I Just Finished – 12 Issues of X-Men Blue and X-Men Gold

I like both of these series. It’s been a long road for the X-Men. Created in 1963, they were canceled six years later and consigned to reprints and occasional guest appearances. One of their number, Hank McCoy, The Beast, achieved solo status for a little while, during which he mutated from an intellectual with the strength and agility of an ape to a furry blue (or gray) creature worthy of the name. But his series didn’t last, and he wound up in the Avengers. In 1974, Marvel restarted the series with a (mostly) new cast, and this time they struck gold. The All-New All-Different X-Men revolutionized the field of superhero comics, and one of their members, the Wolverine, became a Marvel icon on par with the Hulk and Spider-Man.

The book peaked in popularity, and dim years followed, during which Marvel didn’t seem to be able to decide what to do with its mutant super team. They invented and re-invented them countless times. Over the decades, their leader, Professor X, died, came back to life, got out of his wheelchair, died, came back to life, got back in his wheelchair, uh… died… got married to an empress, who turned out to be a genocidal bitch, uh… finally he was murdered by Cyclops, the first X-Man, who shed his good-guy image by sleeping with lots of evil women after the love of his life, Jean Grey, died twice. All the while, literally hundreds of new mutants joined the team.

These characters were broker than Hawkman in the 1990s, and that’s saying something. So Marvel did the only thing they could–they went back in time and grabbed the original team of teenagers, thrust them forward in time to dwell in the age when the X-Men had became an institution that rivaled Amazon.com, and let hilarity ensue.

Now, a few years down the road, the reinventions have quieted, and Marvel seems to realize that most fans want to see one of two things: a team that offers the basic formula of a group of outcast teenagers, dealing with their angst, or a team that closely mirrors the All-New, All-Different one that broke all records in the early 1980s. With two books, X-Men Blue and X-Men Gold, that’s what they’ve given us. The Blue team consists of Jean Grey, Cyclops, Angel, Iceman and Beast. Along the way, they’ve collected a new teammate in Jimmy Hudson, the son of Wolverine from another timelime, as well as a new mentor in Polaris, perhaps the first “new” X-Man from way back in 1968 (and the daughter of their oldest foe, Magneto.) The Gold team is, from back in 1974, Storm, Colossus, Nightcrawler, Logan (an elderly version of Wolverine, from, you guess it, an alternate timeline) as well as Kitty Pride, the first “new” X-Man to join the team after they became “All-New.” And now, she’s their leader. Oh, and, because it’s not the X-Men without some member of the Grey-Summers family, Cyclops and Jean’s daughter Rachel is a member as well. Scott and Jean never had a daughter, mind you. Rachel is from the future of another… Oh, hell, you get the idea.

All the characters from other timelines can get confusing. There was a throw-away panel in X-Men Blue this month in which the team finds Quicksilver dead in a lab. Of course, Quicksilver is alive and well over in Uncanny Avengers. One has to infer that this is another timeline’s Quicksilver… just to keep from screaming. And, honestly, there are times when there are nearly two-dozen named heroes and villains running around in a story that must be overwhelming to new readers. I wonder at such times if it was wise to abandon the practice, so popular in the days of Justice League / Justice Society teamups, of having a roll call with pictures on the front page of every issue.

Again, the series have both been satisfying overall. Some characters do get short-changed, though. Storm, for instance, as well as Iceman and Angel. None of them have had much to do this past year. So it’s a little baffling that X-Men Blue ended this month with the addition of yet another member–a Storm analog from guess where? Worse, X-Men gold devoted this month’s entire issue to the origin of a throwaway villain from the issue before, interrupting a cliffhanger in a move worthy of The Walking Dead. I’d really prefer they focused on the star characters, of whom we have no shortage.

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