Oct 11, 2016

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 594: X-Men #1, October 1991


This will be one of approximately 5 times I'll be reading this comic over the course of this project. Often lauded as one of the best-selling mainstream comics of all time, X-Men #1 only carries this distinction because it was produced at the height of the collector boom in the early 90s, and sports a total of 5 different covers. And I think I have them all.

It's been a while since we've delved into the X-universe, and the last time was an extended foray into an alternate universe with the Age of Apocalypse. At the time that today's comic was originally published, I'd given comics up, so I missed the rapid expansion and collapse of the speculator market, and the defection to, and creation of, Image comics by a number of prominent Marvel artists, today's Jim Lee amongst them. What this also means is that I'd given up on the X-Men a few years prior as well, and reading today's comic, I remember why. Now, I don't want you to think that I don't appreciate a little soap opera in my superheroes. I was a very early adopter of Noble Causes, which is pretty much all soap opera, and it's really well done. But Claremont X-soap opera is just too much. There's too many characters, to much pathos from EVERYONE - it's like the amount of angst present in an entire season of Supernatural, but condensed into one comic. Every panel oozes either dull sarcasm or mediocre soul-searching. Couple this with my general dislike for Jim Lee's art, and we have a perfect recipe for me not enjoying this comic at all.

Well....aside, perhaps, from the ironic stance I try to maintain when it comes to such comics. I was teaching my class about contextualization of pieces of writing, about the importance of recognizing the cultural moment from which a piece of fiction emerges, and I'd hardly be a good teacher if I didn't practice what I preach. This comic comes from a very specific era, one defined, unfortunately, by the worst of fanboys, and the most unrealistic and sexist of art. But it's also an era that pushed comics, by way of the aforementioned speculator market, a little more into the mainstream. We were still almost a decade away from the first X-Men movie, but the prices that some variant covers were commanding, and the attention some artists were grabbing, was starting to make people sit up and take notice of these things called comics that had been relegated to the back room role-playing game clubs in high schools for most of the previous decade. So I have to have some affection for the comic, even if I don't have a lot of respect for its narrative execution.

That said, I think I'm going to stick with the series for at least a few days. I'm curious about how it maintains its momentum. Onward.

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