I feel like the comic book fan community has been hijacked by very negative people in recent years. Hit the various blogs and comic book news websites, and every announcement of a new development in a comic series, or a super hero movie, or a super hero children’s cartoon always seems to be met with, “God, make it stop”, “This never should have happened”, and “Crap, crap, crap”. Now I don’t believe the entire community has shifted towards talking about nothing but how much they hate everything. Hate tends to be louder than anything else.
But all of the negative noise can make it hard for new fans to find their place in the community, find the things that they enjoy. To counteract the hate, and give new fans some tips on which series to look for I’ve decided to look at the positive highlights of a company move that always seems to stir up a lot of hate and controversy: a new direction.
While rebooting has become the standard for major comic books in need of a refresher, Marvel made a bold move with their announcement of Marvel Now!, an admittedly cheesy title for a mass shift in the structures of Marvel titles. After nearly a decade of crossover epics from Secret War to Avengers Disassembled to House of M /Decimation to Marvel Civil War to World War Hulk to Secret Invasion to Dark Reign to Heroic Age to Fear Itself to Avengers vs. X-Men (for some, this series of epics were even more tiring and frustrating to read than this run on sentence), Marvel has decided to not follow in DC’s New 52 footsteps of cleaning the slate and starting over, but continuing this story of the current Marvel Universe, but with a revamp of each title. No renewed origins, no retconned details, just changes to the status quo, the themes, the directions. I can’t say I love every series, but I have to say, it’s refreshing change taking place.
For this series of installments I’m planning to give a brief overview of some Marvel Now! titles that have something good to offer fans. To comic fans already familiar with the current Marvel titles, these articles may serve as nothing more than another opinion for you to agree or disagree with. To fans new to Marvel, or unacquainted with the current titles, this is meant as an informative overview and discussion of the best of Marvel Now!, to give readers an idea of which series to look for, which titles might fit our individual tastes.
While all of these series are continuations, not reboots of previous stories and series, they are all written to function on their own starting from issue 1. For the sake of those readers that need more insight into the development of these stories, I’ve included a little information on lead up stories to check out before taking on these series
Uncanny X-Men- Volume 3:
Recipe: Take the X-Men, skin it, smoke it in Death Note, serve in a big gruesome heap on a shiny silver platter.
Some people just aren’t fans of what has happened to the X-Men recently. It’s easy to see why. Marvel seems to have made a point of focusing the company on the Avengers and the X-Men, and making some big dramatic changes regarding both. Leading into Avengers vs. X-Men we began to see a rift among the mutants, a “Schism” so to speak (wink wink). Badass Wolverine had a crisis of conscience using child mutants to fight for the crusade to preserve mutants. Scott “Cyclops” Summers, Professor X’s one time shining star pupil and overall tightwad traditional poster boy leader, got more aggressive, more militant.
While Wolverine took most of the X-Men and left to build a new school (see Wolverine and the X-Men), Cyclops held on to some key heavy hitters- Namor, king of Atlantis, Emma Frost, the former White Queen of the Hellfire Club, Magneto, the former super villain, and Magik, powerful and slightly evil sorceress, and Colossus, all-around powerhouse- to build an inner circle around himself that could not only intimidate, but back it up. Then he declared war on the rest of the world for the sake of mutants, much like Magneto before him (read Avengers vs. X-Men for that). In the aftermath of his rampage, he built his own school, not one that teaches math and English, but more of a military academy.
That is the basis of the new volume (volume 3 for reference) of Uncanny X-Men. You are following an arrogant, violent monster in Cyclops. By this point, much of the Marvel Universe sees him as a murderer, even those in his inner circle. People fear him; they fear what he will do. This man now wants to recruit children, train them to fight, and start a revolution.
Think Death Note, this prodigy finding a source of power and using it to do what he believes will make the world a better place. The issue arises from this person playing with lives to accomplishing his goal. Worse yet, he has the hubris to think he possesses the intelligence and wisdom to correctly manage and balance all of these lives. Cyclops is Light Yagami, the protagonist and antagonist of his own story. We watch Cyclops’s successes, the good he performs and the lives he saves, and yet we read with nervousness, anticipating atrocities, seemingly inevitable horrors that will take place as Cyclops builds his power.
The flavor of Uncanny X-Men is very reminiscent of Death Note. As was with Light and his followers, you’re not following villains, you’re following people that are genuinely trying to do good. They see the world turned violently against mutants, and they seek to recruit new mutants, save them from the abusive of a world that hates and fears them, and use them to lead a movement to change the attitude of the world. But they’re misguided, arrogant, desperate, and unstable both mentally and physically (once again, read Avengers Vs. X-Men). Uncanny X-Men promises to follow a long road downhill.
