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Playing in the X-Men Toy Box

Can you imagine how much fun it must be to write for the X-Men? To be allowed to pick whichever characters you want and come up with some cool new setting or story to put them in? To have the freedom to just create adventures and relationships using some of the coolest characters ever?

That’s why I want to be a comic book writer.

And that’s what it must be like to be a part of the current Regenesis story event.

It's a brave new world

That picture there is the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning. Having the freedom and creativity to build something like that just amazes me. I know that there was probably a committee of writers and editors that worked together to mold Regenesis, but somebody somewhere had to have the idea first. Somebody had the idea for this school. And its the writers themselves who will fill it with characters and tell the stories they want to tell. This is my dream job. Comic book writing is not an impossible field to get into, and it’s going to be a lot of hard work. But the pay off will be totally worth it!

I want to use the new direction of The X-Men to try and explain how much fun it would be to be a comic book writer.

It’s like having the biggest, coolest toy box in the world and then letting your imagination run wild for other people to enjoy.

Some of my frequent blog readers probably already know this. But I’m sure some people don’t, and besides, I want to talk about it while simultaneously reviewing the two issues that kick off Regenesis: Wolverine and the X-Men #1 and Uncanny X-Men #1.

Uncanny wins for least ugliest cover

For anyone who followed my reviews of the mini-series X-Men: Schism, there has been a split in the X-Men over whether or not the young, teenage mutants should be expected to fight as superheroes or if they should be allowed to just be kids. Cyclops, longtime leader of the X-Men, thinks that all mutants need to band together and carry their weight while protecting a world that hates and fears them. They’re starring in Uncanny X-Men, set on the mutant island Utopia off the coast of San Francisco. It will be written by Keiron Gillan. Wolverine, longtime loner of the X-Men, thinks that the kids shouldn’t have to fight, so he has rebuilt the classic X-Men school in Westchester, New York. Wolverine and his team will be starring in Wolverine and the X-Men. It will be written by Jason Aaron, who also wrote Schism.

I loved both first issues! Comic Ratings for both Uncanny X-Men #1 and Wolverine and the X-Men #1: 5/5, Great!

They have unique stories, feature very different status quos and have their own cast of characters who don’t crossover. That last one is pretty great news, because for a long time now, the X-Men has had an overlap problem. There are dozens of mutants and X-Men running around the Marvel Universe, but the X-Men comics tended to only focus on a handful of main characters. Why bother buying X-Men, Uncanny X-Men, Astonishing X-Men, X-Men: Legacy and more if they all feature the same characters doing the same things?

So for the big split on Regenesis, the writers and editors of Marvel have split up the extended members of the X-Men onto different teams. I can’t imagine how much fun this must have been. Regenesis is the ultimate kickball game, with each side picking which X-Men they want to join. It must have been a blast to explore each of the characters and decide which side of the Schism they would take.

And they provided helpful infographics at the end of each issue so you know where your favorite X-Men are. I

Uncanny X-Men:

Wolverine and the X-Men:

Personally, my favorite X-Men are Multiple Man and the Mimic, neither of whom are on either team as of yet. Multiple Man stars in X-Factor, a peripheral title in the X-Men franchise, which is loosely allied with Wolverine’s team. The Mimic is nowhere right now, but he’s going to appear in the pages of X-Men: Legacy soon, which is also on Wolverine’s side. So apparently I’m a Wolverine side of guy, even though I definitely agreed with Cyclops at the end of Schism.

I’m a guy who reads superhero comics based on the characters. If my favorite character appears on a certain side or in a certain series, I’m going to snatch it up. So these guides are very helpful in picking which stories I want to read.

At any rate, let’s dive into the issues and start with Uncanny X-Men #1. Both series start out the same way with a general overview of their status quo, a look at what specific characters are up to and the threat of the villain. Uncanny starts with a brief overview of the X-Men living off the coast of San Francisco, while also serving as their superhero protectors. Then we zero in on the Dreaming Celestial. Basically a giant space God has put itself into some kind of hibernation in Golden Gate Park. It’s like a million stories tall and is just standing there. It’s a tourist attraction, and has been used in a lot of X-Men stories over the past few years.

This is the cool sort of thing that exists in a world of superheroes

Longtime X-Men villain Mr. Sinister shows up at the Dreaming Celestial even though he’s been dead for awhile. He’s a sinister-looking guy who kills some tourists and then manages to make entrance inside the Celestial using some kind of mystical mumbo jumbo. We’re not supposed to know how just yet.

