Shallow Nostalgia, The XTREEEME 90’s and 15 Goddamn X-Men Books

Posted: November 15, 2011 in comic books, crotchety ranting, Jeff Holland, reviews, Threat Quality
Tags: , , , , , ,

The slow morphing of the comic book industry back to the early-to-mid-90’s became most evident when DC’s fresh new directions started featuring a lot of shoulder-pads, Brett Booth and Scott Lobdell.

But for my money (or rather, the lack of money I spend on comics these days), there is no greater sign that the Big Two would like to return (through science or magic) to the last time comics turned a profit than when I realized there are currently about 15 goddamn X-Men books on the stands.

And yes, four of them have the word “Wolverine” in the title. And another one of them stars a teenage girl Wolverine, so really I guess we could say 5.

Do you know how many comics that is? By comparison, when I was a teenager – at the height of X-men popularity and the speculator boom – I thought, “Wow, there’s 6 regular X-books and a bunch of miniseries…hope they don’t flood the market or anything.” That was when a new X-Men book sold A MILLION COPIES. As opposed to the 20,000 that’s considered a success these days.

(This is because of rap music and the internet and video games and those damn jeggings, I guess.) 

But I could not have foreseen that Marvel would be so in love with its rose-tinted memories of the 90’s that it would actually think, “Man, we should just do Age of Apocalypse again, but shorter and simpler and more inconsequential,” and then follow through with that.

This is what it feels like to read the recent, oversized hardback collection of the recent crossover X-Men: Age of X. In it, the X-Men we know have been replaced by counterparts in a horrible dystopian world where mutants are being executed on-site and Magneto’s their only hope.

So they all dress like they’re in Mad Max and sit around fires staving off daily attacks and have sexytimes with their not-usual partners, while one character starts to realize Something’s Not Right and of course it’s got something to do with Professor X’s crazy son Legion because he started the Age of Apocalypse story too.

[Deeeep breath.]

Except in this story, instead of Apocalypse, there’s “x” – which isn’t a character, I think it’s just a placeholder they left in the title design and forgot to fill in with a different compelling antagonist.

It is a comic so inessential that the characters in the book itself start forgetting about its events before the last page is finished.

I am not exaggerating. They literally start forgetting what just happened.

Which is not that weird, because it turns out they published a shallow retread of a popular 90’s crossover for three months that has the dramatic conclusion that It Was All Just a Dream.

(Which actually makes the alternate-universe Avengers “Age of X” spin-off comic even more pointless since they weren’t even involved in the whole “We’re stuck in this dream reality” conceit, but dammit it worked when they did it during Age of Apocalypse and they’ll do it now!)

Anyway, as a quick-read comic, it’s not terrible. It’s not very good, but it doesn’t make me actively angry like Identity Crisis or anything. But as a comic that’s endemic of the superhero books (and pop culture in general, really, if that 21 Jump Street movie is anything to go by) that seem way too common these days, it’s sort of dispiriting.

There’s no damn reason for this story to exist, other than it vaguely alludes to a story the aging audience liked 16 years ago. It doesn’t affect the characters – hey, you can find Cyclops in at least three different comics this month and in not a one of them is he suffering trauma over having been an eye-lidless execution-machine in someone else’s fantasy-world – and it doesn’t have any emotional resonance that would stay with the reader.

(Compare this to the original Age of Apocalypse, which wasn’t perfect and was a bit unwieldy, but in every comic there was the heartfelt idea that the people living in this horrible nightmare were still reluctant to give up their lives even if the other reality was better, because it’s still their lives and loved ones that are getting erased.)

It’s a comic that’s just kinda there, because the name was kind of familiar. But if we continue to nostalgia-scrape an era that had a lot of shit to its claim to fame, it’s not long before we’re gonna see the Spider-Clone story trot itself back out.

What the –

Ah, shit.

Next thing you know, all Rob Liefeld’s EXTREEEEEME studios properties will come back –


  1. Moff says:

    Wait, what’s wrong with Identity Crisis?

  2. Jeff Holland says:

    My heart wants to answer “It’s a story that uses a ret-conned rape attempt of a generally light-hearted character as a red herring.”

    But my head wants to say “Jean Loring brings along a flame thrower during her microscopic brain-stomping murder sprees in case she has to cover her tracks, and somehow that’s not played as a weird joke.”

  3. Moff says:

    I thought that was de rigueur, but then I come from a very flame-throwery family.

  4. Jeff Holland says:

    I would love to see a flashback to Jean Loring’s childhood, where her dad teaches her “They can take my flamethrower when they pry it out of my cold, dead, miniaturized fingers!”

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