Aug 16, 2015
The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 173: X-Calibre #1, March 1995
It is interesting to watch this series unfold from the vantage point of Magneto's master plan. I have to applaud the characterization of the X-Men's leader by all of the writers and artists involved. They really have captured something fundamental about this character, something that is present in all of his incarnations. Arrogance, perhaps? But in service of the greater good. When suggesting epic Magneto stories, there are certain ones that are always brought up, the trial in Uncanny X-Men #200, or his tenure in the Xavier School as Xorn during Grant Morrison's New X-Men, but I think the Age of Apocalypse crossover is really a story about Magneto and the kinds of decisions that someone of his caliber (see what I did there?) is expected to make.
Today's comic represents an interesting moment for this crossover, because it is scripted by one of the second (or is it third) wave of British writers to have made a huge impact on North American comics. Warren Ellis is definitely amongst my favourite writers, though his propensity for falling back on a particular kind of characterization and dialogue more and more puts him, at least to my mind, in the same kind of place as Jack Kirby's archaic cleaving to outdated slang in order to characterize the youth. I stopped reading Ellis for a long while because it seemed to me that, after Transmetropolitan, every character he wrote was some derivative of Spider Jerusalem. That's probably an unfair thing to say (mostly), but that's how it seemed. It could very well be that after Transmet, I just needed a break from Ellis, as that series was very purely him.
Of course, X-Calibre comes before Transmet, and still there's shades of Spider. Nightcrawler is not a nice guy in this comic. There's a text piece at the end of each of the first issues of the mini-series that asks how each hero or villain might turn out in this world without Xavier, whether or not they would retain their roles from the prime timeline. Nightcrawler certainly has not, and his transformation is deftly handled by Ellis and Lashley. The same goes for the monk Cain, this world's take on Juggernaut. While many of the changes are, as with the whole crossover, due to the absence of Charles Xavier, these interesting reinterpretations beg us to consider what happened in each of these characters' lives to engender such a switch in personality. Actually, I can see Nightcrawler being far more angry and violent if he was not rescued by Professor X, but what made Juggernaut into a monk? I don't know if I'll get the answers I seek, but I can imagine.
My last thought for today is a comparative one. There's a reason Ellis is known as one of the better comics writers of the last couple of decades. His writing smacks of a certain attention to craft and detail, of the importance given to words as language itself, rather than simply as a vehicle for conveying narrative. It's interesting to be able to make this kind of comparison in such a tightly-knit crossover. One can absolutely see what it is that defines a good writer and what defines a great one. I think that I'll try paying attention to the artists in the same way. Generation Next's Chris Bachalo is definitely a great artist. What is it that separates him from someone like Lashley, on X-Calibre, whose art is good, but somehow lacking? I'll think more on this. See you tomorrow.