Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Fan-Made 'Namor' Defenders Promo Surfaces

The announcement of Matt Fraction/Terry Dodson's 'Defenders' revival was built up for weeks before finally being revealed at San Diego Comic-Con. And the biggest surprise for fans was that Namor was indeed going to return to his original team - despite being left off all the promotional work. While Stephen Strange and Iron Fist got posters, and Hulk was teased despite not actually being listed as a member of the squad, Namor was left high-and-dry (a state which would sap him of his powers, fact-fans). Where is the justice for the King of Atlantis? Step in Namor fan Finganforn, who leapt to his computer in protest and rigged up this excellent Namor teaser!

A worthy addition to the cast, yeah? Consider yourselves served, Marvel's marketing department!

Monday, 25 July 2011

Gillen & Sanders Get Back Together!

This is the cover for Generation Hope #12, by Rodin Escuejo. It is amazing, but it also signifies something rather important. It signals the reunitement (that's a word!) of the creative team from SWORD: Kieron Gillen and Steve Sanders. The solicitations may suggest that lovely Tim Seeley is the artist - not the case. Gillen points out on his blog that Marvel made a slight slip-up when soliciting the issue. Sanders has returned! Truly, the feud is over, and now the two have made up. This comes right at the end of the 'first year' of the series, and looks to be the issue where everything finally blows up for Hope. If you've been reading the series, you'll know that her team are finally starting to seriously question her leadership and the odd psychic rapport they share. So with that in mind, this issue looks set to be the most important of the series so far.

Someone will die! Someone will live! Someone will fall in love with a plant! Maybe.

Hey apparently Superior is still going

In surprise news which the internet has mostly ignored, the final part of Mark Millar's shock-the-conservatives trio of books is still being put out. Leinil Francis Yu recently skipped out on the series in order to focus on New Ultimates Vs Ultimate Avengers, and most people assumed the series was over forever and got on with their lives. But no! Yu is now back on the title, despite apparently drawing 'Supercrooks' for Millar which must presumably be released at some point this year, right? So this means in October Marvel are going to release two issues of the series - which has now reached something like five issues in a little over a year. Here's the cover for one of the issues, which features Superior flying around and that.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

The Hulk Has A Beard Now

Is it wrong to stare for so long at a green monster with a beard? If so, then prepare to morally judge yourself at length as you gaze upon this image from Jason Aaron and Marc Silvestri's 'Incredible Hulk' relaunch.

Continuing on from Greg Pak's run was never going to be an easy task, but the decision to give the character a visually-distracting follicular makeover means that barely any readers will pay any attention to the dialogue whatsoever. We're going to get 22 pages of bearded Hulk a month (actually more - he's appeared in a teaser image for The Avengers, and the beard is there too) and that's fascinating.

This does, of course, kick the question "why doesn't Red Hulk have a big ginger hulky moustache?" back into life.

Namor Dumps The X-Men, Moves in with The Defenders

He may not have appeared in the promotional images, but Namor is well and truly a part of the new Defenders lineup! Masterminded by Matt Fraction and Terry Dodson, the new series - launching after Fear Itself - looks set to delve into the weirdest aspects of the Marvel Universe.

Cable is the one what's getting Reborn

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Punisher "will not speak" for three issues

We like to report things in a slightly different way sometimes, so when Greg Rucka revealed that Frank Castle would not say a single thing for the first three issues of his Punisher reboot we simply had to talk about it with you all. Much has been made in the past of the way writers like Garth Ennis refuse to humanise Punisher for long stretches of time, instead using the character as a force of nature who sweeps in on criminals and kills them off for good. Now, we don't really care about Frank Castle whatsoever - as far as we're concerned the character mainly exists as wish-fulfillment for aggressive comic-book fans, and there's barely any merit to the depiction of the character over the years. He is simplistic, always has been, and always will be. Jason Aaron may well flesh him out over in PunisherMAX, but the regular Punisher is just a guy in a black shirt, who kills people.

So that's why Greg Rucka's statement of intent was so interesting for us. By refusing to reveal anything about Castle's motivations or thoughts - not one thought bubble or narrative caption will he have - it looks like the book is going to have a far different feel to any Punisher comic released before. And that's good. Because Punisher is boring as hell. Perhaps if Rucka can pass over the mindlessness of the central character and express himself instead through the villains and supporting cast, we'll have a Punisher book which actually deserves publication?

News Bullets

  • Jason Aaron gets a new title! He's going to take over The Incredible Hulk series, and apparently Marc Silvestri will be handling the art. The series will get a new #1 as part of the takeover.

  • A new weekly series called 'The Fearless' will start after Fear Itself concludes. The series has a rotating team of writers and artists and focuses on various members of The Worthy such as Juggernaut. Cullen Bunn, Matt Fraction, and Paul Pelletier are among the names attached to the project.

  • Wolverine & The X-Men will be based in Westchester, back near New York.

  • Avengers Solo will be a five-issue miniseries focusing on characters like Hawkeye and Hank Pym. Is Hank Pym going to be in the Avengers film? He's certainly getting a lot of attention recently...

  • Rhys Ifans, who will play The Lizard in the upcoming Amazing Spider-Man film, has apparently been arrested at Comic-Con for allegedly attacking one of the aides working there.

So, the X-Men

The X-Men were a large presence in San Diego yesterday, with writers like Chris Yost and Marjorie Liu going onstage to discuss the new "Regenesis" direction and what the aftermath for Jason Aaron's 'Schism' event will be like. While X-23 is going to be busy seemingly killing everyone in the FF and Mike Carey's X-Men Legacy team will be out in space rescuing Polaris, Havok and Rachel Grey, it looks like Cyclops is going to suffer from some very bad luck.

X-Men: Regenesis is a one-shot which bridges the gap between the end of Schism and the start of Uncanny X-Men #1/Wolverine and the X-Men #1, with Kieron Gillen writing a story drawn by Billy Tan. The cover seems to suggest that Cyclops will soon be living up to his codename:

Following the one shot, Gillen's Uncanny X-Men will debut, with EMMA FROST revealed as the team leader (and not Cyclops! Intrigue!) alongside some shadowy blanked-out figures who seem to resemble Magneto, Danger, and Magik, among others. Uncanny X-Men will also be written by Gillen, with Greg Land and Carlos Pacheco sharing art duties. Here's the cover for issue #1. Who do you see? Guess wildly, internet!

Jason Aaron's Wolverine And The X-Men Series will start off with Chris Bachalo on art before Nick Bradshaw shows up for the second arc (AMAZING duo of artists there! Probably the best art team on any Marvel book right now). There's a similarly blacked-out cover for issue #1 online right now, and it looks like this. Again, speculate as wildly as you can:

Spider-Man Shows Up at Comic-Con

Before the Amazing Spider-Man film panel started yesterday, an overexcited fan ran up on stage dressed in a full Spider-Man costume... and made some proclamations.

Is Ben Reilly Coming Back?

This teaser image, shown yesterday at SDCC's Spider-Man panel, certainly seems to suggest so...

Marvel Explore the Origins of all the Avengers who won't be in the film

Well, I suppose Thor may play a major role in the film. Burt aside from that, Marvel's latest Avengers announcement focuses on all the members of the team who you shouldn't expect to see in the film. Avengers: Origins will obviously retell the origin stories of certain members of the team , written by people like Kathryn Immonen and drawn by people like Dalibor Talajic. Not all the creative teams have been announced, but here's a rundown of the five titles, which will be released over the course of November/December this year as a weekly project.

LUKE CAGE: ORIGINS by Mike Benson, Adam Glass and artist Dalibor Talajic.

Two of the most heavyweight writers you could imagine are going to team together to tell the origin of Luke Cage, hopefully focuses intently on his "tiara" era - the finest incarnation of the character to date. If you have any idea about either writer, then you'll know that they don't shy away from delving fully into misery and grime. With Cage's somewhat dodgy drug-related origin and Talajic's distinctive art, this project looks set to follow in the same spirit as Eric Canete's brilliant take on the character from last year.