Then we cut to Utopia, home base of Cyclops’ X-Men. With Wolverine and half the team gone, Cyclops has shifted into super leader mode. He’s drafted up new teams and squads for the X-Men, and now he’s meeting with his command group: The Extinction Team. Basically he calls it the most powerful team of superhumans ever assembled. With him as leader, he’s got Magneto, Namor, Storm and more.

Matching black leather uniforms are so last decade

Cyclops lays out the new status quo: The Extinction Team are going to be the best damn superhero team ever. The world hates and fears mutants more than they ever have before (the comic gets a little hyperbolic in that regard), so they’re going to prove the world wrong by just being that damn badass. And no more Mr. Nice Mutants either. They’re going to accept and even kind of embrace the fact that humans are scared of them. If the humans remain scared, then perhaps they won’t so idly try to kill defenseless mutants like Wolverine’s school. The Extinction Team are going to be so heroic and so powerful that people aren’t going to mess with mutants, and will eventually come to like them.

Works for me.

Then we get a few pages of Cyclops narrating the whereabouts of his extended team. Dani Moonstar and the New Mutants are in charge of minor missions, and are available in their own series. Dazzler takes a few younger mutant out to San Francisco to be street-level superheroes. Dr. Nemesis and the X-Club do sciencey stuff. Hope Summers and her group do their own thing, also available in their own series, Generation Hope. And Psylocke is in charge of island security and calisthenics.

One, two, three four; One, two, three, four

The rest of the issue returns us to Mr. Sinister and the Dreaming Celestial. He gets it working and basically creates a giant light show with off-the-charts energy output. So the Extinction Team go to investigate and stop him, with Sinister making some vague comments about playing his role in this game of superheroes.

How droll

Sinister is piloting the head of the Celestial, and using it to create a bunch of little Celestial robots for the X-Men to fight. Creating the robots causes the body of the Celestial to fall apart while Sinister takes off in the head, like a little head-rocketship. These pages give us an opportunity to see the Extinction Team in action, since this will be our main squad of X-Men to read about. Sadly, I don’t particularly care about any of them individually. So if I’m going to continue reading Uncanny, it will be purely to see how the X-Men are doing.

At the heart of the team are Cyclops and Emma Frost. They’re a romantic couple, and I like them that way. Emma very cool and snarky, and has been a good foil for Cyclops in recent years. She’s smug and arrogant, while he’s tough and cool. There’s nothing particularly new about Emma in this issue, but I’m comfortable with that. She’s a foil for Cyclops. They are a nice pair.

She also wears very little clothing, so that's got to count for something

And for Cyclops fans, he’s completely badass in this issue. He’s cool under fire, whips out the orders on the fly to deal with the problem and is an amazing field leader. His speech about the Extinction Team is strong, and he’s just overall an awesome character. In no way is he being treated like the ‘bad guy’ from the Schism with Wolverine. Cyclops has his way, and he makes a stellar example in this issue of how awesome his way can be.

Namor is a member of the team, and he gets a moment to shine where he punches out Sinister’s rocketship head. I’ve never been a fan of Namor, and I’ve definitely never liked him on the X-Men. He’s never fit, as far as I’m concerned. They also tease a sub-plot of a Namor/Emma hook-up, which I also don’t like. Their relationship was a complete retcon from only a few years ago when they decided to bring Namor into the X-verse, and he’s been pining over Emma behind Cyclops’ back ever since – but each and every time, Emma has rejected him. Good for her. She’s done a lot and put up with a lot for Cyclops, and has come to his defense several times. There’s no reason for Emma to suddenly give in to Namor’s less-than-charming flirtation tactics.

He's 'desired' to take part in the battle, but he turns it into something pervy

Not to mention the fact that Namor pining for Emma is doubly redundant. That was Namor’s schtick back when he was part of the Fantastic Four franchise, in that he pined after Sue Storm behind Reed Richards’ back, only for Sue to constantly and repeatedly rebuff his advances. And then having someone else pining for Cyclops’ girlfriend has also been done, back when Wolverine wanted Jean Grey. So Namor wanting Emma is just more of the same.

Hope Summers and Danger are both on the team. One is the mutant messiah teenager, who is key to restarting the human race. The other is the Danger Room computer giving sentient form. Both characters are big bangs of ‘don’t care’ for me, and they don’t do much this issue anyway. But they’re major players in the X-Men these days, so they get on the Extinction team.

One interesting character is Colossus, who is actually going through some fantastic stories these days. During a recent crossover with the rest of the Marvel Universe, Colossus became the new Juggernaut! He nobly volunteered to take on the impressive power in order to help stop a super bad guy. Now he’s stuck as the Juggernaut.

