Graphic Novelty² would like to introduce our first guest to post on our blog, Nancy’s husband, Cliff!
So, final exams week for Nancy. I volunteered to do a guest post to give her a break, then remembered I really haven’t kept up with the comics world for many years (besides ElfQuest). Nancy’s already done a review of the elves, so I figured we’d go back to school; the Old School, that is…
I read The Uncanny X-Men for awhile in the mid 80’s, and this is the book that drew me in (I picked it up several years after it had originally been published). I’ve read that it wasn’t considered part of the overall X-Men canon for many years, but the story is a doozy nonetheless. Religious extremism bordering on fascism, an unlikely alliance between the X-men and Magneto, innocent mutant children being hunted and killed, torture and deception, a lot of suspense wondering about the fates of several key characters, and a final showdown at a Madison Square Garden crusade. The artwork has a dark and rough around the edges quality that fits the mood of the tale.
Looking back, I remember thinking that Wolverine was the coolest thing ever (I was in my early teens when I read this, ’nuff said) and wishing that he’d had a more prominent role (although he did play a significant part in the story); nonetheless, this graphic novel has a good overall balance. The character development is spread pretty evenly (with the notable exception of Storm), and two things in particular stood out when I re-read it: at the end, Cyclops/Scott confronts the evil William Stryker on the podium and makes an eloquent plea for acceptance and tolerance. I also was impressed with the way Kitty Pryde’s character was written. I remember her not being very well developed in the monthly comics; here, she shows a lot of backbone, standing up for herself and her fellow mutants, and she isn’t afraid to get angry. She also shows of some pretty cool survival skills that help her to outwit her opponents.
A few negatives: too many characters with huge thought balloons or those talking-out-loud explanations of what they’re doing that would never cut it in real time (think of those movies where James Bond has only 30 seconds to defeat an enemy and disarm a bomb, but the scene takes more than two minutes); however, this being a graphic novel that was sold in bookstores to the general public, maybe the author went in with the idea of placing a lot of character info in the story for those who were not familiar with the X-Men or their history. Also, while I’m no fan of fundamentalist religious beliefs, the bad guys felt a little too cookie cutter and one dimensional, though I did find Rev. Stryker’s background story pretty interesting.
Overall, I’d give this one a solid B. It was fun re-reading it all these years later. Maybe the costumes haven’t aged well, but the universal themes behind the story remain timeless. I’d definitely recommend it to anyone, comics fan or not.
School is now dismissed!
Bit of trivia: What is wrong with this picture??? -N