ANT-MAN AND THE WASP: ORIGINS by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Stephanie Hans

Sacasa has been cropping up all over this site recently! But with good reason - he's one of the best writers Marvel has. With Wasp and Pym both characters likely to get at least a name-check in Joss Whedon's film, this is likely going to act as a 'pitch' book in case Avengers 2 gets greenlit and new characters are drafted in to the roster. Joining Sacasa will be artist Stephanie Hans, whose superstylish artwork has already inspired us to launch a "bring back Janet" campaign later this year.

VISION: ORIGINS by Kyle Higgins, Alec Siegel and artist Stephane Perger

Vision has been in limbo for so long now that it's hard to remember what he sounds like, but writers Siegel and Higgins seem to have a solid grasp on where they want to take the story - dark, intense and haunting seem to be three words floating around the project. Vision can be a great character when written well, so we're looking forward to this one. With Stephane Perger's distinctive paints gracing the pages, the book will be worth picking up for the artwork alone.


And we don't know who the artist will be! This is by far the toughest assignment of the five, as the characters have had such a muddy, conflicted history. We have faith that McKeever will be able to scramble it all together somehow, though.

THOR: ORIGINS by Kathryn Immonen

We love Kathryn Immonen here at Comics Vanguard. But can even she make Thor seem even remotely interesting? Who knows!

Deadpool Dies In February

Before he dies, writer Daniel Way and artist Salva Espin will team for a story where severed parts of Deadpool's body form a new entity called "Evil Deadpool" and goes on a rampage. Which, okay then, that sounds par for the course. We have no news on if Deadpool WILL actually die in February, but if you've ever seen Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey then you probably have a good idea what's going to be happening next year. We're presuming.

Friday, 22 July 2011

Misty Knight Assembles "Villains For Hire"

Basically, what the title says. Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning's Heroes for Hire series looks set to be retitled later this year to 'Villains for Hire'. Misty Knight will remain the main character, but now it appears that instead of Iron Fist, Elektra and Falcon (y'know, marketable characters) we're going to have characters like Tiger Shark, Stilt Man and... yeah. I have no idea who the rest of those characters are in that picture. Cancellation looms over this series like a particularly sinister tramp.

Catches Our Eye: Avengers Academy at SDCC

Thing about living in Britain is that, when you go to bed, America comes to life. While the heady single-writer of Comics Vanguard (currently referring to himself in the third-person) slept, Marvel announced about six new projects and storylines at San Diego Comic-Con. The one which most caught our eye, though, was the announcements relating to Christos Gage (hunky Christos Gage) and his Avengers Academy series, which is currently far and away the best of the Avengers books right now.

Speaking at a panel last night/today/whatever, Gage first revealed that the team would be moving to the West Coast - fulfilling one of our predictions about SDCC - but would immediately have to deal with the death of one of their cast-members. Mentor Hank Pym is going to have a murder-mystery on his hands as one of the students is killed off.

The mystery will be compounded by the fact that the Academy is going to expand in size during the move, as members of The Runaways, The Loners, and other young superhero teams are entered into the Academy roster. Julie Powers is the only one confirmed so far, but we're betting that Nico from Runaways will be showing up too, alongside perhaps Penance. Also joining is White Tiger - but! Nothing is known about who will be wearing the costume, yet. Check out the teaser image for a first look at Julie and White Tiger.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Marvel Comics Go Same Day Digital

Starting with the comics associated with Dan Slott's Spider-Island event (presumably including Herc, Black Panther and, uh, Amazing Spider-Man) and moving across to the X-Men books for the Regenesis rebranding, Marvel have announced that they are going to go same-day digital with their releases.

This means that every issue of comics like Uncanny X-Men will be available online, as a paid download, on the same day that the physical issue is released in stores. The idea is that people who don't have a local store will be able to keep up with their favourite comics without having to resort to illegal downloading - a practise which is impacting heavily upon the industry right now.

Marvel's SDCC announcement comes off the back of DC's similar announcement as part of their 'New 52' reboot. Every DC comic is slated to be same-day digital once the new number ones start rolling into stores, and people in the know have celebrated the move. I say people in the know, I mean the staff of Comics Alliance and also Brian Cronin. Nobody else online is really in the know.

The first books to go same-day will be the Spider-Man ones, next month, in August. November will see the X-Men books adopt the same policy, with the Avengers titles slated for sometime next year, around the time of the movie release.

CORRECTION! We originally had it labelled as 'day and date' digital, but ComVan favourite David Gallaher has just asserted that the correct term is 'same-day digital'.

This Is Happening Soon

Wednesday, 20 July 2011


Marvel's newest project is from HERE ON IN to be known as Series One. The correct term is Series, not Season, and we will refute any claims to the contrary.

So let's talk about Series One! What is it? Well, it's a major surprise, that's what it is. It appears that next year Marvel are to launch a series of graphic novels which retell classic comic-book storylines with contemporary creative teams. So instead of seeing Stan Lee's verbose style of narrative where the characters keep forgetting each other's names, we'll instead be treated to modern-day phrasing and more up-to-date dialogue. It's essentially a middle-ground between the Marvel Universe and the Ultimate Universe. The characters will be familiar, but the stories will be contemporary.

Marvel's main characters are going to be featured in the first wave of graphic novels, which were announced earlier this morning. So first up, in February, will be Fantastic Four: Series One by Roberto Aguirre Sacasa and David Marquez. We have images of this book already! Let's put them up:


Then in March, it's going to be the turn of the X-Men, as Dennis Hopeless and Jamie McKelvie team up to tell stories of the original five X-Men. We doubt that there'll be any Wolverine, Storm, or Nightcrawler in this book - it's strictly keeping to the Cyclops/Jean/Angel/Iceman/Beast lineup originally created by Stan. McKelvie is currently working on Secret Avengers with Warren Ellis, but has shared this sketch with us of Cyclops - sadly, he is without moustache.

April brings us Daredevil by Antony Johnson and Wellington Alves, and May will be Spider-Man by Cullen Bunn and Neil Edwards. Holy seriously amazing creative teams, Batman! We'll bring you more news and art as we get it - Tom Brevoort has promised a second wave will follow, presumably featuring The Avengers, Captain America, Hulk and Iron Man.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

The Fifteen Best X-Men Graphic Novels

If you type ‘X-Men’ into google, then almost every result on the first page brings you a link describing the movies, video games, or TV shows. The comics themselves? Barely get a look-in. It suggests that the majority of X-Men fans actually don’t read the comics, and if sales figures are any representative than yes, that’s totally true. Most people get to the X-Men books through a different medium – whether it be through their interest in Joss Whedon, love of Michael Fassbender, or passion for Rogue’s accent in the original cartoon, y’all. So what those people need… what YOU need, is a guide to getting into the X-Men. The characters have been around for almost thirty years now, and that’s a LOT of continuity to work through.

Don’t worry, you guys. As always, Comics Vanguard got y’all back, We’ve cut through the crap to collect the fifteen best X-Men graphic novels ever published, which are ranked and listed below. The graphic novels collect the X-Men best stories into single books, which resonate with the core themes of the series and show the characters at their most entertaining. If you’ve been wanting to get into the X-Men but always struggled to find a jumping-on point, then this list should help! Here goes…

15: X-Men First Class: Tomorrow’s Brightest by Jeff Parker and Roger Cruz (2007)
New Reader Friendly? Yes!
Cast: Jean Grey, Cyclops, Iceman, Angel, Beast, Prof X.