Fancy new helmet is standard issue

It’s rare in comics when such a drastic change is made to someone’s status quo. Most characters just stay the same, and if they do change, things tend to go back to normal after awhile. That may still happen for Colossus, but for now, he’s in the middle of something awesome. Taking on the Juggernaut’s power involves more than just a helmet and super momentum. It’s also given Colossus a hard to control rage and desire for destruction. He’s doing his best to keep it in line while using the power for good wherever he can.

He’s also now teamed up with his sister, the wicked witch known as Magik. She’s helping him to keep the Juggernaut’s mindset under control. Colossus is usually teamed up with his girlfriend Kitty Pryde, but I always found them a boring couple. Kitty split and joined Wolverine after Colossus became the Juggernaut. I’m excited to see what happens to Colossus in this subplot. It’s great that he has something interesting happening to him.

Finally we get to the last two members: Magneto and Storm. They’re high above the battle and use their powers to try and control the Dreaming Celestial as its turned into smaller robots. Magneto tries to sound impressive, but Storm shuts him up for talking too melodramatically. It’s a nice moment, and I hope Storm gets more to do in this series. Then Magneto gets to step up and prove why he’s a cool guy to have around. He uses his powers to put the Celestial back together, minus the head that Sinister stole.

I really like what they’ve been doing with Magneto over the past few years. He’s great as a villain, but his day is over. The conflict between Professor X and Magneto is long gone. The X-Men and the plight of mutants has moved on, he’s a relic. So being a smart guy, Magneto knows when to fold’em and he’s joined up with Cyclops’ leadership. This has been a fantastic evolution of the story. For so long, the X-Men were defined by Xavier vs. Magneto. It was in all the movies. Well the natural storytelling of the series has moved on, and the writers and editors at Marvel aren’t afraid to let it keep evolving. This has been a real step forward for Magneto.

There you have the first issue of the new Uncanny X-Men. Gillan got to put together his star team – though I’m sure editorial made him include certain characters – and he’s come up with a hopefully exciting new danger in terms of Mr. Sinister. The characters are badass, especially Cyclops, and there are a few cool subplots that I hope they’ll be exploring. Uncanny could definitely be the standout X-book.

But then so could Wolverine and the X-Men.

Whereas Uncanny focused on a team of superheroes, Wolverine and the X-Men is all about a wacky school setting. It’s like Hogwarts for mutants, even though the X-Men have been doing the school setting for years. They go back to it every now and again, and this time it looks like writer Jason Aaron is going all-in with gusto! Again, I just can’t imagine how much fun it would be to get to create your own Mutant School and populate it with so many fun and interesting characters. He gets to pick which mutants go where, make up some fun classes and design the ins and outs of this exciting new setting. The school looks wild and whimsical, combining futuristic tech and even having an Iceman-building. Marvel even provided a class syllabus just for the kicks and giggles of it.

Click to enlarge - Sex Ed with Gambit sounds particularly interesting

Hogwarts should have had one of those printed up.

This issue is a fantastic introduction to the new series. It’s also very different from the superhero-heavy antics of Uncanny X-Men. With Wolverine as headmaster and Kitty Pryde as headmistress, they lead a pair of  officials from the state Education Department through the first day of the new school. The state is threatening to shut them down, and the two human officials are already pretty biased against the crazy mutant school. It doesn’t help that the building is full of wacky inventions and wild students. The tour also provides an opportunity to introduce the various characters that will play a role in the series.

Wolverine is the main character, of course, and writer Aaron nails his character. But then he’s been writing Wolverine for a few years now. I can easily buy Wolvie in the role of makeshift headmaster, doing all of this on the fly and on the general idea of what’s supposed to happen. He’s got some ideas in his head, but he’s not a school principal. He has no real clue what he’s doing. And it shows, in fun ways.

We open with Professor Charles Xavier taking a tour with Wolverine of the new building. It’s still under construction and Wolvie asks the Prof for advice. The banter is quite fun, and in the end, Xavier declines Wolverine’s offer to stay and teach. Xavier is pretty much off the radar in the world of X-Men these days. His appearance is mostly just a symbolic passing of the torch. It’s a nice touch. Then the first day starts, and Wolverine throws back a shot. Then he meets with Kitty and the school officials to begin the tour. Kitty is upbeat, but like I said, the officials are already biased. They don’t like Doop in charge of student registration, or the fact that one of the classes looks like students are just standing around.

