One of the fun and interesting – or infuriating, take your pick – things about reading Star Wars comics from the era of this collection is the way they interact with what counts as current canon. Published by Dark Horse Comics in the early 00s, the stories collected in Star Wars Epic Collection: The Menace Revealed vol. 3 have been deemed non-canonical “legends” relative to the stories being told in the current comics from Marvel, as well as the movies and streaming series of the Disney era. They were also published in the early 2000s, just before or right around the release of Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones. Which means they are indirectly non-canonical in a different way: by virtue of having been created before Attack of the Clones, they can’t reference later events, such as the Clone Wars or the details of Anakin’s fall to the dark side.
X-Men Epic Collection: X-Cutioner’s Song features the collective X-Men titles at arguably their most tumultuous time. Less than a year before the earliest issues collected in this volume were published, the X-Men were at the height of their powers, coming out of a successful linewide relaunch led by superstar artists which propelled the books to record-breaking sales. Yet less than halfway through this volume, those creators are gone, left to start a new comic book company in what is sometimes called the “Image Exodus.” A new batch of creators, most untested in such a bright spotlight, were then forced to learn on the job while picking up the pieces left behind by the exodus, while also somehow crafting those pieces into the next semi-annual crossover event story to bring all the various X-Men titles together to tell one cohesive story.
That they not only succeeded but, in the process, crafted one of the better X-Men crossovers of all time, was never guaranteed. But a combination of talent and the lift that came from working with some of the most popular characters in all of comics ultimately won out. Before “X-Cutioner’s Song,” there was a legitimate question as to whether the X-Men were popular because people liked the characters, or if they were popular because creators like writer Chris Claremont and artist Jim Lee were crafting their stories. The Image Exodus offered an opportunity to answer that question,
While the record breaking sales of X-Men (vol. 2) #1 would never be met again, the post-Image Exodus X-books, buoyed by a popular cartoon and accompanying action figure line, continued to dominate the comic book marketplace, becoming a key source of revenue for Marvel even as the speculator bubble of the early 90s burst and corporate chicanery led to things like layoffs and bankruptcy. Thus, X-Men Epic Collection: X-Cutioner’s Song captures the point in time in which the question of whether or not the X-Men could not only survive but thrive without the likes of Lee and Claremont is both raised and answered. It captures the point in time in which the X-Men become self-sustaining, when it is made clear that people love their stories regardless of who was crafting those stories.
On Halloween in 1992, Fox Kids debuted the first episode of X-Men: The Animated Series, a cartoon adaptation of the best-selling comic book characters. The series would go on to run for five seasons and 76 episodes across six years. While never the critical darling that was the Batman animated series (which itself launched just a few weeks prior) and often plagued with animation and production issues, X-Men: The Animated Series was nevertheless beloved by a generation of fans, who appreciated its keen understanding of what makes the core cast and the concept of the X-Men so captivating and an ability to smartly adapt the often byzantine X-Men comic book stories in a way that both worked in the new medium but still stayed true to the heart of the stories.
I was eleven when the series debuted, and about six months into my burgeoning comic book/X-Men fandom. Seeing these characters I’d already grown to love depicted on my TV for the first time only further cemented my fandom. Between the comics, the trading cards, the action figures, and this series, the X-Men were deeply embedded in my life in a way that has never entirely gone away. The series is far from perfect — the animation never reaches the heights of the Caped Crusader’s contemporary show, Cyclops is entirely too square, Storm’s lengthy pronouncements every time she uses her powers gets old, fast — but there remains something charming in those rough edges, and there’s no denying the creators involved gave it their all and truly respected the source material, as well as the fans love of it.
To celebrate the series’ 30th anniversary, here is my ranking of its thirty best episodes. Note, I am ranking these based on episode, not story, so each chapter of a multi-part arc (which the series featured regularly) must be worthy of inclusion on its own to make the list! [Read more…] about X-Men: The Animated Series – The 30 Greatest Episodes For 30 Years
The first volume of Eternals by Kieron Gillen and Essad Ribic is a revelation in a couple ways. For one, it manages to completely reorient the Eternals’ relationship with humanity by revealing that their signature immortality comes at the cost of human life, the very beings they believed they were intended to protect, a revelation which led the core cast of the series to cast their lot with the Eternals’ previously-sworn enemies, the Deviants. For another, it had us all going “hey, there’s an Eternals comic that’s actually good and fun?” for the first time in a long time (possibly ever). [Read more…] about Eternals Vol. 2: Hail Thanos Review!
Though his name doesn’t appear anywhere in the credits of the book, writer Peter David looms large over X-Factor Epic Collection: Afterlives. Back in 1991, while Chris Claremont and Jim Lee were busy launching the best-selling comic book of all time, David took an eclectic group of also-ran, never-were, and cast-off mutants–Havok and Polaris from the X-Men, former New Mutant Wolfsbane, former Fantastic Four villain and Moira MacTaggert lab assistant Jamie Madrox the Multiple Man and, uh, Lila Cheney’s bodyguard, Guido Carosella as the on-the-nose Strong Guy–and launched the “all new, all different” X-Factor in which the mutant heroes became agents of the US government.
It was a series with its tongue planted firmly in cheek, playing to David’s predilection for puns and off-beat pop culture references. Paired with the unique and stylistic pencils of Larry Stroman (inked by the always-steady Al Milgrom), the “ANAD X-Factor” played up its differences from the rest of the line. At a time when future Image Comics co-founders Jim Lee, Whilce Portacio, Rob Liefeld and Marc Silvestri were breaking sales records with high-octane action-adventure stories, the David/Stroman X-Factor’s more lighthearted, humorand-character-first approach to storytelling offered, like the whimsical and fantastical stories of Alan Davis’ contemporary Excalibur run, an alternative to the sturm-und-drang that characterized the other X-books.
Peter David’s run lasted until X-Factor #89, when he left the book mid-story over the need to interrupt his storyline for a crossover (1993’s “X-Cutioner’s Song”). After a few fill-in issues by Scott Lobdell, writer J.M DeMatteis took over as the new X-Factor writer with issue #93. Like Peter David, DeMatteis is a writer known for centering the characters in his stories, and building out stories from their various interactions with one another. But where David’s point of entry into that style was often humor, DeMatteis is more psychologically driven, striving to get inside character’s heads and deconstruct them for readers. Suitably, the signature storyline of his tenure on X-Factor features Haven, a super-powered New Age healer who wants to save humanity by purging the planet of 90% of its population.