The First Class series of books don’t tie in to the movie of the same name, so don’t go in expecting a hairy Professor who touches his forehead every time he wants to get a girl’s phone number. Instead, the books concentrate on the very first cast of X-Men debuted by Stan Lee. With the characters entering the superhero World at the start of issue #1, this series is a showcase for humour and silly fun aimed at all-ages. Jeff Parker made his name as a Marvel writer through these stories, and was quickly offered some of the big-name titles as a result – his writing is warm, centred around character and personality, and filled with charm. The characters come across as actual friends, as opposed to cogs in some giant mechanised franchise. It’s easily the best comic to get if you want a simple entrance into the World of the X-Men. It also features some of the worst pick-up lines ever put in print.

14: Storm: World’s Apart by Chris Yost and Diogenes Neves (2009)
New Reader Friendly? More or less.
Cast: Storm, Black Panther, Cyclops.

Storm is arguably the most popular member of the X-Men, although certain websites will claim that she only ranks fourth. She grandstands her way through the cartoons is a thoroughly entertaining, entitled way, and you can get more of that in this miniseries published by Marvel a few years ago. It centres around Storm’s two worlds: while a member of the X-Men, she recently also got married to a character called Black Panther, who lives in Africa. Balancing these two lives in tough, especially when your enemies try to use it against you. Neves’ art is breathtaking in this mini, accompanied by deft work by colourist Stephan Roux which makes every page jump off the panel. Yost has a great handle on Storm’s voice, and if you want to see her straight-up wrecking people (phrase © Chris Sims) then this mini sees her destroy armies, friends, and enemies with glee. It’s the best-written Storm you’ll find this side of 2001, and showcases why people love her so.

13: Astonishing X-Men: Gifted by Joss Whedon and John Cassaday (2004)
New Reader Friendly? Yes
Cast: Cyclops, Emma Frost, Wolverine, Beast, Kitty Pryde

Joss Whedon’s run with the X-Men is possibly the main gateway for new readers to enter the World of X-Men. His fanbase are innumerable, and vastly powerful. They have decided that Eliza Dushku is to continue acting as a career, despite grandiose evidence suggesting this is a poor decision. His run on the X-Men is flawed, especially towards the end, but this first trade collects the first six issues – and hey, they’re pretty decent. It may take a while for you to get your head around the status-quo of some X-Men characters, because the films took massive liberties with them, but once you accept that Emma and Cyclops are dating and that Prof X isn’t around, you’ll start to get an idea of just what kind of World the characters live in. Whedon oversteps the mark with Buffy-speak, and the stories are decompressed like you wouldn’t believe (meaning that the story progresses very slowly) but artist John Cassaday is an exceptional talent, and Laura Martin in the colourist. Art teams don’t get much better than that. This first arc sees the X-Men trying to be proper superheroes, to prove to the World that mutants aren’t a threat to mankind. Mankind responds by creating a ‘cure’ for mutation. Things don’t go well.

12: Cable & Deadpool: The Burnt Offering by Fabian Nicieza and Patrick Zircher (2005)
New Reader Friendly? Almost!
Cast: Cable, Deadpool, Cyclops, Iceman, Beast, Rachel Grey, Rogue, others

You’ll have seen Deadpool in Wolverine: Origins. Well, in this book he’s wearing his costume and teamed up with enigmatic tactician Cable, and the pair’s mismatched team-up works surprisingly well under the pen of Fabian Nicieza. This is the second trade from his run with the characters, but it’s definitely the best story he wrote for them. In the story, Cable uses his growing mutant powers to create a utopian island for people to live. The idea is that he will become seen as a Messiah-figure and people Worldwide will unite in their support of his plans for the future. Deadpool, meanwhile, is a little iffy about the plan because he quite likes his job as an assassin. As things go on, we find that established world powers don’t really like the sound of Cable’s proposed utopia, and so they send a few people over to cause trouble. Among them? The X-Men. Deadpool decides to team up with them to find out Cable’s motivations, and the results are funny, clever, explosive and… actually rather sweet.

11: Angel: Revelations by Roberto Aquirre-Sacasa and Adam Pollina (2009)
New Reader Friendly? Yes!
Cast: Angel.

This miniseries focuses on original X-Men member Angel, and his origin story. Underused by every medium – including comics – this mini argues the case that perhaps Angel could be an interesting character if written right. Featuring expansive artwork from Adam Pollina (one of the best artists in the business), this story slowly develops a smart framework through which it views the central figure. He’s rich, he’s white, and he has angel wings – he’s not always that fun to read about. But Aquirre-Sacasa’s story looks at the character from several offbeat perspectives, ultimately creating a neat storyline that puts forward a great case for why the character should be more respected.

10: Generation X Classic: Volume #1 by Scott Lobdell and Chris Bachalo (1994)
New Reader Friendly? Not bad
Cast: Emma Frost, Banshee, Jubilee, Husk, Chamber, Monet.

Every ten years, Marvel try again to release a ‘student’ book to accompany the mainstream, adult X-Men titles. And when I say that, I mean that they release a book featuring teenage characters, in a school setting, to try and create a new generation of characters to capture the attention of a new generation of readers. New Mutants is the most famous example, but Generation X was probably the best-written one. Featuring a cast of characters you’ve heard of but never knew much about, the series starts out with a belter of a storyline – and the trade captures every moment of it. The series came out of a crossover event storyline known as “Phalanx Covenant”, in which the central premise was that shapeshifting aliens were capturing X-Men and replacing them. The only people able to fight off this invasion are Banshee and Emma Frost – a hero and villain, respectively. Teaming up with a group of teenage characters who they rescue from alien clutches, they decide to go into business as co-headmasters of a school for mutants. And that’s where the story really picks up steam – Jubilee, Husk, Monet and Chamber all sign up as new recruits for the school. Their adventures provide a colourful contrast from the main X-Line, which at the time was especially terrible and boring. This was literally the only bright spark amongst a sea of terrible nineties X-Men books.

9: Magneto: Testament by Greg Pak and Carmine Di Giandomenico (2010)
New Reader Friendly? Yes
Cast: Magneto

This book was written before the X-Men: First Class film, and is undoubtedly one of the main sources for Magneto’s depiction in the movie. Pak’s story doesn’t feature any X-Men. This is a brutal exploration of life in the Nazi concentration camps during World War II, as a young Magneto is brought in along with his family. The story is unflinching in the way it treats the character, and as realistic as anything you’ll find in mainstream comics. If you thought X-Men: First Class provided a fascinating look at the X-Men’s ultimate villain, then this book will be perfect supplementary reading.

8: SWORD by Kieron Gillen and Steven Sanders (2010)
New Reader Friendly: …Yeah, basically
Cast: Beast, Agent Brand.

If you’ve read Joss Whedon’s run and want more from the side-character ‘Agent Brand’, then this book is perfect. The single most inventive and funny series Marvel have published in years, it was inevitably cancelled after only five issues were released. But those five issues make up an excellent trade, filled with superb jokes and wonderful pacing. Kieron Gillen’s sense of humour is to everyone’s tastes, and teaming him up with fellow subversive Steven Sanders proved to be an inspired move. The series stands away from the rest of the Marvel Universe, although it features constant cameos from characters like Cyclops and Spider-Woman. Focusing on a space station floating round Earth, we see a day in the life of Agent Brand as she attempts to make sure no aliens invade the planet. Things go wrong very, very quickly, and she finds herself not only fighting for life against several threats – but doing so while stood next to a liberated, wise-cracking Beast. If the space lasers don’t get her, then the laboured puns certainly will.

7: The Dark Phoenix Saga by Chris Claremont, Dave Cockrum and John Byrne (1980)
New Reader Friendly: Not brilliant
Cast: Jean Grey, Cyclops, Prof X et al.

