Sunday, June 10, 2012

It's Time to Reboot The X-Men

Remember the last time you liked an issue of an X-Men comic?  I mean, really liked one?

Chances are, it was all the way back in 2007 when Joss Whedon and John Cassaday ended their stellar 25-issue run of Astonishing X-Men.  The run was notable for stripping away decades of convoluted continuity baggage that had built up like soap scum in the shower over time and focusing on a streamlined roster of Cyclops, Emma Frost, Beast, Wolverine, Colossus and Kitty Pryde.  Or to put it another way...Cyclops. Emma Frost. Beast. Wolverine. Colossus. Kitty Pryde. Children of the atom, students of Charles Xavier, MUTANTS -- feared and hated by the world they have sworn to protect. These are the STRANGEST heroes of all! THE UNCANNY X-MEN!

Seem a little familiar?  That's almost the exact series concept description that used to adorn the title page of most Uncanny X-Men comics during the classic Chris Claremont/Dave Cockrum/John Byrne era.  Simple and effective, giving you just enough information to start reading.  Well, Whedon and Cassaday's run of Astonishing pretty much echoed the glory days of Uncanny X-Men.

Stories were straightforward with crisp, distinctive art, introducing new villains and concepts that didn't require you to be a hardcore X-Fan with a mastery of mutant continuity just to understand what the hell was going on.  Or if previous concepts were being used, they were succinctly explained and not thrown in with a bunch of other characters to overwhelm unfamiliar readers.

This meant no time-traveling X-Men like Cable, Bishop, Rachel or Hope convoluting the landscape with all their foreboding of dark days of futures past to come and excessively long-winded family histories relating to Scott Summers.  This meant no "Schisms" between Cyclops and Wolverine that split an unmanagable number of X-Men into two unmanagable numbers of X-Men, just so you can have one group of X-Men acting like an army and another acting like a school with Wolverine as (sigh) headmaster.  But that's a separate rant altogether.  And this definitely meant Jean Grey not coming back from the dead just to become the Phoenix and dying all over again, either.

Speaking of Hope and the Phoenix, it seems the two have become predictably linked to one another in the current 12-issue limited series imaginatively titled Avengers vs. X-MenI'm not sure how this series will play out, but the idea of the Phoenix in the same series as the Scarlet Witch presents a terrific opportunity to wipe all the time-travel/Utopia/Mr. Sinister/Apocalypse/Schism blahdeeblahblahblah off the board and finally simplify X-continuity into something clear and understandable once again.  Think of it as Ultimate X-Men done the way you want it done.

If the various X-Men movies taught longtime X-Fans anything, it's that the X-Men have wider appeal as characters the more you adhere to the series' basic premise of mutants with superpowers struggling in a world that hates and fears them.  And X-Men: First Class showed us last year that you can leave Wolverine off the team, set the team in the middle of the Cuban Missile Crisis and still tell a decent X-Men story, a crazy concept that the comics haven't quite come to grips with yet.  So maybe it's time to simplify the X-Men's world into something without an X-Force, an X-Factor, an Excalibur, a Generation X, the occasional Exiles, X-Terminators, an X-Statix, a District X, New X-Men, Dark X-Men, or even some New Mutants.

Some well-written and well-drawn stories about a small team of mutants called The X-Men.  The idea shouldn't be all that astonishing, should it?

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