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My Top X-Men Comics of 2013

January 13, 2014

As with last year, I’m getting my Year-In-Review post done pretty late. I don’t apologize for it. So anyway, here are the X-Men comics from the past year that I thought were pretty awesome.

I’m going to start by highlighting Pretty Deadly, by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Emma Rios. Only three issues came out, but it’s already my favourite series. The art is gorgeous. I love Emma Rios. She’s my all-time favourite artist. Highly stylized, very kinetic and detailed and just beautiful to look at. DeConnick has a knack for character writing, infusing them with so much humanity. The story the pair are crafting is captivating. The series is amazing and brilliant and the absolute best thing out there. You should be buying it, because it is just so damned good.

With that out of the way, I’ll move on to the bulk of this post: Marvel’s comics. Marvel had a good year this year. It was an especially good year for those of us who like female characters. Rather than do a countdown of my top 10 or anything like that, I’m just going to talk about the comics I loved, and my favourite issues and moments. This post is specifically geared for X-Men, but I’ll talk about other books in my next post.

Topping the list is Young Avengers, as my favourite Marvel comic of the year, even ahead of X-Factor. This series was Kieron Gillen at his most Gillen – fun, full of sharp dialogue, pop culture references, plenty of twists, and some great feels-inducing moments. The series was a metaphor for being 18, and it explored that metaphor – among other themes – in a really interesting and effective manner. Jamie McKelvie delivered at least one cool, creative layout in each issue (this standout from #1 might have been my favourite, though this bit from #4 also deserves special mention), and otherwise did a great job capturing the character’s moods, and did a lot of exciting action sequences that flowed well. For top issues, I would say #1, which did a great job setting up the characters (plus, the Brian Lee O’Malley cover was epic!); #6, with wonderful fill-in art by Kate Brown, who managed to draw slow-motion super-speed and made it actually make sense and be one of the most chilling scenes of the year; and #13, which resolved the plot with awesome action, feels, and the Power of Love. Sadly, the final issue came out on Wednesday; the two Afterparty issues also deserve to be mentioned, even if only one of them technically came out in 2013.

X-Factor is always awesome. This year saw two arc: The Hell On Earth War, and the End of X-Factor. The Hell On Earth War wasn’t what PAD does best; it was an action-fueled, more plot-driven story, while Peter David’s excelled at character drama-driven stories. Still, The Hell On Earth War was exciting, with some great moments of both character and action, lots of tension and pain, and a shocking and powerful climax. The End of X-Factor was better – a series of character-focused done-in-one issues exploring where the characters were after the War. #260 was a really good Polaris spotlight, as she first tries to drink away her problems, then tries to take them out on Quicksilver in an interesting look at their sibling relationship. But the real highlight of the year, for me, was #258, the Wolfsbane spotlight. It was a heart-wrenching issue as she talks to John Madrox about the loss of her son, Tier. It was a really powerful issue, and easily the best issue of X-Factor of the year.

All-New X-Men has been controversial, but I’ve been loving it. I think Bendis is doing a fantastic job on it. The dialogue is sharp and clever, as usual for Bendis. He’s doing a really fascinating job exploring the Original Five and their relationships with each other as they cope with a world that’s vastly different from the time they came from. His Jean Grey has an interesting edge that was usually absent from the adult version, his Iceman is funnier than I’ve found the normal Iceman to be in years. There hasn’t been much in the way of plot, but honestly, I’m not missing it. I’m just enjoying watching Bendis get inside these characters. Plus, Kitty! I love Kitty, and I think Bendis is doing a great job writing her. Stand-out issues from this year would be #9 (the whole Danger Room battle with Sentinels was stellar, combining exciting action with great characterization), #10 (the whole confrontation between Adult Scott and the JGS was compelling stuff), #12 (Jean calling out Wanda on M-Day – I loved what Bendis did with Wanda in that issue, too), #13 (Kitty’s fantastic response to Alex’s “M-Word” speech from Uncanny Avengers #5), and #15 (which was just a fun, hilarious issue that also managed to highlight the growing acceptance of mutants).

Tied into it, Uncanny X-Men has also been great. As with ANXM, there’s a lot of great character drama. Bendis is doing great work with Scott, of course. All his new characters are really interesting. But it’s Magik and the Cuckoos who are benefiting most from Bendis. He has Magik on a journey to reconnect with her humanity, and it’s really nice to watch. And the Cuckoos are really shining. Bendis is continuing their own journeys to become individuals, something that Morrison started, but which has been largely ignored since then. This book is also notable for being basically the only X-title at the moment that touches on politics. It’s a secondary concern, with the focus being on the characters, but it’s a recurring element, as Scott pushes for mutants to stand up and defend themselves. He’s using the media, which is something that I feel has usually been missing from the X-franchise. Standout issues include #3 (the confrontation between Scott’s team and the Avengers, with a fantastic exploration of the issue of mutant persecution), #10 (with the pro-mutant rally, which was kind of an amazing moment, because we so seldom see anything like that in the X-titles – it’s a reflection of how far mutants have come, while Scott also reminds everyone of how far they have to go), and #14 (the incredible Benjamin spotlight, which gave the character huge depth, increased the team’s diversity by revealing him as gay, and also happened to be a great Emma issue).

