Friday, March 9, 2018


Writers: Chad Bowers & Chris Sims | Artist: Scott Koblish
Colorist: Matt Milla | Letterer: VC's Travis Lanham
Assistant Editor: Heather Antos | Editor: Jordan D. White
Production: Arlin Ortiz | Production Manager: Tim Smith 3
Editor-in-Chief: Axel Alonso | Chief Creative Officer: Joe Quesada
Publisher: Dan Buckley | Executive Producer: Alan Fine

I seem to recall that advance buzz on X-MEN '92 explicitly described it as the continuation of the X-MEN cartoon series which aired on the Fox network from 1992 - 1997 -- and while the group lineup presented here supports that (Cyclops, Wolverine, Storm, Beast, Jean Grey, Gambit, Rogue, Jubilee, and Professor X), what we have, at least at this point, isn't exactly what was advertised. The reason is that X-MEN '92 debuted as part of Marvel's SECRET WARS event in 2015. I don't know a ton about the event, but I've gleaned that it featured a number of "Battleworlds", pocket universes joined together in some sort of large-scale multiverse governed overall (I think) by Doctor Doom.

So this world features the TV series lineup on a Battleworld called Westchester, ruled by Baron Kelly, Westchester's version of Senator Robert Kelly (who, in the cartoon's continuity, actually went on to become president). These X-Men are said to have fought in a mutant war, ultimately saving Westchester and becoming heroes to one and all.

But the majority of this Battleworld stuff is mere window dressing, thankfully. Aside from these sparse and occasional references, the story really could exist in the timeline of the X-MEN cartoon. As the action begins, the X-Men fend off an attack by a group of "free range Sentinels", and then travel to a facility called the Clear Mountain Institute, where the mysterious Cassandra Nova is overseeing the development of a large number of mutants, including a few bad guys like Toad, Blob, and Sabretooth. The scene where the X-Men first arrive at the facility, in fact, is a nice callback to the X-MEN show in a way, as we get a group shot of a bunch of totally unrelated mutants just sort of hanging out in their costumes. The cartoon did this often, especially in its first season.

And yes, I did say Cassandra Nova -- the woman created by Grant Morrison as Professor X's twin sister who he attempted to murder in the womb, but who somehow survived, grew to adulthood, and challenged the X-Men during Morrison's run. But here, writers Bowers and Sims take the much more agreeable tack of making Nova -- a female clone of Professor X created and abandoned by Apocalypse -- a new host for the sinister Shadow King rather than Xavier's sibling. (Mind you, I haven't touched Morrison's NEW X-MEN since it was published, so I may have some of this a little wrong, but that's my recollection of Nova's story, at least.)

As she escorts the X-Men on a tour of Clear Mountain, Nova challenges Xavier on the astral plane and defeats him. As soon as his psychic powers are removed from the table, she captures the X-Men and pushes them through her "Mind Field" psychotherapy procedure. Nova's motive is unclear at this point, other than that she wants to make the X-Men "family friendly" to the point that she docilizes Wolverine and attempts to "cure" Gambit and Rogue of their lust for one another. Beast, meanwhile, is "rejected" due to his monstrous appearance, and is sent to live among Clear Mountain's "RejeX" -- a group of mutants with less traditional appearances such as Artie, Leech, Maggot, and Chamber. Jubilee also finds the RejeX and teams up with Beast to investigate the secrets of Clear Mountain.

Bowers and Sims also touch upon Storm's history with the Shadow King, showing Nova's rejection of her as well when she refuses to help her old enemy in his plans. These first four issues conclude with Nova preparing to "feast" -- presumably meaning she's about to send the angst-ridden Cyclops and Jean Grey through the Mind Field -- while at the same time, a psychic summons from Professor X prior to his defeat has summoned X-Force (or at least, Westchester's version thereof) to the X-Mansion.

We also have a minor sub-plot in which Cyclops wants to "finally" leave the X-Men with Jean, which I don't recall ever being a thing in the cartoon series... or in the comics, really. Aside from the brief period during which he was married to Madelyne Pryor, leaving the X-Men has never been something I can recall Cyclops ever wanting. He is the X-Men. He was the only member of the original team who stayed on with the "new" group. It's hard to imagine him ever actually wanting to leave the team (again, aside from his time with Madelyine). But I've also heard that Chris Sims is not a fan of Cyclops, so maybe he's just looking for any excuse to write him out.

I'll withhold judgment on the story until I finish it next week, but I will note that so far I like it. The narration is a bit clunky sometimes, but the dialogue is decent -- though sometimes the characters read like overdone parodies rather than the authentic articles. Storm, in particular, with her constant flowery monologues, gets a bit wearing -- and yeah, she did speak that way on the TV show, but not to this extent. Cyclops, as well, comes off as a caricature, but really only when berating Wolverine for being irresponsible. If this series truly is meant as a pseudo-continuation of the cartoon, perhaps Sims and Bowers should recall that Cyclops and Wolverine were really only antagonistic toward one another in the earlier episodes.

Gambit, on the other hand, is fantastic here. He constantly -- constantly refers to himself in the third person, just as his animated counterpart did, and unlike with Cyclops and Storm, this tic is executed flawlessly. Perhaps it's because, whether on TV or in the original comics, Gambit almost always read as exaggerated and larger than life in the most ridiculous possible way. (The comic even throws in a great gag from the show in which Gambit left his wife, Belladonna, with a note on her pillow reading "It not you. It Gambit.")