In addition to the X-Men cast, we get some interesting development from the recruits. We see kids with no superhero experience. Innocent, blank slates that are pulled into the chaos of Cyclops’s crusade. Each is rescued from oppression at the hands of very anti-mutant societies, and each is drafted almost against their wills into the new X-Men school. Some quickly take to the new life presented to them. Others show no interest in joining an army and fighting another man’s war, but are scared into staying, being told that the outside world will seek to kill them, and that this school is their only protection(which is only partially untrue). Keep an eye on these kids, they’re the true wild cards of this series.
Please, please, please. Read the first few issues of Uncanny X-Men volume 3. I was surprised, I thought I would hate following Cyclops and his powder keg team of a-holes. I picked up an issue by accident one day. Then I picked up another and another. This series blew me away, and it is now on my pull list. Wiki the background info if you need to, but give this series a try.
My Review: A-, for a great story, but slightly grating characters. It’s likely that you will want to punch everyone with an exclusion of a few of the kids.
Series to read before: Avengers vs. X-Men (multi-part crossover series)
Wolverine and the X-Men:
Recipe: 1 part Harry Potter +3 parts super heroes, drain most of the drama, toss together until it makes you smile.
One of the most likeable series I’ve read in my life. With comic books in general getting darker and grittier, Wolverine and the X-Men goes against the grain-in a way you wouldn’t expect with a Wolverine driven series – by choosing to take a comedic, light-hearted tone.
In the aftermath of a conflict within the X-Men, Wolverine abandoned his loyalty to Cyclops, and abandoned his commitment to a cause he no longer believed in. Following this, Wolverine recruited like-minded teammates and young student mutants, and set about getting “back on track”. For James “Wolverine” Howlett/Logan (long story behind that name) and his team this meant turning their priorities away from the violence, and towards teaching. On the grounds of the demolished “Xavier Institute for Higher Learning”, Wolverine, Beast, Iceman, Kitty Pryde, and the rest of the team built the “Jean Grey School for Higher Learning”, a school built not to train super heroes, but a school built to teach kids.
Their mission is to give the full school experience to these young mutants, of course tailoring to the specific needs of these mostly troubled teenagers. And this is where the fun begins. You’ve got real A and B list super heroes in a school built by mutants for mutants. Think of the early part of the first few Harry Potter books, when Harry was meeting new professors and peers, new environments and the new rules of the game.
That’s what the Wolverine and the X-Men experience is all about. You have a new school headed by a man who, while committed, has no experience running a school. You have a staff that’s just as troubled, however skilled and qualified they are. And what may be the most likeable part of the series are the kids: unruly, undisciplined children with super powers in a school that seems to want to fall apart every day. Every issue is a fun adventure that could entertain a child while providing a humor and commentary that an adult could appreciate.
But just like Harry Potter, the series is more than just fun and jokes. There is a struggle, both from the story of adults struggling to create a peaceful life for the children in their care, and from a bunch of kids struggling with growing up and learning how to perceive themselves in some of the most adverse conditions. Wolverine and the X-Men has it’s own villains that persistently hound the school, the new Hellfire Club. Shortly before the series began, the Hellfire Club sees a hostile takeover by a group of children, all incredibly talented but corrupted by the evil world they grew up in. They make a point of being as ruthless as possible, but being nothing but children, they provide both an additional comic relief for the series (not that it needs it), and an interesting challenge for an X-Men team that’s made it their mission both to teach boys and girls much like the member of the new Hellfire club, but to protect them from the likes of evil forces, such as the new Hellfire Club.
Closing up on their 30th issue, Wolverine and the X-Men is much further along than most of the Marvel Now! branded titles. With that said, the series doesn’t feel like something you need to enjoy while it’s current. For the most part, it functions independent of the meta of the Marvel Universe. It has its own story rather than relying on tie ins to company-wide story arcs. So as long as you can find the issues (which is easy if you’ve got a good comic shop or are willing to move into digital comics), it’s an easy and highly recommended series to jump into
My Review: A, for a solid series with consistent writing. The only marks against it come from the art, as the series switches artists a few times, to mixed results in my subjective opinion.
Possible series to read before: X-Men Schism(miniseries)
Afterword: Alright, well this turned into a pretty long article, but hopefully, I was informative! I plan to make future installments into these reviews of Marvel Now! comic titles. In the meantime, please offer up your own opinions of the titles I’ve reviewed, and recommend titles you think deserve some attention. And try making some of yours Marvel!