Don't look now, but Marvel's playing the nostalgia card again. Like any business running out of ideas, it seems they can't go more than a few months without utilizing imagery from the past to stir up sales in the present. So when some people see a title like Giant Size X-men on the racks, they're inclined to roll their eyes. However, this is one occasion when those who use their eyes in such a profane manner ought to have them gouged out and fed to whatever is keeping the herpes in check for the girls on the Jersey Shore.
Now I admit I was also a bit perplexed when I heard about this. The X-books already had an annual for Uncanny. Granted, it was more underwhelming than a motivational speech on good judgment by George W. Bush. But still, it was an annual and it filled it's purpose while not sucking too horribly. Now Marvel has another oversized one-shot issue and their balls are so big they're willing to use a title like Giant Size. It's like stuffing your pants with a cucumber and asking a few out-of-work Swedish models if they want to ski down your northern slopes. However, Chris Yost is writing it. Given his pedigree for bringing awesome to the X-men includes X-Force, X-23, X-men Evolution, and Wolverine and the X-men it's a damn good reason to look closer at that bulge in Marvel's pants and quit wondering if it's some kind of malignant tumor.
With Fear Itself kicking the shit out of Marvel's main books, the X-men are basically waiting impatiently in the wings until they can whip their dicks out with their big Schism event. In the meantime, there's still room for some kick-ass stories. This one ties directly into the adjectiveless X-men series that gave us Curse of the Mutants. Now I've reviewed this series a number of times. I've never felt the urge to frame it and put it next to the framed panties I stole from Jessica Alba's dressing room. The stories have been billed as big, but they've always fizzled out like an expired bottle of coke (the drink and not the blow). Now Chris Yost has earned the respect of X-fans by delivering consistent awesome more often than a Navy SEAL armed with an M-16 and a metric ton of C4. So if anyone can give respectability to this adjectiveless series, it's him.
His giant sized story begins with a brief lesson in evolution. Now it's a lesson that would probably only fly with the Texas School Board, but it covers an important moment in the history of man. It shows the first few human babies being born. For the ape men of the time, it's like giving birth to two kids with an asshole in their forehead and a middle finger sticking out their ass. The ape men try to kill the newborns the same way the Mafia teaches manners to their rivals. They end up getting whacked by a strange blue light. We don't see what it is, but I'm sure if those ape men wore pants they would be shitting them.
Fast forward to the present day. Cyclops is dreaming. And much to the chagrin of his barbie doll girlfriend, Emma Frost, he's not dreaming of a hot blonde licking chocolate syrup off his balls. He's dreaming of Jean Grey, you know that redhead who Marvel tries to keep dead even though fans bitch about it every chance they get? Yep! It's her! And she's trying to warn Cyclops of something. She's trying to get him to remember. If that's not enough to piss Emma Frost off, she can't even sense it. Usually when Jean crosses his thoughts, she makes a big deal about it. Not this time. She just urges him to keep sleeping. Never mind that Utopia is being attacked by an advanced group known as the Neo. He deserves his rest. That or she gets hot when her home is under attack. It may be a little of both.
Cyclops forgoes the chance to have some morning sex with Emma Frost (seriously, how many other men would turn that down?) and joins up with the rest of the X-men. It's a fight that has numerous X-men involved including Dazzler, Iceman, Angel, Psylocke, and pretty much anyone who doesn't appreciate giant green humanoids stomping over their home turf. It's a classic X-men style fight that Cyclops quickly takes under his command. It's a battle that gets ugly fast, containing all sorts of colorful super-powered villain that for some reason think attacking all mutant kind is a good idea. It doesn't sound so foolish considering all mutant-kind is concentrated on one little island. And whose fault is that? No wonder Emma didn't want to wake Cyclops.
Some amongst the team weren't around to get acquainted with the Neo. I admit I haven't been keeping up with them either. I opted out of their mailing list back when mailing lists were determined to be more outdated than eight-track tapes. They don't have a Twitter feed either so Cyclops gives the team and the readers a general overview. They're basically an off-shoot of mutants. They're like vampires minus the fans, bloodlust, and Twilight jokes. They're stronger and more powerful, but they're also xenophobic. They're like the North Korea of super-beings. They live in clans and for the past few years, they've experienced no births. The reason they give for attacking is they discovered that mutants had one with Hope. That gives them all the reason they need to attack the entire mutant race. It's actually a valid reason. If one group is having new births and the other isn't, then natural selection will eventually kick the ass of the one that isn't.