Probably the most famous X-Men story. The Dark Phoenix Saga has been retold by every spin-off the franchise has spawned: versions appear in the cartoon, the games, the film series… and for good reason. Even now, it’s a shocking, staggering piece of work, which tells a complex story in a compelling way. New readers beware! Claremont’s style of writing doesn’t take any prisoners, and is quite dated in parts – in particular, he feels the need to tell you everything that’s happening every few pages. But the story holds up as the first example of an epic X-Men storyline, and set the scene for the rest of his groundbreaking run with the characters. If you read Whedon’s run first and still aren’t sure about some of the characters, then this is going to really throw you off – Emma Frost is villainous in this story. But stick with it, because the heart of this story has informed the series for decades since.

6: Uncanny X-Men First Class: Hated and Feared by Scott Gray and Roger Cruz (2009)
New Reader Friendly? Yes
Cast: Storm, Nightcrawler, Wolverine, Colossus, Banshee.

After the success of the First Class books, Marvel decided to continue on with the idea. Moving onto the second team of X-Men ever assembled, Scott Gray takes charge of the stories and has great fun with the disparate members of the team. This is a good way to get used to characters like Storm and Banshee, before you read them in other stories, as Gray takes their most well-known characteristics and uses them in unexpected ways. You’ll see the friendships start to develop between certain members of the team, and some classic scenarios subverted. A recommended way to jump into the X-Men if you want to see them going off on grand adventures and enjoying themselves for once.

5: X-Men: Mutant Massacre by Chris Claremont, Louise Simonson, Walter Simonson, John Romita Jr and Sal Buscema (1986)
New Reader Friendly? Not that much
Cast: Loads

This storyline sees the X-Men try to prevent a massacre of mutants from occurring in the sewers of New York City. It’s a classic X-Men storyline, although I only put it in this list because I’d accidentally listed Magneto Testament twice. Classy journalism from Comics Vanguard! It’s a good story though, with typically strong characterisation from Claremont. Probably not best for new readers, although you could probably get into it if you try hard enough.

4: X-Men: Supernovas by Mike Carey, Chris Bachalo and Humberto Ramos (2008)
New Reader Friendly? Not particularly
Cast: Rogue, Cannonball, Cable, Mystique, Iceman, Omega Sentinel, Sabretooth

Rogue may have been the main character of the X-Men films, but in the comics she’d never really been a member of the A-List until Mike Carey got hold of her. Supernovas is the story which finally sees Rogue take charge and showcases the character to the maximum. Carey is a continuity master, picking up bits and pieces of storylines nobody even remembered anymore and turning them into vital turning points in his narrative. As a result, the story he tells isn’t particularly aimed towards new readers. With Bachalo and Ramos as his artists, however, this trade paperback is one of the best-looking you could hope to see – mere men cannot even begin to comprehend the number of bizarre perspectives this book will treat you to. And the story itself is brilliant, racing around all the corners of the X-Men Universe and turning some of the least appealing characters into complex, clever, and interesting members of the X-Men. Carey never matched this, his first storyline, and it’s going to be remembered as one of the all-time greats.

3: From The Ashes by Chris Claremont and Paul Smith (1983)
New Reader Friendly? Yes
Cast: Kitty Pryde, Colossus, Rogue, Storm, Wolverine, Nightcrawler, Angel, Cyclops et. al

If you want a trade which sums up the X-Men, then this is the one. Filled with memorable moments, ‘From The Ashes’ tracks the period of time just after the Dark Phoenix Saga ended. It sees the X-Men together, in their mansion, developing their powers and integrating as a team. This trade alone sees Kitty Pryde’s infamous “Prof X is a JERK” rant, Rogue join the X-Men, Wolverine’s engagement to Mariko, and Cyclops fighting a giant octopus. Maddie Pryor shows up towards the end, too, which leads into one of the best X-Men stories ever collected…

2: Inferno by Chris Claremont, Louise Simonson, Mark Silvestri etc (1989)
New Reader Friendly? Almost!
Cast: Cyclops, Colossus, Magik, The New Mutants, Storm, Wolverine, Maddie Pryor, Jean Grey

Claremont’s greatest storyline sees the X-Men and New Mutants working in different areas of New York to stop a demonic invasion. Years of storylines are pulled taut in Inferno, leading everything to a massively epic climax in which NOTHING WAS THE SAME AGAIN! But really, this was one of the stand-out X-Men stories, in which Colossus was made into an admirable protagonist and also a subway train turned evil and started eating people. There are two strands here – the first, which isn’t that interesting, is the New Mutants’ attempts to save their kidnapped member Magik from captivity. The second strand deals with their failure to do that, and the X-Men have to deal with the mess of a demon invasion. And then Maddie Pryor goes mad and flies to the top of the Empire State Building. Inferno is, we should mention, totally insane. And awesome.

1: E is For Extinction by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely (2001)
New Reader Friendly? Yes
Cast: Prof X, Cyclops, Wolverine, Beast, Jean Grey

Grant Morrison kicked off his run on the X-Men with the biggest bang comics had ever seen, and immediately throws every one of his trademark idiosyncrasies into the story. From robots to mind control, everything gets thrown into this story as new villain Cassandra Nova makes her mark on the mutant race. This book features a classic team of X-Men, in a thoroughly modern setting which was intended to act as the bridge between the films and the comics. The team wear the outfits from the films, and – apart from Beast – are the same team shown on the big screen. The storyline is drawn by Frank Quitely, whose singularly expressive character design alone makes this book worth a read. But what really makes this book the best trade you could buy is the way Morrison ramps up the stakes. Within a few pages he’s established the strong relationships between the X-Men, from the friendship of Beast and Jean Grey to the teamwork of Wolverine and Cyclops. He’s also brought in new, aggressive villains, and upped the world’s population of mutants by millions. Mutantkind are growing into the dominant force on Earth. E is for Extinction is the first story in Morrison’s run, but also one of his best. It’s a true epic.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Marvel's 50th Anniversary Variant Covers Start to Appear

Comic Book Resources have the official exclusive look at the first two '50th Anniversary Variant' covers which will be appearing throughout October's books, as part of Marvel's.... well, 50th Anniversary. The covers for Avengers and Uncanny X-Force look STUNNING, as you'd expect, and riff on previous iconic covers Marvel have released in the past. Uncanny X-Force's variant cover, for example, is a retooled version of Brian Bendis/Steve McNiven's 'New Avengers #1'. We expect several more to appear over the course of SDCC, so let's shed a little of our credibility now by sharing CBR's exclusive look at the first two covers here, with you.

These two covers are drawn by Mike Del Mundo (Uncanny X-Force #16) and Ryan Meinerding (Avengers #18). They are LOVELY.

And while we're at it - Ariel Olivetti's cover for Hulk, and Alan Davis' cover for The Mighty Thor.

5 Predictions for Marvel at SDCC

We’re aware of some of Marvel’s plans for San Diego Comic-Con, the main event of the comic-book convention circuit. Greg Pak, Cullen Bunn, Matt Fraction and Nick Spencer will enter into a vicious four-way gunfight for control over Marvel’s relaunching Defenders series. We also know that Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuinness’ mystery ‘Reborn’ project, with Cable, Bucky, and ‘Hulks’ all being rumoured as receiving the resurrection, will be explained over the course of SDCC.

But what should we expect elsewhere? Marvel have made these two projects very public, which could well suggest that they have several surprises hidden elsewhere. Here are our five predictions for some left-field announcements from Marvel over the course of the convention. All of these are speculation only – nothing is confirmed! So don’t take us too seriously, in case we get it all wrong.

5: Bendis reveals a new cast of Avengers and New Avengers

This is already heading into reality, with several characters being locked in to different series (Spider-Man appears to be leaving to stay with the FF, and Wolverine may also be moving out after Schism) and several others being teased as new recruits. We’re expecting Marvel to reveal a series of upcoming covers which showcase a variety of new Avengers – from Daredevil on New Avengers, as already announced, through to Photon and Falcon. With Punisher, Daredevil and Moon Knight getting roped into the ‘Big Shots’ initiative, we expect the Avengers titles to touch in on them from time to time. So while Daredevil joins the New Avengers, we’re also expecting at least one Avengers team to relocate to the West Coast and recruit Moon Knight. With Captain America, Iron Man and Thor being officially the ‘big three’ of Marvel nowadays, their supporting cast seem more likely to get a push into the A-List. Expect to see Black Widow get another push, as well as characters like Rescue (Pepper Potts) and possibly even Loki! Bendis has promised some big surprises after Fear Itself finishes – expect some really surprising characters to join The Avengers, The Secret Avengers, and The New Avengers.

