuity). The comic arc also primarily served as a lead-in to the Generation X spinoff series; to the best of my knowledge, the cartoon version is not a lead-in to the Generation X TV pilot, though I've never actually seen the damn thing so for all I know it could have been. I don't remember Jubilee turning into a white lady in part 2, but I haven't seen it in awhile.

The animation's inconsistent in this one; there are actually some bits that look really good, like Wolverine's encounter with Sabretooth, but there are bits that don't look so good, like Mr. Sinister's face repeatedly changing shape. And it's got that problem that I've seen in a lot of the later-produced episodes where the colors are all washed-out. Still haven't hit the redesigns yet, which makes sense since I don't remember ever actually seeing them but I do remember seeing this two-parter. But man, it's fucking weird that they redesigned all the characters for just...how many episodes? 8, tops? With the idea that that was somehow going to save them money?

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Re: X-Men

Postby Thad » Tue Nov 30, 2021 5:28 pm

Sims wrote:Since local law enforcement seems to be at a loss, the X-Men, represented by Beast and Jubilee, have shown up to see what they can do about the situation by knocking him out from the air with tranquilizer gas. Jubilee, whose secondary mutation includes the uncanny power of exposition, mentions that Wolverine sure would be mad if they knew they went to go fight Sabretooth without him. This, for the record, means that Jubilee has been paying closer attention to what actually happens on this cartoon than anyone else, including me.

She continues once they get Sabretooth back to the X-Mansion, nervously asking Professor X if mayyyyyybe they should tell Wolverine that someone who has literally devoted his entire life to killing him and everyone he loves will be chilling out under the same roof as he is, but Professor X assures her that it'll be fine if they don't mention it.

For those of you just joining us, Professor X is an idiot.


I'm not sure if that's my favorite part of the episode, or the part where Beast is on the phone with President Kelly and then Warlock notes that he said "both of you" even though Beast never mentioned there was someone else with him, and both of them conclude this can only mean that President Kelly has been assimilated, and not that, you know, maybe he saw Warlock standing next to Beast because they were on a fucking video call.

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Re: X-Men

Postby Thad » Wed Dec 01, 2021 4:42 pm

You know, I wasn't expecting to like Phalanx Covenant, but I kind of did. Largely due to the unconventional teamup -- Beast, Warlock, Forge, Mr. Sinister, Amelia Voght, and Magneto.

Is the last season going to be the team-up season? Like The Batman? I'd dig that.

I know there's at least one Wolverine/Captain America episode coming.

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Re: X-Men

Postby Thad » Fri Dec 03, 2021 2:29 pm

Thad wrote:(And I keep talking about how great X-Statix was; I should probably take a post to explain just what exactly it was at some point.)

Thad wrote:So eventually I'll get around to talking about X-Statix and how it's the best X-book ever.

So let's talk about X-Statix.

But first, to set the stage, let's talk about X-Force.

X-Force wasn't just the most '90s of all the '90s X-books, it was quite possibly the most '90s anything ever. It's the book that made Rob Liefeld a superstar artist, and it looked like this.

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But the thing about the '90s is, it ended. Liefeld was long gone, and X-Force wasn't selling anymore. They tried to retool it with Warren Ellis at the helm and Liefeld's fellow Image founder Whilce Portacio on art, but that didn't take either.

So they retooled it again, or rather, put something completely different and entirely unrelated out under the same title.

X-Force #116 (cover date June 2001) looked like this.

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That '60s-retro art style, by husband-and-wife team Mike (pencils and inks) and Laura (colors) Allred, is pretty much the polar opposite of Rob Liefeld. As you may guess, this made X-Force fans very angry (and one of my favorite things about the new X-Force is that it had a letter column and they routinely printed the hate mail they got for ruining X-Force).

And in case it's not clear by looking at that cover, it wasn't just radically different from the previous iterations of X-Force, it was radically different from anything else the Big Two were publishing at the time.

A lot of people hated it. For me, it was love at first sight. Marvel promoted it heavily in the Bullpen Bulletins, with a few panels of preview art, and I thought it looked fresh and exciting. And I love Mike's work but the thing that really drew my eye was those bright, bold colors. I believe Laura Allred is the greatest living comic book colorist.

