Everyone has opinions, and I’m no exception. However, every once in awhile I feel like maybe I was unfair to something and give it another shot. Sometimes my opinion is strengthened (sorry, but pacific rim was such hot garbage I literally cannot comprehend how people liked it), other times I realize my original opinion was misinformed by old biases (Cowboy Bebop is good, ok. There I said it)
I read through X-Men 1 through the 80s twice before and both times I found the original reading of Stan Lee to be... just...unbearably stupid. I still can’t help but feel maybe I was unfair to him, my complaints are that 1. He can’t tell a story well. 2. His characters are uninteresting buffoons. 3. He isn’t Claremont. Now. Here’s the thing. I was a lot more of a fan of “EDGY COMICS” back when I read them a decade ago. I would knowingly grin when I came upon Logan with his “these aint your daddy’s comics” ads.
So was I unfair to Stan the man? I’ll try to keep an open mind and recap the major plot points as I go. For fun I’ll include some trivia and color where it seems appropriate. Let’s dive right in:
The X-Men are training, Magneto attacks, they manage to stop his attack and scare him off, but you can tell they really suck. The most helpful one of the group is deus ex Xavier. Marvel girl, aka Jean Grey joins the group shortly after.
Fun fact*: Professor X was originally ALSO in love with Jean Grey.
*not actually fun, rather, very creepy.
This thankfully never went anywhere. Although, as shown above, EVERY SINGLE GUY HAS SEVERAL MONOLOGUES WHERE THEY TALK ABOUT HOW HOT JEAN GREY IS.
The X-Men have several more fights where they basically meander around running into each other and acting like buffoons before professor X shows up and fixes the problem. Notable enemies include the likes of Magneto again, The Blob (twice), and....*checks notes and looks up* do I really have to mention this guy? Ugh OK...
The Vanisher. Hooray for the Vanisher. Like try to envision what this costume looks like if you were to see it in real life. WTF is going on here.
Fresh off defeating the League of Evil Mutants or whatever dumb nom de guerre they adopted, Professor X washes his hands of the X-Men to go on a secret mission to investigate a NEFARIOUS plot. The brotherhood of evil mutants are notable in that they introduce Quicksilver and Wanda. These two put Jaime and Cersei to shame. Seriously. I was trying to screenshot something but it was taking too much time so I went to google and boy howdy, do NOT image search quicksilver and scarlet witch unless you too love being bombarded by ...NSFW artwork.
Professor X is off investigating a threat by a dude known as Lucifer. Lucifer’s whole backstory is that he is the one who took Charles’ legs from him, metaphorically speaking. That’s basically it. He has no powers? He doesn’t use them at any rate. His whole shtick is a deadman’s switch to a nuke that would decimate half of Europe or something. This INGENIOUS plan somehow warrants the Avengers to show up as well. This sets up an Avengers vs. X-Men fight where the X-Men get their asses handed to them. Lucifer is defeated because professor X stuns him and then cyclops blasts the ignition fuse or something. *shrug* This was a pretty stupid set up and delivery. X lets Lucifer go because....reasons.
The X-Men go to the Forgotten Land after the news reports a saber tooth tiger in Antarctica. That’s about all there is to say about this one. It happens. No Sauron yet, just kind of a quick side jaunt to and from.
Cerebro is going nuts and prof X knows why! It’s Kain Marko his evil step brother. Kain’s dad and Charles’ dad worked together until Charles’ dad died and his mom remarried Kain’s dad. Kain is a jackass who is jealous of Charles’ trophies. Kain’s dad saves Charles and Kain from a house fire and admits that he probably could have saved Charles’ dad but his mom was a MILF and there was money involved. Then he dies. Kain and Charles’ enlist. Kain goes M.I.A. into a cave during some shelling and oh hey it’s a mystical magical cave of CYTORRAK! He effectively dies here after grabbing a ruby and is reborn as JUGGERNAUT. Juggernaut is one of the more interesting characters and backstories so far. Eventually the XMEN stop him by removing his ANTI CHARLES XAVIER BRAND MAGICAL HELMET and letting Charles do his thing. Although it’s never really indicated what exactly happens to him, now that I think of it.
Since every X-Man (not jean grey) gets wrecked, they decide to go on vacation. They are so jubilant that I had to share how …….1960s these guys were. WOWEE indeed. Even dour Cyclops is excited! Look at how happy that lil guy is!
Anyway of course this is when the Bolivar Trask is like hey mutants are like weapons, y’know? I made some robits that can kill mutants and so Xavier debates him on live TV and basically is like peace and tolerance and the world responds with:
So good to see some things never change. Vacation plans are ruined, and now everyone has to go get captured by the robots which decide the best way to help humanity is to subjugate it. Trask is also kidnapped so that he can make MORE robits for master mold (the hive mind of the sentinels). The X-Men escape and go to rescue Trask when he realizes what a horrible idea prejudice is and explodes the whole place taking master mold with him.
- Probably first and foremost the biggest hurdle is just how ...dated these are. The guys hang out in beatnik poetry cafes in Greenwich village.
- Bolivar Trask is the first person in 15 issues that is a person of color as far as I can remember. It’s kind of funny that a comic where the key tenants are inclusivity of mutants, has a token woman and 5 horny white dudes.
- That said, Jean Grey is well written. She’s not a damsel in distress and is usually the one saving everyone else’s ass from falling 30000 feet or getting hit with debris/shrapnel.
- In the beginning of nearly every issue for the first half I’d say, they have a page or two devoted to the kids training. I’m torn on this as it’s not particularly exciting but....
- The greatest STRENGTH so far has been watching the X-Men grow from people who had a real hard time subduing THE VANISHER (yeah they had to call in backup professor X again) to people who were able to come up with a decent plan to take down Juggernaut. There’s a real sense of progression to how they use their powers. For example Jean Grey wasn’t able to fly initially. It wasn’t until the most recent issue that she gained the ability to levitate herself for short distances.
- The love story crap is bad. Constant longing looks between Scott and Jean.
- Also so far Scott Summers has let the cat out of the bag that he’s cyclops TWICE. How this isn’t a bigger thing in the comic or why it was included (once he was in a taxi and just took a turn too quickly and blew the ceiling off the thing and then fled the scene. Another time he was stopped by COPS. he cut their guns in half on accident. like...….dude.....
- https://www.deviantart.com/zano This guy does great art of the X Men
I don’t know if I’ve been too unkind to Stan Lee. His stories are incredibly creative but honestly the characters are really weak. There’s rarely any compelling reason for the villains to be doing what they’re doing. Magneto is a charicature of a bad guy just twirling his mustache and going “I WILL RULE THE HUMANS” like there’s no backstory yet to make me go, oh hey that makes sense that he’d feel that way. Juggernaut is the one exception to this and probably why so far his arc has been the most fun to read. Also again, the language is awfully dated and really makes it a struggle to read. The art is rudimentary usually with some panels being about 90% text dumps and small amounts of art. Maybe as we move from 1 off stories to longer arcs these problems will clear up some.
Also those costumes are ugly as hell I think even for the 60s they could have done something better than like...blue balaklavas with yellow accent underwear.
I think I’m definitely enjoying them MORE than I did in the past but then I don’t know if I’d end up saying they’re worth reading.
See you in 5-10 issues!