This Tumblr post, showcasing early appearances by the leading characters in Brian Wood’s upcoming X-Men series, brings back all kinds of happy memories for me. I started reading Uncanny X-Men around #185, when Rogue was still relatively new to the team and Rachel wasn’t even a full member yet; Psylocke and Jubilee were years away from joining the book, although I’m tempted to say that I’d already met Betsy Braddock via the UK Captain Britain strips.
Something that I’m reminded of with these scenes is how tonally varied Claremont’s X-Men was in its prime; that the melodramatic angst would inevitably be balanced by comedy (even if it was, like most Claremontian humor, more unusual and awkward than actually funny to me), and that the characters would get to “win” every now and again. I drifted away from the series around the very start of the Jim Lee era, worn down by the endless plots and seeming lack of direction the book had at the time, and – Morrison’s brief New X-Men aside – didn’t really return to the franchise in any permanent sense until Kieron Gillen and Jason Aaron had taken over.
Part of what had kept me away was the constant feeling of oppression the X-Books had devolved into, it felt like; a sense that the characters were fighting a permanently losing battle against… well, everything, really. I’m not quite sure how it happened, but the fun of the X-Books I read growing up had disappeared, replaced by constant danger and depression and not fun, for want of a better way of putting it. Everything was melodramatic angst, and what little happiness there was always felt temporary (and, usually, would be proven to be so in the service of plot twists and cheaply manufactured drama).
That might’ve been why Aaron’s Wolverine and The X-Men and Gillen’s Uncanny X-Men clicked for me. There was a sense of humor in both books, and a lightness in tone beyond that. Both series had a sense of possibility and hope that appealed both in a nostalgic sense, but also to the reader I am today. I would rather read a series that wanted to make me smile as much as thrill, chill and sadden, you know?
The Bendis reboot of the franchise, post-Avengers Vs. X-Men, has left me a little adrift from the main X-Books again, I admit (It’s not a tonal issue anymore but one of pacing and disinterest in keeping up with Bendis’ work in single issues; collections of his superhero stuff have been my preferred format for awhile; I feel like I get more out of the experience that way), but I’m familiar enough to feel that we still have an X-Men franchise that offers as many “up” moments as down ones, and that’s a really nice thing to consider. It might have taken decades, but I like the idea that X-Men can have fun even when things look particularly grim again.
Now, if only we can convince someone that an updated “Kitty’s Fairy Tale” should form the basis for the 2014 event, instead of another “Days of Future Past” retread…