November 27, 2008

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X-Men: The End Book 1

Written by Chris Claremont
Illustrated by Sean Chen
Marvel Comics

Marvel did a set of stories about the end for its characters. Longtime X-Men scribe Claremont was given this one, and well, whether or not you like it will depend on how much you can stand Claremont's conversational boxes. Why do I mention this? Because they are EVERYWHERE. I don't think there's a page that goes by without an editorial comment by Claremont. It breaks any hope of staying within the story, which for an epic like this, really destroyed the magic for me.

The plot basically involves everything Claremont ever touched--Phoenix, of course, the messy Summers family tree, Logan and Storm's relationship, a strong and powerful Kitty Pryde, the Shi'ar, and of course the Brood. Mixed all together, we have a continuity fest that I can only just barely comprehend--exactly why no one who hasn't been reading the X-Men for 30 years now doesn't read the X-Men in the fist place.

The story itself is fairly strong, if you can get past the need to have the Official Marvel Handbook to the X-Men available at all times. Jean Grey is being sold for parts and a girl with ties to both the Shi'ar and the X-Men rescues her. As soon as the galactic world learns of Phoenix's return, there's a mad on for the X-Men, leading to inter-galactic combat through clever use of an unexpected party. Meanwhile, Mr. Sinister is going to take this time to take down the X-family once and for all. In Claremont's defense, he is not afraid to try and kill people off here. When they call this "the end" they mean it. I appreciated that a lot, actually. If you're going to do an epic story, people need to die, and they do. Things look really bad as the trade ends, with Xavier bemoaning what has happened to Magneto and Callisto. (Claremont nicely has Charles name them for us in case we forgot them.)

If there's a problem that really rears its ugly head, it's that I can't tell for the life of me *when* this all happens. Characters have children but don't look noticeably older. There's no clues beyond that Kitty can run for office (so we're about 15 years into the future?) in which case it makes no sense that Beast, for example, hasn't started to turn gray or that Emma's breasts aren't even starting to sag. It seems like Chen wasn't given any orders to age the old X-Men.

I liked this enough to read more, but only if you like the characters. If you've no strong ties to the X-Men (and honestly, I only have a strong tie to those who *left* the X-Men to do other things) there's not much here for you. And again, while the dialog is fine (if Claremonty), you really should be warned about those text boxes.