Sunday, August 2, 2009

Glory Days of the X-Men Part 2

X-Men Blue Team

Besides the Claremont, Wein, and Byrne era of the X-Men, there was another time when the X-Men's popularity simply overflowed. Never before did the X-Men gain such notoriety, as they appeared in a fantastic Animated series on FOX, and began appearing in not one, but two monthly titles.

X-Men #1 was one of the biggest selling X-Men issues. Released with four interconnecting covers, the issue featured Claremont and Jim Lee at their absolute best.

X-Men Gold Team

With two on-going titles, the large cast of X-Men where allowed to breath, as their ranks where broken into two segments. Uncanny X-Men featured the Gold Team, lead by Storm with Jean Grey, Colossus, Iceman, Archangel, and Bishop. In the new singular X-Men title, the seemingly more popular cast of the Blue team was lead by Cyclops, with Wolverine, Jubilee, Gambit, Rogue, Psylocke, and Beast.

It seemed like, in combination with the X-Men TV series, and the stunning success of X-Men #1, that the costumes of the X-Men where once again etched in stone. It would be many years before artists would begin changing the famous uniforms Jim Lee designed. It was a great testament to how stellar and versatile his designs where, that they lasted so long.

During this era of the X-Men, Jim Lee was putting out some of his absolutely best work. He did not stay around for long after X-Men #1, as he famously left Marvel to help found Image Comics. His short time on that book, and his many issues on Uncanny X-Men, left a definitive impact on the X-Men and comics in general. There seemed to be a sweeping clamor for artists to be put first, instead of writers - which was one of the reasons Chris Claremont left after only 3 issues of X-Men. While this did lead to a bit of style over substance, the stories the X-Men had in the years after Lee and Claremont where still tremendously rich.

One of the best things this new X-Men era gave us was the return of Magneto, more powerful and more opposed to the X-Men than ever before.

The 90s era X-Men also expanded to newer X-Titles, like the revamped X-Factor, featuring many odd fan favorite characters, lead by Havok and written by Peter David.

Another X-Title to prosper during this time was X-Force, a revamp of the New Mutants lead by the mysterious Cable. X-Force debuted very near X-Men #1, and proved almost as popular. Rob Liefeld came into the book with a sense of energy and excitement, if not skill with anatomical structure. Like Jim Lee, Liefeld was another artist two dropped off the book he helped launch to peruse independent work with Image Comics. This was probably one of the harshest blows to X-Force, as so quickly it was left in disarray, and only declined as the years kept going on and on.

Before the decline of X-Force, however, the team proved to be the kicking off point for one of the best X-Men Cross overs. This series was my introduction to the X-Men, and I have re-read these issues so many times, and learned so much about every single team. I am referring to the X-Ecutioner's Song, a 12-issue cross over that saw Professor Xavier seemingly shot dead by Cable. The members of X-Force where hunted down and captured. It soon became apparent that Cable was not the shooter - as the story began to introduce Stryfe, Cable's cloned twin. Many of Cable's secrets where revealed in this series, as we found out that Cable was the time-lost son of Cyclops and Jean Grey. The whole event ended in a brutal confrontation between Cable and Styfe, ending with Stryfe releasing the Legacy Virus, as disease that killed only mutants and would be a bane to the X-Men for years to come.

These fast paced days of the X-Men made them shine bright, but they eventually began to wane as time went on. Many controversial story lines began. Magneto returned and pulled out all the Adamantium in Wolverine's body. This revealed Wolverine's Bone Claws for the first time. To Marvel's credit, this change in Wolverine was not a one-time event, as it took several years before Wolverine would be given back his Adamantium Claws.

Another cruel twist during this time was the defection of Colossus to Magneto's side. This wasn't a sudden change, as it was building for a long time. Peter's family where killed in Russia, and his little sister, Illyana was infected with the Legacy Virus, and tragically died. All these events made Peter loose faith in Xavier.

While the 90s are blamed for many deficiencies in the comic industry at the time - it was a still an amazing time to be reading comics. The X-Men where never more popular, and while the group suffered through many changes in the years ahead, they held on to that popularity for a long time.

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