From Top to Bottom: X-Men Miniseries

by Matt

Welcome to the 14th edition of the weekly "From Top to Bottom" column! Every week I will look at something within the comics industry and give you my opinion on what I think is the best and what I think ranks amongst the bottom-feeders.

Last week, I celebrated the release of Uncanny X-Men #500 by looking at the Top and Bottom of Uncanny X-Men Anniversary Issues. Since I have X-Men on the brain, I figured I would do another X-column. Recently at the San Diego comic convention, Marvel made the announcement of the X-Men: Infernus miniseries, so I thought it would be fun to look at the Top and Bottom of X-Men mini-series.

There have been a TON of X-Men miniseries. When I first looked into this topic, I was shocked at the sheer amount of X-Men miniseries. Almost all of the X-Men themselves have had a miniseries at some point, some of them have had more than one (I would kill for a Jim Krueger written Banshee miniseries) and while some of them have been gems, most were rather plain to absolutely horrible. It is a who's who of the X-Men, Cyclops, Beast, Angel, Iceman, Colossus, Wolverine (shocking!), Storm, Phoenix (Rachel Summers), Gambit, Cable, Bishop, Nightcrawler, Magneto, Chamber, Jubilee, Kitty Pryde, Archangel and Psylocke have all had a miniseries at some point and I am sure I am forgetting some. Some of the X-Men miniseries were large events or stemmed from a large event. And again, some of those were good, most were not. Here are my Top 3.

3) X-Men/Alpha Flight: The Gift
Written by Chris Claremont with art by Paul Smith. This was probably Smith's finest work on the X-Men. Cyclops and Madelyne Pryor are flying scientists to the Arctic Circle, when their plane is struck by something mysterious. Rachel Summers senses this and the X-Men believe it was an attack from Shaman of Alpha Flight. So the X-Men head to Canada to confront Alpha Flight. Only they find Cyclops and the crew safe and have been changed into powerful beings who vow to change the world. They heal various members of both Alpha Flight and the X-Men, proving how powerful they are. And who is behind it? Loki, the God of Lies. This was a fantastic miniseries, Claremont was at top of his game here. His stories with Loki were some of my all-time favorites.

2) Fantastic Four versus the X-Men
I LOVED this series. So much was happening at the time this came out. The X-Men had just barely survived the Mutant Massacre and they contacted Reed Richards because he had a machine that could save Kitty from fading away. During this time, Dr. Doom had planted a diary of Reed Richard's that told the story of how the Fantastic Four were really formed. Sue discovers the diary and finds out that Reed had done all of this on purpose. This shakes the FF to their core and Reed backs out from helping Shadowcat and Wolverine starts a fight (I loved seeing Wolverine go berserk on Reed). Dr. Doom comes in to save the day and offers his help to cure Shadowcat. Franklin dreams of the death of the X-Men and Fantastic Four and the diary is at the center of it all. If you haven't read this series, do yourself a favor and track this series down! This was written by Chris Claremont with Jon Bogdanove. Bogdanove's art was fantastic, laregly due to Terry Austin's inks.

1) Wolverine
My dad bought this series for me when it was first released as a trade paperback many years ago and Wolverine quickly became one of my favorite characters. This series made Wolverine more than just a guy with claws. One thing that I have noticed is that Wolverine does not get humbled in today's stories as he did back in the old days. Shingen totally humiliates him, not only does he beat him physically but he beats him mentally as well. The perfect example is when they first do battle, Shingen fights him with with wooden swords since he believes that Wolverine is not worthy. Shingen easily bests him. In the rematch, Wolverine proves that he is worthy. Chris Claremont wrote this series as well along with art by Frank Miller.

I wish all X-Men miniseries were like those. Interesting to note that all of my favorites were written by Chris Claremont. You'd think that all of his miniseries would have been as good but that is sadly not the case. He has written a few stinkers as well. Speaking of...

3) X-Men: Black Sun
Ugh. This miniseries was terrible. And what a horrible Banshee cover, it looks like he is belching. I don't remember much about this series but I know that I pawned it off on eBay pretty quickly. I never liked the whole N’Garai concept either. The only thing that I liked is that the return of Magik really turned out to be Amanda Sefton taking over as ruler of Limbo. Even though it made no sense that Kitty didn't figure that out early on. It also featured the return of Pilgrimm. Ugh, why is this not #1?

2) Kitty Pryde: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.
This is why. At least Black Sun had something interesting. This series was such a waste of time and money. Kitty Pryde takes an offer from SHIELD to have her work as a technician and she finds out that Ogun has possessed the systems of SHIELD. Wolverine joins the fray (as customary in 90's X-Men titles) and they together battle Ogun. I would go into more details but I just can't force myself to go on any further. You may not know this but I read all of these books again just for these columns and I still have the #1 Bottom book to go.

1) Magneto
Could it get any worse? Yes, it certainly can and this proves it. This was Magneto's first miniseries and I had some high hopes for it since Magneto was my favorite X-villain. This Magneto was really Joseph and the basis of the series was him learning who Magneto was. I expected him to go bad again and what I got was something bad. The art by Kelley Jones was just as out of place and ugly as Peter Milligan's writing. Part of my hatred for this series comes from the Acolytes themselves. I liked the Acolytes when they first appeared and when they died shortly after. The membership of the Acolytes never made sense to me, you had Acolytes that were dead who were actually alive, you had Acolytes like Cortez, who betrayed the team but then came back, and I was plain tired of who was what and why. I would've sold this series on eBay but no one wanted it.

Did I surprise anyone that I didn't list ClanDestine/X-Men on my Top list since Alan Davis is my favorite creator? Surprised that X-men: Deadly Genesis was not on my Bottom list because Banshee was killed in it? (Banshee was a Skrull anyway) For every good miniseries, we got a couple mediocre/bad ones. For the fun Clandestine/X-men miniseries we also got X-Men: Liberators and Archangel & Psylocke: Crimson Dawn. For the cool X-Men versus the Avengers miniseries, we got X-Men: Die by the Sword and X-Men: 198. Do I need to mention the X-Men Icons miniseries that came out around 2000-2001? They could have had their own Bottom entry.

Here is hoping that the new X-Men: Infernus miniseries is one of the good miniseries. Of course, I am such an X-Whore that I will buy them all anyway.


The General said...

Good call on the X-Men/Alpha Flight mini. You should have just gone ahead and bundled in the Uncanny Annual and New Mutants Special that also took place in Asgard (Marvel did when they made the trade). I really enjoyed that whole period.

Brandon said...

The X-Men/Alpha Flight and X-Men/Fantastic Four mini were two of my least favorite minis. It has been a dog's age since I've read either one, but I felt cheated for buying both out of a dollar bin special sale back in college. They both seemed to smack of craptacular 80's writing at its worse. Those few dollars could have gone to buying some cheap-ass beer or stocking up on a month's worth of Ramen.

Wolverine, however, was an excellent mini. I actually hadn't read it until about a year ago. I thought it was superbly done.

KACH! said...

I enjoy these articles, Matt. Keep it up. Also, now I no longer have to read X-Men: Die by The Sword. Yay!