As it turns out, I had seen Mike's art before in a couple places
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but I didn't realize that until later. A big part of what makes Mike Allred's art so instantly recognizable is Laura Allred's colors; his earlier work, with other colorists, just doesn't shout "Mike Allred" quite as loudly.

One of the big surprises (at least, for those of us who hadn't already read Allred's other work like Madman), though, was that the retro art style masked a very modern sensibility. To wit, this book was shockingly violent. Like, see all those characters on that cover? All but two of them die in that first issue. And it's graphic. Here are a couple links with gory scans.

Zeitgeist
Gin Genie

And it turns out that graphic violence actually represents an important turning point in the history of American comics.

See in the upper-left of the corner, where it says "Hey kids! Look, no code!"?

Okay so let's talk about the Comics Code.

The Code was instituted in the '50s, following an era of moral panic around comics and how they were corrupting the youth of America. It was, hypothetically, voluntary, but if your comics weren't approved by the Code, nobody would sell them. It was, in part, a way to placate the angry busybodies who'd been scapegoating comics as a source of society's ills, but it was also designed to put companies like EC Comics out of business.

By 2001, the Code had relaxed a great deal, and, since the rise of the direct market in the '70s, it had been a lot easier to publish comics without Code approval. (DC had an entire line for mature-readers comics, called Vertigo, best known as the label Sandman was published under.) But every Marvel book at the time was still published under the restrictions of the Code.

Until X-Force #116.

Here's how Sean Howe tells it in Marvel Comics: The Untold Story:

[Marvel VP] Bill Jemas was the kind of guy who cared more about the New York Knicks than about Nick Fury. He was proud to slay the sacred cows of the geeky world he'd entered[...] Marvel suddenly pushed for commonsense changes that might seem blindingly obvious to anyone who wasn't entrenched in industry[.]

[...]

At the end of an all-night bender, editor Axel Alonso recruited British writer Peter Milligan for a drastically reimagined version of X-Force, the X-Men spinoff that had once been Rob Liefeld's playground. The brand-new, college-aged characters resembled nothing more than spoiled members of a professional sports team, juggling talk shows, limousine rides, and endorsement deals; the group was funded by a venture capitalist. X-Force's dim view of youth culture--there were characters based on Allen Iverson and Eminem, and a grisly execution scene involving a teenage boy band--made it the most gleefully acerbic title Marvel had published. In the first scene of Milligan's tenure, a character named Zeitgeist pauses from a menage-a-trois with two supermodels to watch the "game tape" of the graphically violent super-battle he'd fought the night before; by issue's end, all but two of the team's original members are dead. The Kirbyish primitiveness of Mike Allred's art, and the primary-color palette, only accentuated the ironic corruption of old-fashioned Marvel innocence. When the issue came back from the Comics Code with a slew of objections, Jemas shrugged. Not only did Marvel publish X-Force without the Comics Code seal, it boasted about it: "Hey Kids!" shouted one corner of the cover. "Look! No code!"

[...]

Jemas had no patience for moral watchdogs. He withdrew Marvel's membership from the Comics Code Authority, just like that, after nearly fifty years. The other dues-paying companies protested, but the feeling within Marvel was electric. Seemingly no one had questioned before why a publisher would continue to underwrite an outdated third-party entity that limited the content of its product.

[...]

"Bill was absolutely fearless in the way a man who does not understand the consequences of his actions can be," said Tom Brevoort, "and he bulldozed through obstacles that could not be moved beforehand, because he was heedless--courageous, insightful, and oblivious to the fact that things couldn't be done. That was very valuable to knocking out some of the calcification that had been built up."


(Also: bad form to mention the colors and not credit Laura Allred there, Howe.)

At any rate, that was the beginning of the end of the Code. Marvel published the issue, didn't face any major backlash for it, and just stopped submitting its books to the Code entirely. Other publishers eventually followed suit, including Bongo in 2010 and DC and Archie in 2011.

In 2012, Mike Allred said in an interview, "killing the comics code is what sticks with me the most as far as making our mark." I got to meet the Allreds at a con some years back; I handed them my copy of that issue to sign, and that was the first thing Laura had to say about it too: "Ooh, this is the one where we killed the Code."