4: Jason Aaron and Rick Remender get new books

There have been suggestions that Jason Aaron has something new to reveal. There have also been suggestions about Rick Remender. Secret Avengers will need a new writer once Warren Ellis finishes his six one-shots (unless he kills everyone off or something), and Remender and Aaron seem the most likely candidates for the job. If that doesn't happen, though, then what other properties could use a boost? There's some kind of plot for Hulk in the works at the moment, so it wouldn't be a surprise if one of them were tied to that. Or... well, skip down to 2 if you want to see the most likely character to be involved.

3: Another Big Shot is Announced

These predictions are all tied in with each other, so if we get one wrong then the next one will hopefully prove right. We think Marvel are going to announce another ’Big Shot’ title. And we think it’ll be Alias by Michael Gaydos and an unknown writer – possibly Bendis, but we’ll have to see. Jessica Jones has been sort-of built up by Bendis over in New Avengers for the past few months, but she has yet to strike out from the pack. Add to this the upcoming Alias TV series, and it seems likely that Jessica Jones is going to get some kind of push during SDCC. If not her, then husband Luke Cage, Falcon, Black Widow and Nova are all possible alternatives. Cullen Bunn and Nick Spencer are likely to try for the book.

2: Nick Fury Returns

Jonathan Hickman’s Secret Warriors will be finished soon, and we still have no idea what Nick Fury is going to be up to once it finishes. Sure, he might die, which is why Howard Chaykin pitched an ‘Avengers 1959’ title so Marvel can keep using the fan-favourite character on their covers. But we think that Fury is going to appear somewhere else in the Marvel Universe. If he doesn’t transfer across to Secret Warriors then he’ll join the cast of Captain America or Invincible Iron Man. He’s going to turn up somewhere – we just have no idea where, exactly. I wonder if either Jason Aaron and Rick Remender know...

1: Disney Step Into Comics

It’s finally going to happen. Disney are going to move across their existing comics to Marvel and start publishing books featuring their TV and Movie characters. Marvel have lost most of their all-ages comics recently, and Disney/Pixar are going to step into that void. We’re almost certain of it. We've heard small rumours, and some of this has already started to happen, but we think San Diego is going to be when Disney make a big splash in the comic-book world.

Friday, 15 July 2011

The 100 Greatest X-Men, #5 - #1

5: Jean Grey

Most women in comics are unrealistic and idealised. Wonder Woman was originally conceived to appeal to the fetish market, while Storm literally believes she is a goddess of some kind. Not so Jean Grey. An anti-woman in many respects, Jean’s rise to prominence in the Marvel Universe came despite her refusal to be sexy in any way. An asexual object of lust for characters like Cyclops and Angel to project their sexual worries onto, Jean quickly became a fan favourite through her combination of thick, heavy clothing and realistic dull dialogue. Jean didn’t fly around causing a fuss like so many other characters did – she got on with her life, wore some cute hats, and tried her best to settle down. 

Realising quickly that constant warfare wouldn’t help her out, she did her best to avoid conflict at every turn. This status as the ‘pacifist’ one out of the main X-Men cast didn’t get her too far, however, as her genes quickly turned out to be some kind of mad scientist catnip. The amount of times Jean got kidnapped by people looking to do something vacant with her powers or body are almost as innumerable as the amount of times she and Cyclops found out that one of their alternate-reality children had come back through the timestream to alter reality/hug it out. 

No matter what Jean did, bad things followed her. And her mutant powers aren’t even that massive, really – she has telepathy and telekinesis, but not in particularly massive amounts. She does sometimes get cosmic boosts from intergalactic turkeys, but those times aren’t very interesting. So really, it’s hard to tell what the main appeal of Jean is for all these villains. Perhaps it’s because she’s the most prominent mutant after Charles Xavier – she’s always been there for the team, no matter what they go through (unless she’s dead). Her main trait is not just being passive – it’s being optimistic. 

At a time when the X-Men are glumming about, kicking each other and crying about being hated, Jean is around to make hot chocolate and build a snowman. That’s what’s so important about her – her presence makes the rest of the X-Men happier.

4: Storm

Melodramatic she may be, but Storm has spent a lot of time proving that she is as good as her overblown word. Whether stabbing people through the heart or entering a dubious gladiator battle for no particular reason, Storm’s love of fighting and maiming is matched only by her belief that she is a pacifist. While Jean Grey truly is restrained, however, Ororo Monroe is psychopathic in many regards. She seems to be attracted solely to people with poor moral fibre and a penchant for organising mass-murder, while leading many people to believe that she is an African Goddess – even though she herself knows that this is not the case; she is merely a mutant; and she was born in America anyway. 

At any rate, Storm’s latent sociopathic tendencies are balanced out somewhat by her exceptional skills as a gardener, ensuring that the X-Men’s base of operation’s always looks delightful. There’s more than that, of course. Storm is the second-in-command for the X-Men, looking after the team in a way which no other member can emulate. She exudes authority and power, but isn’t worried about humiliating herself in front of her friends – such as the many occasions when she’s snogged Wolverine despite knowing that other people are watching. 

When Storm decides that she should be leading the X-Men (which doesn’t happen very often anymore, as nobody really seems able to write her anymore) she simply walks in and takes over from Cyclops, and when she grows tired of the X-Men she simply gets in a boat with a ragtag group of characters and goes to live in Spain for a few years. When written well, no character is more unpredictable than Storm, and that tendency to fly in the face of what everyone else is doing is both part of her charm and what’s holding her back from the top spot. 

If given the chance, she does what’s best for herself before she does what’s best for her team. She’s also REALLY useful in splash pages, what with her ability to throw lightning at people. It’s not so interesting when she conjures up light mist, though.

3: Cable

Christ, I have no idea what Cable’s backstory is. That’s probably because a good chunk of that story was written by Fabian Nicenza, and his stories usually whistle right over my head. So let’s boil this down to the simplest statement of fact: Cable is everything that an X-Man should aspire to be. He is not merely a soldier, but an aesthete who can appreciate art. He is not merely a loyal fighter for the cause – he is an independent thinker who can strike out on his own when necessary. Not just a militant, but a devoted father-figure to Hope Summers.

He’s got a bit of everything going on. It probably helps that he’s from the future and appears to know everything that’s going to happen, before it actually happens. Cable is an alt-reality son of Jean and Cyclops, as are roughly two thirds of all X-Men introduced post-1980. He carries a large gun around, is part robot, has grey hair and I swear this one time he had an earring in. I swear. Like Bishop, his main goal is to keep the X-Men cohesive so that they can one day form the World into a massive Utopian landscape, complete with parrots.

And yet Cable is far more enigmatic than Bishop, and also less keen on murdering children in order to make sure things go according to The Plan. Cable has a pretty strict moral compass – taken from his dad, before his dad went haywire – and is admirably unwilling to go against it. He will, however, get up to some bizarre things in order to service his needs. I refuse to rephrase that. Cable is infamous for the number of times he pulls off a long-con against his friends for absolutely no reason. He will spend five issues making their lives a living hell and making himself look like a villain before he suddenly reveals that he’s got a second agenda all along and everyone forgives him.

He may be dead at the moment, but he does own a time-travelling device and has some clones running around, so it can’t be long until he returns. He owns a country, too. Two of them, actually! Although one of them got destroyed by an alien parasite. That’s just how it goes.