It's actually a psychic defense class taught by Rachel Grey

In short order we meet several characters, including Husk as a professor and Hellion and Glob Herman as school bullies. They’re teasing recent new character Broo, who is a super intelligent member of the Brood, an alien race that are typically homicidal wasp-like monsters. I don’t know where Broo came from, but I understand it was one of the other random X-Men books. Now he’s a student, and Hellion and Glob are teasing him for being different. I suppose this sets up a good dynamic for those two, since not everybody at the school can be a goody two-shoes. But the idea that the mutants are teasing someone else for being different is a little too on the nose. What level of asshole do you have to be to tease someone like that in the X-Men school? Broo shrugs it off, and Wolverine surprises Hellion and Glob in the bathroom with the new Danger Room. No longer is it just one room, but now the entire school is equipped to turn into a Danger Room at a moment’s notice.

Neat idea, but the school officials hate it.

We also meet Toad, who is working as the school janitor.

I hate the callback to his original costume with those wrist thingies

I love Toad. I love all the classic Brotherhood of Mutants characters, like Blob and Avalanche too. As I said before, the war between Magneto and Xavier is long over, and the X-Men one. So I’m fascinated by the position that the former Brotherhood members now hold in the world, and what the writers do with them. Avalanche, for example, has received some notoriety as a bar-owner in San Francisco. He’s made a few minor cameos. Toad was also in San Fran for awhile, hanging out on Utopia even though he was miserable there. Well when Wolverine split, Toad came with him and volunteered to be janitor. I’m glad that Toad’s in the series, but I’m sad that he’s going to be a comedy relief character who is always teased and put down. I hope Toad gets a moment to shine – and not just as a super villain in waiting.

Toad could show some real growth in this series if they let him.

We also meet Idie, who still hasn’t been cured of her mutant hatred.

I hate you

I guess everybody’s just chalking that up as a nifty personality quirk rather than try to un-brainwash her. We also see Kid Omega, who’s been stuffed into detention to keep him out of trouble. Beast shows up as the mastermind of the whole school, who has built all the nifty stuff on campus. Kitty hopes that Beast will impress the school officials, but Beast is far too distracted on keeping the school from falling apart. He’s also accidentally opened an inter-dimensional portal and let a bunch of tiny Nightcrawlers out to cause general mischief. Fun, I suppose.

Kid Guardian makes his debut from Shi’ar space, retconning a son for Guardian for some reason. Despite all Guardian’s recent stories in outer space, and his existence as the last of his race, they randomly just drop a son into this issue. Lame. Iceman also makes a quick appearance to let Wolverine know that the villain has arrived.

Yep, the villain just shows up at the front door to taunt Wolverine. It’s Kade Kilgore, the little kid villain from Schism and the new Black King of the Hellfire Club. I hated this kid in Schism, and I still hate him now. He makes no sense whatsoever. He’s too smart and evil to just be a kid, so already that negates any storytelling benefits of him being a kid. He’s basically just a short guy with attitude. And he explains to Wolverine that he engineered everything that happened in Schism and planned to split Cyclops and Wolverine.

I hate you too

What does Wolverine do with this knowledge? He lets Kilgore go. He doesn’t tell Cyclops or even reflect on the fact that his split with Cyclops was manufactured by a super-villain. He doesn’t even kill Kilgore. Because the kid explains that if Wolverine pops his claws, then Kilgore’s lawyers will be all over the Jean Grey School like Ninja Turtles on pizza. Then Kilgore tells Wolverine that he plans on destroying the Jean Grey school anyway, because he’s evil for the sake of being evil. Wolverine just drives off in anger. And at the same time, those little interdimensional Nightcrawlers attack the school officials. And everybody starts yelling for Wolverine.

And he just can’t take it anymore!

He's as mad as hell!

Then Krakoa the living island attacks!

Yep, that’s the cliffhanger ending! Kilgore seems to have seeded Krakoa on the ground that Jean Grey is built upon. Then he rises up with a big mouth to try and eat the building. Guess Wolverine and his X-Men will be tested in a superhero brawl almost immediately. Let’s see if he sends the kids out to fight the monster or if he has them hide somewhere. Because that’s what the entire split with Cyclops is based upon.

We’ll find out next issue!

What’d you all think of the two new directions for the X-Men? Which comic are you going to read? Wolverine? Cyclops? Both? Tell me in the comments!

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About Sean Ian Mills

Hello, this is Sean, the Henchman-4-Hire! By day I am a mild-mannered newspaper reporter in Central New York, and by the rest of the day I'm a pretty big geek when it comes to video games, comic books, movies, cartoons and more.

Posted on November 6, 2011, in Comics, Marvel, Reviews, X-Men and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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