So far, while I can't say I adore X-MEN '92, I really like it. Sims and Bowers have a fine grasp of the characters' histories and are doing a nice job of tying ideas and concepts that came along post-1990s into their story. The "Secret Wars" tie-in aspect is unfortunate, but on the other hand, it's also the reason the series exists at all, so I can't be too rough on it. At the very least, I look forward to seeing what happens next.


  1. Oh bloody hell I read the wrong series!

  2. Eric Lewald hints in his recent behind-the-scenes book on X-MEN that he wasn't thrilled with this series. The Bowers/Sims reviews of each episode on CA wouldn't leave me to believe they're the best choice for this, unless your only goal is mockery.

    I read the first trade of this. Loved the art; wish Koblish had replaced Grummett on X-MEN FOREVER if he had to leave. Thought some of the humor landed, and reinventing Nova as a living BS&P is cute. I'm kind of surprised Marvel wasn't able to generate more excitement for this.

    1. I need to read that Lewald book... it'll be next in line after I read yours!

      I have a bit to say about Scott Koblish in this Friday's post, and I totally agree with you -- his depiction of these characters in these costumes is lovely to look at.

  3. What the hell is this format I read it on MU? I feel like being disturbingly too close to pop-up books.

    Some nifty recreations of iconic panels and imagery I guess, Xavier's psi-armor and all that, but as a rule I have hard time warming up for re-imaginations. It's not helped at all by the obvious meta-commentary you can't help but see if you know Sim's thoughts about for example Rogue, Gambit and Rogue/Gambit.

    Morlocks being heftily represented among RejeX while a number of Marauders being there out in the sunshine is kind of correct kind of harsh.

    1. I agree, Teemu -- the digital effects were jarring at first (and this is another thing I address in this Friday's post), though I did eventually get used to them and I actually thought some were pretty cool -- but I wouldn't want to read every comic this way.

      I don't necessarily mind reimaginings if they hew closely to the source material -- which doesn't really make them too "reimaginative", I suppose... But, for example, I rarely have interest in Transformers stories that present the characters as coming to Earth in different timelines and changing into whatever technology existed in that era... but I'll always check out a story that basically just re-tells the original continuity in a new way.

      I guess I like nostalgia-fueled reimaginings, which is why I gave X-MEN '92 a chance.

    2. Well, the first thing with Marvel that hit me was the Continuity: things happen and then they stay happened (barring the 24-hour roll backs every now and then obviously), decade in decade out. The missteps and failed opportunitities that happen are the salt of it all. It's part of the fun to see them continuously gringe at Captain America not having been an original Avenger, but in the reimaginings always sanitize stuff like that away, and thus end up being plasticky. And then they get bored with it and start over again.

      No one so bad as Wolverine. They take some kind of GIANT SIZE X-MEN version, and his huge character arc blinks in and out of existence as they go and try keeping their cake while eating it.

      And I'll somewhere in the sidelines yelling at no one particular that "KITTY PRYDE & WOLVERINE is an important part of the X-lore!"

  4. Secret Wars was the end result of Jonathan Hickman's long running story in his two Avengers titles where the multiverse was coming to an end because universes were colliding with each other and one destroyed the other one. This was caused by the Beyonders, who were basically the adult versions of the child that the Beyonder was back in the old Secret Wars. In the end, the last two universes left were the Marvel Universe and the Ultimate Universe, and they destroyed each other-but Doctor Doom and Doctor Strange defeated the Beyonders and used their power to create a "Battleworld", where aspects of the Marvel and Ultimate universes were mashed together into one planet. Doom was eventually defeated and the Marvel multiverse recreated, with Marvel's main universes taking on some characters from the Ultimate universe.

    If this sounds a lot like Crisis on Infinite Earths...well, yeah, it is, a bit, but the stuff Hickman did was less copying and more riffing on it, plus the original Secret Wars. It was clearly meant to lead into a total reboot of Marvel, ala DC's New 52...but Marvel got cold feet and it became a sort of soft relaunch rather than a reboot.The spin offs from Secret Wars I didn't much bother with because...they weren't written by Jonathan Hickman. And with Hickman leaving Marvel after that, my brief return to reading comics after coming back around 2013 or so came to an end.

    As you might be able to tell, there was a bit of a mess around Secret Wars. Hickman's stuff was brilliant though.

    1. Thanks, Jack! As someone who reads practically zero current Marvel, I was aware that Hickman existed and wrote both FANTASTIC FOUR and AVENGERS, but I really knew nothing about his runs.

      Marvel's gotten cold feet on rebooting their universe more than once... there was that Warren Ellis "Marvel CRISIS" from the late nineties that never happened, and now there's this. I believe they actually take some degree of pride in having never rebooted, which is nice, but there comes a point where the universe might need it. Not that a reboot would draw me, personally, back as a reader... I just don't really like the modern style of comic book writing, regardless of who's doing it.

      Yeah, I know different writers have different styles, but I do believe there is, for the most part, a commonality to nearly all Marvel writers these days, which is to write full-script with fewer panels per page and therefore less story per issue, as well as to eschew thought balloons and third-person narration. There's also a huge dearth of melodramatic soap opera style sub-plots nowadays, which, to me, are a huge part of the attraction of Silver and Bronze Age comics.

      Though I must say, with regards to third-person captions -- I haven't mentioned it yet in any of my posts -- haven't found the opportunity to slip it in -- but John Byrne's Superman stories are totally devoid of them. He lets the dialogue do all the scene-setting and he lets the pictures speak for themselves, and I actually really like it. But he does employ thought balloons, which are one of my favorite conventions of classic comics and which I hate to see no longer employed by most writers these days.