Thursday, July 14, 2011

Odyssey X: A Reconsideration of the X-Men Comics

It's hard to think of an equal comparison for the downfall of the X-Men titles; once flagship books that were consistently among the top sellers in the industry, the last several years have seen dismal sales despite increasingly talented creative teams coming aboard. The likes of Warren Ellis, Ed Brubaker, and Matt Fraction have tried - and failed - to rejuvenate the once crowning jewel of the House of Ideas. That lost luster has come at a high price as once loyal readers are reluctant to give the books another chance. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, I'll never buy your book again. Or so should be the saying in comics. With the econapocolypse showing no end in sight, readers are more selective than ever and that's not even considering competing (cheaper) entertainment.

X-Men books brought me into a comic book shop as a 15 year old girl. Specifically, I wanted to be Jean Grey; intelligent, beautiful, sought after by many suitors, and oh yeah, insanely powerful. Any intelligent teenage female will tell you they can relate to the alienation Jean Grey felt because of her gifts. I may have been awkward because I was unaware of my defining traits, while Jean was afraid of killing her closest friends and family, but I could relate to feeling uncomfortable in one's own skin. That alienation can be doubly felt for young female comic book readers, too. Adolescent male fans don't often get excited about their female counterparts; they feel intimidated and often threatened by what they see as intruders of their historically male dominated past time. I didn't truly feel like a part of the comic book community till after high school, but I kept coming back for more because I was an x-addict. This story is not uncommon amongst female fans as so many found an "in" to comics via the x-titles. Many male readers found comics through the X-men too, but they didn't have to look hard to find male leads that reflected their own struggles.  There was only one Kitty Pryde, one Storm, one Rogue, and all in the same book.

I began to lose interest in the X-Men comics shortly after Phoenix: End Song. I did not recognize it as the tipping point; at the time I enjoyed reading the Greg Pak story with the overly cheesecake-like Greg Land artwork. In retrospect, perhaps I was content to read any title with Jean Grey, even if she began and ended the mini series as a corpse. Had I known that she would really be gone from comics for the next six years, I might have been a little more offended by the fact that it featured Cyclops and Emma Frost consecrating their relationship (after a torrid psychic affair) in the same story that is meant to be a sendoff to his dead wife. After Grant Morrison's departure from New X-Men, the death of my favorite character was enough to send me packing. With the exception of Astonishing X-men, my forages into the X-Men titles since have left me disappointed. (I have continued to read X-Factor, but honestly, that title is barely an X-book. It's a fun, supernatural tinged gumshoe book that happens to have mutants.)

But the X-Men books are tempting sirens that continue to lure me back with hopeful curiosity. I would like nothing more than to see my once favorite books restored to their former glory. And once again I am an employee at a comic book store. After the closing of Comic Vault, I'm back with Graham Crackers Comics, this time at their new Lakeview location (formerly the Lincoln Park store). The only reason anyone works at a comic book store is because they love comic books. Keep this in mind next time you stop by your local comic shop, especially before you ask them if they read comic books (yes, yes, yes, the answer is and always should be yes). I have the privilege of reading whatever a please without having to pay for it, something I rarely do. Why should I convince a customer to pick up a book that I wouldn't take home myself? But I will use this opportunity to undertake Odyssey X. This endeavor may be one I will regret, but the parameters are as such: I will read and review every X-Men title during X-Men: Schism. If I like a book I will buy it, but I'll leave the rest on the shelf. I hope to come away from this experience with a rediscovered love for the books that gave me so much joy as a youth, though I am likely to come away with some disappointment as well (they can't all be good!). Check back soon for the first installment with X-Men Schism #1 and New Mutants #27.


Odyssey X, Week 1: X-Men Schism #1, New Mutants #2
 
Odyssey X, Week 2: X-Men #15, X-Factor #222, Uncanny X-Men #541

Odyssey X, Week 3: X-Men Schism #2, X-Men Legacy #252, Astonishing X-Men #40, Uncanny X-Force #12, New Mutants #28, Bonus Book Generation Hope #9

Odyssey X, Week 4: X-23 #13 , X-Factor #223

Odyssey X, Week 5: X-Men #15.1, X-Men Legacy #253, New Mutants #23, Fear Itself: Uncanny X-Force #2 (Bonus Book)

Odyssey X, Week 6: X-Men Schism #3, X-Factor #224, Generation Hope #10, Uncanny X-Men #542

Odyssey X, Week 7: X-Men #16, Astonishing X-men #41, New Mutants #30, Uncanny X-Force #13, X-Men Legacy #254

Odyssey X, Week 8: Uncanny X-Force #14 and a Mid-Point Reflection

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