2: Kitty Pryde

Chris Claremont didn’t spend the best part of twenty years building up Kitty Pryde into the most complex, layered and interesting character in X-Men history just so she could be left out of a random blog’s Top 100 X-Men list, y’know! And with everything that’s happened to Kitty over the years, there’s really little that anyone can say to knock her off her pedestal. Not only was she the first one of the X-Men to be introduced as a perspective character, but she has kept that role throughout the years. 

This means that not only has she been consistently appearing in X-Men stories for almost as long as the X-Men have existed, but it means that during that time we’ve been experiencing everything through her eyes. She is the mutant who got to know the original team, and then the All New, All Different Team, before meeting the New Mutants and attaching herself to the Uncanny X-Men and the X-Treme X-Men and the Astonishing X-Men. But she’s also a character who lives beyond the X-Men. 

Many characters have nothing going for themselves outside the team – without the X-Men, what would Colossus be doing right now? Or Storm? Or Jean? The characters are defined completely by the fact that they are X-Men. Kitty, however, has repeatedly been shown to live in ‘the real world’. She has to wear glasses because she’s short-sighted (AND IT IS OFFENSIVE THAT SHE DOESN’T WEAR THEM ANYMORE). 

And she was one of the few X-Men to actually go out and attempt to get a college degree, instead of having one handed out to them off-panel before their first appearance. Does anyone really believe that Dazzler has a law degree? No. But we’ve seen Kitty go to University, integrate with humans, and work hard to get where she is. She represents everything that the X-Men should be. She is notably – and this is brought up, like, all the time – one of the few X-Men who has a defensive, not offensive, mutant power. Imagine the kind of courage it takes when your powers require you to run through a blunt object, never being sure if they’ll work or not. 

She’s going to be President one day, you guys. She’ll be sat in the White House, with her pet dragon lazing on the Oval Office’s rug, drinking a beer. If the X-Men had any sense, they’d quit the superhero gig, put all their efforts into getting Kitty into office, and then retire in peace.

1: Oneg the Prober

And so it comes down to this, guys. Oneg The Prober, you are THE GREATEST X-MAN OF ALL TIME. But guess what? He never even ever ever joined the X-Men! Who is this character, with an easily mockable name, who thinks he can be ranked as the greatest X-Man of all time? Well, Oneg is the Fourth Celestial. That means only one thing, you guys – he was created by Jack Kirby.

Oneg was the character who actually created mutation and made it live. If it weren’t for his influence there would be no X-Men, and no list. Humanity would have collapsed years ago due to stagnancy in the evolutionary chain, and the World would be run by hyper-intelligent parrots and dolphins. As one of the Celestials, Oneg owns the power to change Universes – and yet, instead of harnessing these powers to do whatever he wants, he chooses to sit back and allow free will. He could at any moment seize back the capacity for mutation and leave the World floating into a dead future, but instead he allows mankind the opportunity to better itself. More than Cable fights for mutant equality, more than Kitty attempts integration between mutants and humans, Oneg allows for quality to exist. He simply takes the onus from mutants and puts it onto humans. That’s a difficult type of morality to accept, but Oneg is just the kind of immortal hyperdeity to practise it. Oneg’s purpose was defined by Jack Kirby as “the need to experiment and implement”. He makes changes to society which better it, but he also allows the world to run itself. If the X-Men had all the control, then how long do you think it’d be before Storm tried to seize control, or Magneto started blowing up continents? The inbalance between mutants and humans is essential for the survival of the human race. And it also makes for great stories. Oneg’s presence as the creator of mutantkind makes him important and worthy of the list – the way he chose to deliver this to the characters, and to readers, is what makes him The Greatest X-Man of All Time.

….And it’ll also REALLY piss people off. Conspiracy! Investigation! Attack me in the comments section!

The Defenders Are Completed

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Just as we always suspected

Listen, we know we originally told you that this would be an Iron Fist ongoing series, but that was all just a ruse. We wanted to pull you in and keep you guessing, so that when the truth came out about this new PROBABLE DEFENDERS SERIES you'd be even more thrilled than before. Obviously we've already had reveals of Iron Fist and Stephen Strange being part of this team, but yesterday gave us a third member of the team -

Being Red She-Hulk, while today's announcement shows off...

the Silver Surfer, who has apparently quit the Annihilators and moved back to Earth. So it's a Defenders series, you guys! There are a few contenders for the writing duties on this book - Nick Spencer, Matt Fraction and Cullen Bunn are all being thrown around at the moment. We'd like to throw in one fourth name to the mix - Greg Pak.

Think about it.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Okay so now this looks like a Defenders series

With the release of a second teaser, it now appears less like an Iron Fist book and more like a team book. And with Cullen Bunn being involved in the SDCC panel where Marvel promise to reveal the premise of this much-teased series, we're starting to lean more towards this being a variation on the 'Defenders' franchise, which has been dormant for a few years now. If we're right, then expect a Namor poster soon, followed by perhaps a She-Hulk one, or a Ms Marvel one.

Shame that we're not getting a new Iron Fist series. We'll have to wait till tomorrow before we find out the third member of the cast - and get a clearer idea of what exactly Marvel are planning here.

Elsa Bloodstone Leads the Legion of Monsters

The team last seen in Rick Remender's Frankencastle storyline look set to return for a miniseries later this year, as revealed by Remender himself today on Twitter. The series, which features Morbius, Elsa Bloodstone and several other monsters, will be written by Dennis Hopeless and drawn by Juan Doe. Marvel have expanded upon the announcement: the miniseries will last for four issues, and start in October. Elsa will be the protagonist, but Werewolf-By-Night will also be appearing.

Arrival of The Spider-Kitty

Dave Guertin and Greg Baldin, the two men behind Creaturebox, are teaming up with the World-famous baseball-cap-reviving genius Skottie Young to bring us the story we didn't know we'd been demanding: the arrival of the Sensational Spider-Kitty into the Marvel Universe! This short story, which surely will lead into an ongoing series as part of the 'Astonishing' line, will be featured in the Spider-Island tie-in anthology series "I <3 New York City", out in September. In it, a normal feline suddenly develops Peter Parker's spider-powers... and logically decides that he should use those powers to fight for justice! With Young writing the story and providing what is hopefully the cover, and with Guertin and Baldin on art, this is going to totally overshadow that 'Fear Itself' nonsense.

Spider-Kitty is forever.

Monday, 11 July 2011

The 100 Greatest X-Men, #10 - #6

10: Sage

You may not know who Sage is. That’s fine. That’s the point of Sage. 

She first appeared in a comic about twenty years before we found out who she really was, as part of Chris Claremont’s longest-running subplot/hastily cobbled together plot twist. As Claremont would have you think it, Sage was originally ‘Tessa’, Xavier’s main spy within the Hellfire Club. For years she stood alongside Sebastian Shaw, watching carefully over him to make sure he didn’t do anything dangerous like set the Dark Phoenix upon the World oh wait. So after that massive failure which must’ve made her cry nightly for years and years; she eventually left the Hellfire Club and joined up with the X-Men. 

According to Claremont. Other people may say that she was a side-character loyal to Shaw who caught Claremont’s gaze one day, at which point he decided to write in a bizarre convoluted backstory for her which meant he could put another lingerie model into the X-Men. That’s what people might say. Eventually changing her name to Sage, she joined the X-Men – specifically the X-Treme X-Men, Claremont’s mirror-book to Grant Morrison’s New X-Men. In this scenario, Sage reflects Emma Frost, another former Hellfire Club model who was written into redemption. Sage was notable for never actually going for redemption, however – she frequently ignored orders so she could pursue her own agenda (succeeding almost every time in achieving her goals) and did whatever she wanted to. 

At times her dodgy past came back to get her, but she was generally overcome these attacks through her power of ‘willpower’. Which is second only to Domino in terms of plot-handy power bullshit. Sage stuck with the team until the end of the series, and then followed the characters across when Claremont took over Uncanny once more. Claremont then went to New Excalibur, and Sage went too. Then once he moved to New Exiles, so did Sage. If Chris Claremont was the man who made the X-Men, and Sage was his favourite character, then doesn’t that make Sage the greatest female character in X-Men history?