X-Men, by Brian Wood, has been amazing. The story is really interesting. The characters are great, and their relationships wonderful and complex. There’s plenty of exciting action, and plenty of tension among the team. There’s also the surprisingly compelling Bling! subplot, which is a nice little bit of ordinary high school drama to offset the more serious adult drama. Add in the heart-warming plot of Jubilee and baby Shogo, and you’ve got an awesome book. The best issue is #4, with the dual plots of Jubilee dragging Wolverine and Shogo to all the places that meant a lot to her as a kid while the rest of the women rescue an airplane in one of the most incredible action pieces I’ve ever read (this plot also had great humour, and a really cool discussion between Storm and Rachel). Also great is #7, which introduced Monet and Karima to the team, and also introduced the new version of Lady Deathstrike as a villain.

While it never caught on with readers, I thought Uncanny X-Force, under Sam Humphries, was a great book. It was arguably the weirdest X-title, with an often-trippy story, and even trippier art. While most of the cast felt underused, some excellent work was done with Psylocke, exploring the place she found herself in at the end of Remender’s UXF run, and with Spiral, who was actually sympathetic. The best part, though, was probably the art. This series had some gorgeous art all through, dark but with a surreal quality that really set it apart. For great issues, I would point to #1, which had great action, great humour, a great little piece of video-game-style art when Psylocke mind-controls a guy, and was just an all-around delightful comic; #6, purely for the bizarre mindscape when Psylocke and Wolverine talk on the astral plane (the sheep – oh man, the sheep); #7, which detailed Psylocke and Fantomex having fun adventures in Paris before Psylocke instead hooked up with Cluster; and #8, which showed more of Psylocke’s relationship with Cluster, and had a fantastic double-page spread with Dark Fantomex sending illusions into Psylocke’s mind. Just a truly amazing spread.

Similarly, Cable and X-Force was really good. It was the humour that really made it work. There was plenty of dark stuff going on, but what really made the series enjoyable was the humour. It made the book a lot more interesting. It could’ve just been another X-Force book, with Cable leading a team doing bad stuff for the good of the world, like we read about in the ’90s. But Hopeless injected a lot of fun into the whole thing, and that kept it from being a chore. The best issues were #5 – Forge and Nemesis are the best comedy duo ever, and any comic that has a battle between a robot and a giant mutated scorpion (even if said Scorpion threw the fight) is going to be fun, and seriously, Forge and Nemesis are just amazing together – and #11 – Domino and Boom-Boom are also a great pair, and make for hilarious times.

It’s not strictly an X-title, but A+X had a lot of really fun stories. They weren’t all equally good – a few were kind of lame – but there were so many that were just great. Either hilarious or sweet. My favourites from this year would be A+X #5, which had the delightfully goofy Kathryn Immonen-penned Iron Fist and Doop team-up, and an equally delightful Kieron Gillen team-up between Sinister and Kid Loki – two characters Gillen writes masterfully, and the story also benefits from some of Gillen’s weird sense of humour; 6, which had two hilarious poker-themed stories (the first, by Peter David, with Captain Marvel and Wolverine debating who would win in a fight between cavemen and astronauts; the second, by Mike Costa, with the Thing and Gambit hustling some Yancy Streeters); #8, which had a hilarious team-up between Kitty and Spider-Woman (and Lockheed) against the Absorbing Man, Hydra and AIM; #10, which had a really good Black Widow and Fantomex story by B. Clay Moore and Kris Anka, and a fantastic Domino and Scarlet Witch story by Adam Warren (writer/artist of the also excellent Empowered series); and #12, which had a sweet and funny Beast/Wonder Man story by Christos Gage, and a cool and sweet Captain America/Jubilee team-up by Justin Jordan, against Nazi vampires – Nazi Vampires, guys! Yeah, most of the stories in this series have been great. I love anthology books. They allow good writers and artists to tell fun stories.

While I generally didn’t care for the book, I do have to highlight Astonishing X-Men #66. Karaoke night. I love karaoke nights in stories. Really, I love any comic that shows superheroes doing something mundane. So an issue with karaoke makes me happy. Plus, it had some nice moments for Karma, who’s probably my fourth favourite comic book character, so I’m always happy to see her do something. I want her to appear in a new book. If Wood adds her to his cast, it’ll be the best book ever.

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From → 2013, Uncategorized

3 Comments
  1. For the most part, it’s been a good year for the X-Men franchise. Both X-Force titles were pretty good. Brian Wood’s X-Men finally returned, and it was glorious. X-Factor may have ended, but the ending was pretty much perfect. That and he seems to get Polaris’s character more than anyone else in the industry.

    Brian Michael Bendis seems to write teenage characters very well, and he clearly cares about the X-Men and what they stand for. Hopefully his X-run will remain strong.

    But the best moment of all may be when they announced that Wolverine and the X-Men’s ending.

    • Or at least being relaunched with a different writer. Though it remains to be seen whether the new writer will use any of the other students, outside the handful Aaron used.

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