I’ve been reading comics for a very, very long time, ever since 1974. The first comic I ever read was Uncanny X-Men #87, back in April 1974. It was a reprint of issue #38 and the X-Men weren’t doing well. All of the issues from #67-93 were reprints and it wasn’t until the title was rebooted with Giant Sized X-Men #1 and issue #94 of the monthly that the X-Men that we all know and love came into being.
That was a very long time ago and this year, the X-Men are 50 years old. To celebrate the classic run, Marvel is putting out a double-sized one-shot anthology called X-Men Gold. Let’s take a look at it, shall we?
There are five stories, each examining a somewhat different view of the early X-Men. We start off with Chris Claremont, easily one of the most influential creators in the history of the X-Men, with a story that falls around the time of X-Men #174. Coincidentally, it comes close on the heels of the Japan storyline that was vaguely the plot of last summer’s The Wolverine movie, but as I’ve said in the past, this era has a lot of meaning and fond memories for me. Unfortunately, this story just was not as well done as I remember the old stories being. While I suppose it’s supposed to be nostalgic, I just get “bad writing” out of it. Seriously, anyone who has ever read the X-Men, and this is clearly meant for those who are familiar with the characters, doesn’t need to know any of the exposition. It’s especially absurd when Rogue, wearing her full-body suit, gets upset that Kitty Pryde is going to touch her with ungloved hands and then they spend several pages explaining Rogue’s powers. Why? Makes no sense, it just wastes time. Even the old comics weren’t this clumsy and Claremont has had 40 years to figure out how to do it better. Maybe he’s just senile because this isn’t anything that the old master would do.
The second story comes from the minds of Stan Lee, Louise Simonson and Walt Simonson, who produce a five-page short that, while pointless and somewhat absurd, is at least cute. All of the male X-Men are having a race to the Danger Room because Jean Grey promised to date whoever got there first. Walt Simonson’s art is excellent as always and the writing is fun, but beyond that there’s really not much there.
The third comes from Roy Thomas and Pat Olliffe, showing another 5-page story, this time about Banshee and Sunfire meeting up in Nashville, Georgia and fighting because they think each of them belong to their hated nemeses, the X-Men. When they realize they have nothing to fight about, they revel in their common love for Elvis Presley. Yeah, it’s as dumb as it sounds, honestly it sounded like they were on a date and might end up in bed together. The art is pretty inconsistent, but given what Olliffe is given to work with, he probably couldn’t have done better.
Fourth, we get Len Wein and Jorge Molina doing a story called “Options” in which Wolverine, in the middle of the events from Giant Sized X-Men #1, considered how he would take out all of his fellow X-Men, should he need to. In doing so, he sounded a lot more like Batman than Wolverine and frankly, Wolverine never struck me as the planning sort back in the day, he was a feral animal, not a thoughtful planner. Still, it was well done, at least as much as anything else in this comic.
Last comes Fabian Nicieza and Salvador Larroca’s “Dreams Brighten”, an odd duck in the batch. It depicts a “bright future” where Professor X and Magneto have worked together to save the world, only to have Professor X murder his companions in the end because, for some reason, the world is better off without mutants. Um, yeah, that’s a good story to tell in a 50th anniversary retrospective on a comic that made mutants popular.
I was really hoping to like this comic. I love the X-Men of old, certainly a lot more than I like some of their modern incarnations, but nothing in this comic made me look back with nostalgia or made me remember the good times. If a new fan to the X-Men took a look at this, I can see them quietly putting the regular X-Men comics back on the shelf, or replacing the trade paperbacks of the 1980s issues and walking away. This is not how those comics were, this is horrible. I think most of the people involved ought to be rightfully ashamed of what they’ve done to the memories and traditions of the Uncanny X-Men. Those were better days and they deserve respect, not the cheesy Claremont take-off or the out-of-the-closet story by Thomas.
Now excuse me, I think I’m going to go back and read some of those original 1980s stories and see if they’re still as awesome as I remember them being.
And yes, for those wondering, they are.