9: Moira MacTaggert

Good point, Moira is better. A Scottish scientist who actually first put the X-Men together alongside Xavier, Moira’s dialogue is almost entirely unintelligible. Filled with apostrophes and broken words, alongside odd bits of Scottish slang, her speaking style set the tone for Claremont’s use of foreign characters. It’s a shame Grant Morrison never got to use her, because he’s unintelligible, often drunk, and carries a machine gun too. 

That’s right – in keeping with tradition, Moira is part of the “every British character drinks too much” pantheon. But enough of such talk: let’s discuss why Moira is one of the most important X-Men of all time. For one thing, she’s the most important non-mutant character in their history. Despite never getting powered (and having said that, how great is it that editors refused to ever power her?) she knew how to defend herself and her people, and was ultimately the person to cure the crippling Legacy Virus which had killed hundreds of mutants worldwide. 

She also has autonomy. While Xavier was conducting questionable teaching methods on his group of kids, Moira had her own team of young mutants – including Vulcan, Petra, Sway and Darwin. She taught them well, until Xavier grabbed them from her, used his tutoring on them, and they promptly all died on their first mission. Moira rightly kept away from Xavier for long periods of time after that, operating her lab from Scotland. She frequently helped the X-Men, however, and sheltered Excalibur and mutants like Jamie Madrox on several occasions. Although Moira was killed by Mystique and had weird astral ghost sex with Xavier on the way up to Heaven, she recently returned alongside her true love – Banshee. 

Wherever those two are right now, there’s a hefty bar tab following.

8: Emma Frost

Marvel fans can’t decide if they hate Emma Frost or merely ‘hate’ her. Although she has now been a hero for more years than she has been a villain, most fans (mainly Jean Grey fans) seem fixated on the years she spent as part of the Hellfire Club. Partly because this is when she had her most independence, and partly because CYCLOPS SHOULD NEVER LEAVE JEAANNNNN. 

But she’s an X-Man now, so let’s look at everything she’s done. For one thing, she provided Cyclops with perhaps her first interesting storyline ever during New X-Men. After she was first introduced as a ‘hero’ in the pages of Generation X, her rise to power has been great fun to watch. First as she seduced Banshee and became the leader of the ‘alt’ branch of the Xavier Institute and then as she transferred across to Genosha and became headmistress of the school there. Then that got destroyed so she moved to the main Xavier Institute, kicked Jean and Xavier out, and became Headmistress of that too. 

Her ability to climb up the social chain is second only to her ability to make even the most boring characters seem slightly relevant. After joining the X-Men she was forced into appearing alongside characters like Iceman, Havok, Surge and Wither – tasked with the impossible role of making them readable. And thanks to Peter Milligan’s perhaps definitive take on the character, she almost succeeded in doing that. She became the most powerful woman within the X-Men. 

Claremont subsequently tried to one-up Frost first with Storm (that failed, as she was shipped off to a marriage no X-Men fans really wanted), then Sage (who was trapped in an alternate dimension) and finally Kitty Pryde (who was thrown into a bullet and fired through the Earth). Such is Emma Frost’s power, she has defeated every X-Woman who has come up against her. Emma has recently become a dependant lovesick bore, but we should never forget the time she forced the X-Men to build tea-making functionality into Cerebro’s programming.

7: Charles Xavier

It would be outrageous for Xavier to not make the top five, which is why we placed him seventh. Also, the top six character REALLY deserve their placements. You already know that Xavier was a bald wheelchair-bound creator of the X-Men, commanding them as they stopped Magneto’s constant attempts to take over the World. His creepy eyebrows are lusted over by most women in the Marvel Universe, with everyone from Moira to alien queens and known terrorists swooning over the sight of the man. 

Despite all the attention, he’s only ever had one child – the villain Legion, who can warp reality. Xavier’s true legacy is the X-Men. From the original Cyclops/Jean/Sage six through to the additions of Storm, Wolverine and Sunfire, Xavier has shown an uncanny ability to pick mutants who are not only smart, interesting and visually fun – but also highly marketable. Look at the mutants Xavier hired for the X-Men, then look at the mutants Cyclops has hired. Which ones are most marketable and most fondly-remembered by fans? Certainly not Hellion! 

Xavier’s past has recently been abused by creators, making him into a more conflicted and unsympathetic character. And yet, he is still the character who makes an X-Men book feel ‘authentic’. A new series is never truly accepted by fans until Xavier shows up and gives it his blessing. The role of mentor is a difficult one to keep interesting, but the complex, endlessly interesting Xavier has given writers more material to work with than perhaps any other character. He has a dark side, he has a pacifist agenda, and he has weird eyebrows. Name one other character who can claim those three attributes.

6: Bishop

He’s definitely not a villain. Bishop comes from the future, y’all If he says he’s doing something for the benefit of mutantkind, then you best believe him! ‘The Coming Of Bishop’ was the first story to introduce Lucas to the X-Men, and paved the way for several years of time-jumping wiseness. 

Bishop is mostly remembered for being the first major black X-Man, carrying a giant gun and equipped with a series of iffy haircuts. He was, essentially, the perfect Rob Liefeld character. But he was more than just a cool visual and no feet – his character was dominated for years by the need to make sure that his timeline never came into existence. He was born into a mutant concentration camp, you see, and jumped back in time to our present so he could make sure that never came to pass. Unlike Cable, who was enigmatic about his timeline, Bishop was pretty open and revealing about everything. 

Or so we thought! Eventually it turned out that he’d been waiting all along not to save Xavier – although he did do this during X-Cutioner’s Song, and countless other times – but to wait for the birth of Hope Summers. As soon as he found out she’d been born, he went off to execute her. Apparently she is the one who leads to mutants being persecuted in the future, and her death would save everyone. The X-Men couldn’t understand this, which led to the exit of Bishop from their ranks. But remember – if Bishop is right, then he’s doing more to help the X-Men than they could ever realise. Anyway. 

Let’s also not forget that Bishop saved the X-Men many times over, even before he started hunting down redheads without mercy. He showed up during The Twelve, and had his own solo series for a short while. He’s a vision of the X-Men’s future: they may be scared of it, but eventually they’re going to have to face up to what they need to become if they’re going to survive.

Marvel Tease New Iron Fist Series?

Is it going to happen?

With Matt Fraction busy writing Thor and Iron Man, and Ed Brubaker tied up with his ICON/Captain America books, and Duane Swierzynski moved to DC.... are Marvel going to launch a new Iron Fist book with a new creative team? From the looks of this teaser, that's certainly going to be the case, as the new 'Big Shots' initiative looks as though it's going to resurrect the fan-favourite series.

However!! The teaser also seems to suggest that we're going to be seeing a new Iron Fist turn up, instead of Danny Rand. Now, the new Ghost Rider series by Rob Williams is set to feature a new female character in the lead, so is it that big a leap to suggest that Danny Rand is going to step down from the role of Iron Fist?

Marvel are promoting the 'Fear Itself' panel at SDCC as the place to go to find out who will be responsible for this series, which seems to hint at Iron Fist's fate - with Danny Rand set to join 'The Mighty' as part of Marvel's big Summer event, is Fraction planning to kill off the character he helped push into the A-List? We'll bloody well have to wait for bloody SDCC before we bloody find out, it seems.

Saturday, 9 July 2011

The Mighty Vs The Worthy

Marvel have released a teaser for the future of Matt Fraction's 'Fear Itself' storyline, which shows several characters in silhouette. These guys are going to be 'The Mighty', a team of heroes who oppose 'The Worthy'. Now, almost every one of these characters is totally blatant - Ms Marvel, Iron Man and Wolverine in particular are shamelessly obvious as part of the gang. Iron Fist, Hawkeye, Spider-Man, Dr Strange and several others round out this cast of random powered-up Avengers, in what looks like a pretty worrying end for the storyline.