So, all that background out of the way, what was the book actually like?

It was cynical and subversive and shocking, but it was also a hell of a lot of fun and never self-serious. Its leads were a bunch of twentysomething narcissists parodying celebrity culture -- Howe mentions the connections to sports, hip-hop, and boy bands in the passage I quoted, but omits another very-2001 influence, the rise of reality TV. The new X-Force weren't just celebrities, they were reality TV stars; everything they did was recorded. As much as anything, their lives were a performance for the cameras. They were selfish, they mostly hated each other, and they had the "live fast, die young" drive of self-destructive young adults.

As for dying young? They did. Every single one of them.

That twist ending in the first issue, where almost every character they'd just introduced ended up dying? It wasn't a one-off; it was a mission statement. New characters would join to replace old ones, and then they'd die a few issues later. It introduced, and then immediately killed off, a slew of new characters over its run. And the deaths stuck. No superhero death cheats; when somebody died, they'd stay dead. (A few of them have come back from the dead in subsequent series, but not until years after that original run ended.)

No one was safe. And when it finally started to seem like, okay, there were four characters who were safe, they went ahead and upset the apple cart and promised to kill one of them off, too.

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(And, in a sly bit of metacommentary on tokenism, a new woman and a new Black character joined the team in that same issue -- oh, we can't kill of U-Go Girl because she's the only woman on the team and we can't kill off the Anarchist because he's the only Black character? Well guess what.)

After that, the book was retitled "X-Statix" and relaunched with a new #1. It continued to push boundaries, to test the limits of how far was too far.

It turned out it was this.

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"Let's have the new leader of X-Statix be the reanimated corpse of Princess Di" was the point where Joe Quesada finally drew the line and said "No, you can't do that."

And so, a couple of hasty last-minute changes later...

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I wasn't aware of the Lady Di flap at the time. But I could feel that something was off, something had changed. The book just wasn't quite the same anymore after that. And it didn't last much longer. The Back from the Dead storyline ran from issue #13 through #18. After that was a two-part story called The Cure, then the five-part X-Statix vs. the Avengers in issues #21-#25. It feels like nothing so much as a victory lap, a "let's bring in all the big guns before it's all over." And then #26 was the final issue, and it ended the only way it could: everybody dies.

And that was it, sort of. Milligan, the Allreds, and Alonso re-teamed a couple years later for a Dead Girl miniseries that followed the cast into the afterlife (and had them encounter other dead Marvel characters like Harry Osborn and Gwen Stacy). Milligan brought Doop back during his X-Men run and he's appeared in various X-books since then, including his own All-New Doop miniseries. And there's another followup coming. In 2019, there was a one-shot called Giant-Size X-Statix that introduced a new team made up of some of the original cast resurrected (largely without explanation) and some new cast members (mostly the illegitimate children of characters from the old team -- best not to try to make sense of how that's supposed to work in Marvel Time). That one-shot announced a forthcoming series called The X-Cellent, which has been delayed quite a bit but is finally supposed to come out in February 2022.

So that's what X-Statix was, in a nutshell. It was one of those books that was a cult hit but not a bestseller, but was critically acclaimed and hugely influential. The "team of bickering, dysfunctional superheroes who kind of hate each other" approach became the norm in the years that followed, and the two biggest influences on that trend were The Authority and X-Statix. The Ultimates, The Boys, Jupiter's Legacy, the movie version of the Justice League -- even the DCAU version of the Justice League. Timm cited both the Authority and X-Statix as a couple of his favorite books at the time and a major influence, and the JL fights thinly-veiled versions of those two teams (the Justice Lords and the Ultimen). It's one of those things like Watchmen that's become something of a tired cliche through decades of imitation, but that was fresh and exciting when it was new.

It was a hell of a ride, one of the best comics of the past 20 years, and it changed comics.

And, if Giant-Size X-Statix is any indication, it looks like Milligan and the Allreds still have the power to recapture some of that magic. I'm really looking forward to The X-Cellent.

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Re: X-Men

Postby Büge » Fri Dec 03, 2021 7:59 pm

I remember when they were going to write Lady Di as a mutant. I wasn't following comics closely enough to know they'd backed off from that, though.
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