X-Men (Second Series) #1

Writers: Chris Claremont and Jim Lee
Penciller: Jim Lee
Inker: Scott Williams

Release Date: October 1991

Heroes: The X-Men (Professor X, Cyclops, Rogue, Ice-Man, Colossus, Arch-Angel, Wolverine, Storm, Forge, Beast, Jean Grey, Gambit and Psylocke).
Villains: Magneto (kind of) and Fabian Cortez.
Cameos: Nick Fury

The Plot: The story begins with a shuttle of escaped mutants trying to find refuge on Asteroid M, Magneto's floating base. They are being pursued, but their pursuers quickly get into trouble when Magneto takes unkindly to people harassing mutans on his home. Magneto gives a few soliloquies about whether or not he is going to take any part in the Earth's affairs. Unfortunately, the decision is made for him as both the Soviets and the Americans get start making plans about what to do about Magneto.

The action cuts to the danger room, where two teams of X-Men are about to go into action against each other. After several pages of chasing each other, Wolverine leads his team to victory, leading to a tiff with Cyclops. Their squabble is cut short by Col. Fury calling up to tell them that Magneto is up to something.

The actions cuts to Magneto raising a sunken nuclear sub up from the floor of the ocean, with the X-Men showing up just in time to misinterpret his actions and to get in a philosophical squabble with him leading to an exchange of blows. Rogue flies off to try to reason with him, but when some Russian planes come pursuing, Magneto sets off a nuke in the upper atmosphere. Rogue is lost, until she is tracked to Genosha, where the X-Men and some mutant terrorists come to fight over her. Magneto shows up to end the issue in a dramatic splash page.

Chris Claremont checklist:

  1. Long narratives and exposition, including in mid leap...check
  2. Simmering interpersonal conflict...check
  3. Philosophical debate and introspection...check

After having described the plot (at too much length, since the entire issue could have been described as "The X-Men argue and fight amongst themselves, and then argue and fight with Magneto"), I will give a brief analysis.

This issue, the first issue of the second X-Men series, was seriously overhyped, even by comic book standards. X-Men at the time was Marvel's star franchise, something that had been accomplished through years of Chris Claremont's careful building up of the characters. At some point, they must have got greedy and believing their own hype. They then released this first issue of the second series, and millions of collectors thought it was going to be a collectors item. Which was just as well, because Marvel ended up printing up something like 10 million copies of it, which is why I managed to buy a copy for a quarter in the discount bin of my local comic shop.

Everything about this issue looks like the creators were trying to create a milestone, rather then trying to write a good story. Almost every single panel is dramatically and unrealistically posed. Every line of dialogue is overwinded, trying to emphatically recap 15 years of X-Men history. The philosophical and moral debate about "mutantkind" was already pretentious and overblown at this point. And the issue features no less than 3 double page action spreads. Some of Chris Claremont's best stories ("Pirate Kitty", for example) were small, creative flights of fancy. It was this type of overblown posturing that would ruin the artistic merits of the X-Men and would even cause Marvel to flounder, as fans who wanted good stories stopped wanting to buy overhyped "collector's items".