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-by Andrew Goletz

X-Men Rating: 3 out of 10
Uncanny Rating: 4 out of 10
Wolverine Rating: 6.5 out of 10
Hidden Years Rating: 6 out of 10

Let me start off by admitting that I've never been a big X-Men fan. There have only been two times when I've read the core books for more than 2 or 3 issues at a time. The first was during the 'Mutant Massacre' story line when I was a typical fanboy and bought just about anything Marvel or DC made and the second was during Peter David's delightful run on X-Factor.

Now is X-Men season, though, and I felt it appropriate to revisit the books and give my 2 cents. The movie is due this week and comicdom awaits to see how well the best selling comic translates on screen. More importantly, how will the general public relate to these characters? Pushing a movie like Batman or Superman is relatively easy compared to this. At least Batman and Superman are part of the general public's conscious and pop culture icons. The X-Men are relative unknowns to people outside of comics and this could make the future of comic/films.

So I bit my lip, walked into the local comic store and checked out the last 4 months worth of copies to X-Men, Uncanny X-Men, Wolverine, and X-Men: The Hidden Years. I chose to stick with the four books that audiences who enjoy the movie would most likely seek out in stores. I left on the rack, Cable, Gambit, Mutant X, X-Men Unlimited, Bishop, X-Force, X-Man and Generation X. Christ, that's a lot of X-related books! You never realize how much of a
deluge of books there are until you see an entire wall full of X-This and
X-That….But I have taken a gander at the Warren Ellis plotted X-Man and it is entirely what I would have expected from the man. More on that in another column.

What did I think after reading my 16 books? And am I prepared to face the wrath of the mutant lovin' readers after posting my reactions? Gray Haven is a free forum, so anyone who disagrees when I say these books are terrible can feel free to reply. But you have to at least let me know why you think the books aren't so bad. 'Wolverine Rocks' will not be an acceptable rebuttal.

I'll take it step by step. The two core titles are Uncanny X-Men and X-Men. Both are written by Chris Claremont who's name is most associated with the books and characters within. Lenil F. Yu (I love that name!) pencils X-Men and Adam Kubert takes on Uncanny. The art is definitely the high point for the books. I get the feeling sometimes that when a writer, or anyone for that matter, gains a certain stature, they tend to slack off and just coast. Reading the core books, it feels like Claremont is doing just that. I admit, I've never been much of an X-Fan, but reading the stories now about the Neo and this or that…it feels like they're taking concept 'a' and fitting it into slot 'b' just like the handbook says. And the amount of characters here….even split between two books, I needed to keep a pad and pen ready for my notes. When Joe-Moviegoer comes out of X-Men and goes into his local store to check out the books, I give him or her 1 or 2 issues before they scratch their heads in confusion and throw the books away, deciding the experiment is over.

Wolverine is a bit of a different story. I know a little bit more about this
character, so I almost feel like an expert here. I read the original
mini-series before the character was over-exposed. Then I read the terrific Spider-Man vs Wolverine one-shot, which I thought did an excellent job at handling both characters (and you mutie lovers need to end this delusion that Wolverine could beat Spider-Man. No way. No how) I also saw some great crossovers after he was over-exposed. There was a fantastic Wolverine/Hulk battle in the Hulk title written by Peter David and penciled by Todd McFarlane before he started collecting baseballs. So Wolverine is a cold, cocky, son of a bitch with steel claws (or adamantium, sorry fanboy) and he's the best at what he does. The movie is apparently going to reflect that, and the comic book does the same.

Again, this isn't 'Inherit the Wind', but if the purpose is to entertain a
certain demographic, than it appears to be doing so. If I was a young
teenager with repressed rage and sexual tension (come on, those claws cry phallic symbol) I'd be all over this book. Hell, just like my craving for mind numbing entertainment with The Punisher, I might ever pick it up just for a quick fun read. But unfortunately for me, comic readers, the movie going public which decides to check out the book, and hell, the entire world, Rob Liefeld is returning to plot and pencil the book. Squinty eyes, gritted teeth and ankles thinner than Wolvie's claws, Rob could stop the momentum dead in its tracks. But that's another review. For now, the book serves its purpose.

Which brings us to old glory…old Mr.Revamp himself, John Byrne and X-Men: The Hidden Years. I like the idea behind this: fill in the gap before Giant Size X-Men #1 (introduction of the new team) and the re-prints of the old series. Great idea. I was even less familiar with the history of the founding members of the team than the current ones, so I thought this was a pretty cool idea for a story. So cool, in fact, that I got the entire set, and not just the last 4 issues. I want my money back!

Byrne's art is still easy to look at and his writing isn't bad; it's just the
stories themselves. Who wants to read about the X-Men in the Savage Land for half a year? I guess the home of Ka-Zar has a certain appeal, but if it didn't work for Mark Waid, it's not going to work for Mr.Byrne. If this is where the story needed to be set in an effort to make everyone from going continuity mad, so be it. But for so long? And when the characters and readers finally escape the Savage Land, things don't get all that much better. In fairness, Byrne does his best to re-establish the main characters and what has gone before. The book may be a little more accessible to new readers picking it up, but will they be interested in continuing to read it is the read question.

Available Monthly From Marvel Comics

Available Monthly from Marvel Comics

Copyright©2000 Andrew Goletz