It took us three issues to set up 'The Worthy' as a threat to the World - and those three issues didn't even feature all of the villains. Readers had to turn to Invincible Iron Man to find out about Grey Gargoyle, while Sin was developed in Ed Brubaker's Prelude to Fear Itself. So now we have a herd of new power-ups to get to grips with, this all seems very last-minute and undeveloped. There are three issues left to Matt Fraction's event, and although it's been good for Steve Rogers, Iron Man and Thor, the whole thing has still come across as rather underwhelming in general. Will things end well, or are we going to see a simplistic conclusion where The Mighty beat The Worthy and everything is fine again?

And has Absorbing Man done ANYTHING yet?

Friday, 8 July 2011

The 100 Greatest X-Men, #15 - #11

15: Wolverine

Gruff old Wolverine may still feel like he has nothing to offer the X-Men, but after years of propping up their sales and giving power back to the insecure white male demographic it’s hard to see him as anything but a core member of the team. Although hated on his first appearance, he gradually started to appeal more to readers due to Chris Claremont’s careful writing of the character. 

Then the nineties happened and Wolverine became a mass-murderer with increasingly giant claws, running about, smoking cigars, and acting out the fantasies of middle America. Everyone wants to go kill their annoying boss and hang out with Japanese chicks, but only Wolverine has the guts to go ahead and actually do that. Of course, Wolverine’s boss happened to be an evil military scientist who experimented on mutants in a sinister facility for decades, but there’s still a comparison to be made there. 

Wolverine is now the most popular X-Men character by miles – with his own ‘franchise’ (made up of his two kids, Daken and Laura, both of whom hate him and express that by pretending to be him) and starring roles in most major X-Men books. Sure, Wolverine grew stale from overuse and it was rare that a writer would actually have a handle on the character, but recently he’s managed – like Batman – to be fixed up through a smart editorial team and a strong central writer. So thanks to Jason Aaron, Wolverine is heading back to his roots and rounding into a real character once more. He’s also in the Avengers, but that’s mostly for sales. 

Wolverine’s contributions to the X-Men are extensive, ranging from killing Jean Grey to gutting Rachel Summers. If you want the villain to die at the end of an X-Men story, then make sure Wolverine’s around. The only reason he isn’t in the top ten is because Marvel are about to release a comic-book series called ‘Wolverine & the X-Men’, which makes it sound like his team-mates are going to become his minions.

14: Cyclops

Forget Jean Grey. The biggest time bomb in the X-Men is Cyclops. For decades he has stood by and watched as his friends were killed and wounded, his people were attacked by the public, he was sent into camps, saw his kids abducted, and had wives die in his arms. As a formerly quite mild and bland character, who spent years tied to Jean Grey and rarely did anything interesting in his own right, this broke Scott Summer’s mind and sent him into a downward spiral into power. 

But in a twist on the usual way characters go mad with power, Cyclops restrained every bad feeling he had and bottled it up inside his mind. He quietly changed the X-Men from a schoolground to an army base and set up camp on an island. He sent out a kill-squad to get rid of his enemies before they could get to him. And he left his wife for a former villainess with a gift for withering disdain. 

One day we’re going to see Cyclops snap and brutally murder everyone he knows. One day that is going to happen. For the time being, though, he’s still essentially characterised as someone who holds back everything. He’s one of the few main X-Men to fail to keep his power under control, and it’s rare to see him ever seem truly passionate about something. After his family got thrown into space limbo/killed off, he’s essentially shut himself off from everything. 

But! It’s not all bad news for Cyclops. At least he still has his X-Men army, and a tame Magneto. Cyclops has slowly developed over the years from a dull character into an almost-complex character, and all the writers had to do is overwhelmingly focus on the character, across at least five different ongoing X-Men books simultaneously. If enough writers focus on a character exclusively for a set amount of time, then they can find something to do with him. Sure, it might still be pretty boring, but they’ll at least put him somewhere. 

He’s the leader of the X-Men, and important for that, but I’ll still never forgive him for the “Search for Cyclops” miniseries – which remains the worst story I’ve ever read.

13: Dazzler

If the gays formed a giant army and took over Manhattan, which, according to Sex & the City, has already happened, then people would be suspicious of their intents. If, however, one of them became a massive movie and music star and then outed themselves to the public, forcing the man on the street to re-evaluate the way he has previously considered homosexuality to be – well, that seems like a strategy.

And that’s why Dazzler is more important to the X-Men than Wolverine or Cyclops. It’s art above war, inspiration above fear. Sure, Dazzler’s career tanked somewhere in the 1980s and hasn’t really recovered from it since (a bit like her popularity, which remains strong but underground) but the idea of a character who is a mutant but has a secondary definition in their life is still largely unheard of. Most of the original X-Men are notable for their mutant powers. Dazzler is notable for being notable in other ways. And sure, you may say that Dazzler is a bit of a joke character who hasn’t experienced a note of character development in twenty years.

Which, yes, that’s an acceptable criticism of the character. But she has been vitally useful to the X-Men. Arguably the best character in Age of Apocalypse, she has also made fun appearances in big storylines like Inferno and obviously in her own ongoing series, which maintains a cult following filled with modern-day writers like Brian Michael Bendis, Jim McCann, and Kieron Gillen. Brought back to the X-Men after years wallowing in limbo and brought back to her Kylie-esque roots as a character, she’s thrilled her gay fanbase by having about two panels of dialogue in every other issue of Uncanny X-Men. And wearing an odd outfit.


12: Martha Johansson

An immortal floating brain created by Grant Morrison, Martha Johansson’s body was removed from her by the evil John Sublime. Left as a drugged brain in a jar, she resisted her imprisonment and eventually managed to escape with the help of the X-Men – throwing Sublime to his death in the process. Martha then joined the X-Men as one of their students, but secretly she worked to keep the mutants safe from harm. She infiltrated Xorn’s ‘special class’ despite having no disabilities, and pushed Xorn/Magneto into a mental breakdown, which allowed the X-Men to defeat him. 

After being given a floating support to rest on by her boyfriend Quentin, she can now hover around wherever she wants, but more often than not she can be found at the side of Ernst. Ernst is the shrunken mind of Cassandra Nova, but only Martha seems aware of this. Yet again, you can see Martha playing the long-game to make sure that her friends stay safe. As her powers of mind manipulation increase in strength, Martha has already realised that Rogue is a threat to the X-Men and that the Phoenix Force isn’t to be trusted. If anyone tries to mess with the X-Men, you can be sure that Martha will be there. Being foxy.

11: Banshee

Now, Banshee is vital to the X-Men cause. He may be dead, but that in no way detracts from his vital importance. He is the only member of the X-Men who could be thought of as an Alpha-Male, for one thing. You think the X-Men would Schism if Banshee was around? Think again. The only reason they’re infighting is because every single male X-Man is insecure in their own masculinity. Not so Banshee! 

He’s Irish and a recovering alcoholic (every Irish character is alcoholic to some extent) and he rides a horse and owns a castle. What’s he got to be worried about? Banshee was the first X-Man to try and take things into his own hands. While the rest of the team were flouncing around under Xavier’s orders, Banshee formed his own school, dated Emma Frost, and trained many notable students such as Monet and Jubilee, who have gone on to have their own successful careers with the X-Men. After that, he set up an X-Corps and tried to rehabilitate some of the X-Men’s main villains. Which… not as much a success, but at least he gave it a go! 

And then, recently, he was tragically killed off via jumbo jet collision. But he’ll be back soon! Most of Marvel’s writers love the character – Jeff Parker, David Gallaher and many others would leap at the chance to bring him back. So sooner or later, Banshee is going to come back, and we’re all going to be better off for it.