Cyclops urges the X-men to only use non-lethal attacks even though the Neo have absolutely no problem with fucking them all up. And who can blame them? They're in the same position as the X-men during the Messiah Trilogy. They know their species is fucked and they have to do whatever it takes to get them unfucked. If that means attacking all mutant kind, so be it. It's survival. Cyclops understands this and prefers NOT to be responsible for the further decimation of a species. Let's face it, he doesn't need that shit on his conscious. The rest of the X-men don't quite get it, but the fight continues and it escalates quickly.
Then something unexpected happens. Cyclops goes into one of his famous mental breakdowns/seizures. It seems to come out of nowhere, but it actually relates to that dream he had about Jean earlier. That dream didn't just involve her wearing her old Dark Phoenix outfit with edible panties underneath. It was old memories that had somehow been hidden. Only Jean found a way to preserve them and now Cyclops is remembering and getting a splitting headache in the process. It's basically like anybody remembering their freshman year of high school, but not quite as painful.
These memories take the story into the past. Not just a few years back into the past. I'm talking back into the Kirby/Lee era of Uncanny X-men. You want to talk about shit that gets better with age, there's just no beating the first class no matter what that badly named movie Fox is putting out would have you believe. The events that link to the current crisis on Utopia go all the way back to the X-men's first mission against Magneto and his Brotherhood of (Evil) Mutants. They were a lot less subtle back in the 60s I guess, but even in their old costumes they look pretty bad ass.
Now this part of the story doesn't just help add to the story in the present. It's a nice insight into the REAL first class of X-men. Ever since the X-men First Class comic was canceled (a date in which I mourn by sacrificing a goat and three chickens), the stories about the classic X-men have been few and far between. It may sound like bullshit nostalgia, but where else other than shitty fanfiction can you read a pre-Phoenix Jean Grey, a pre-Arcangel Angel, a pre-cat Beast, and a pre-Emma Frost's plaything Scott Summers? I usually make a lot of jokes about nostalgia, but for X-men First Class I make an exception. It adds a whole new element to this story, mixing two different eras in a beautifully organic way.
The battle unfolds just like it did back in the day. The X-men take on Magneto in an effort to prevent him from seizing control of nuclear weapons. Magneto wants to wage war with humanity and for some reason, Xavier and his students have a problem with this. If he could see what his future self has become, I'm sure 60s Magneto would crush his own helmet and fly head first into Richard Nixon's ass. As was often the case in that era, good was poised to triumph over evil. Then a giant robot attacked. Okay, maybe that still happens on a regular basis in 2011, but it still has that solid First Class feel to it.
One classic battle turns into another as the X-men fight their first sentinel. It's like a teenager who finds his first porno. It gets more awesome each time. It's not glossed over. The X-men in this fight were young. They aren't the uber-competent super team that goes toe-to-toe with Apocalypse in between oogling Emma Frost. There are a couple of pages worth of strategy. Just like in the present, Cyclops's leadership skills are still competent enough to take down a giant robot. The Original Five still shines. But just when it seems they're about to cap off their first Sentinel, Xavier tells them to pull back. It's like a parent interrupting the kid after he's found his first porno. It doesn't go over well with the team, but Cyclops is still the same stern SOB he is in the present. He gives them an order and they follow it.
It's probably a safe assumption that Jean, Warren, Bobby, and Hank annoy the hell out of Cyclops all the way back to the institute. Keep in mind, they're still teenagers. If they're not annoying one another, they're either high or dead. Once they get back, Professor Xavier explains himself. His reason isn't entirely rational, even to a teenager. Their mission was to stop Magneto. They did that. To hell with the giant mutant hunting robot. That was enough. Cyclops disagrees. He believes that humanity will hunt them and they have to strike back. It turns into a difficult moment because Xavier mentions that he had a similar conversation with Magneto.
Now it doesn't seem like much, but it is a profound moment. It shows that even during the early days, Cyclops and Xavier didn't see eye-to-eye. Cyclops is a fighter. That's how he's trained. Magneto is a fighter as well, albeit with slightly more genocidal tendencies. Now some may call this retconning because Cyclops in the past was always a loyal follower of Xavier. And he still is here. But that doesn't mean he agrees with everything. He and Xavier start to debate. Hank and Bobby act like it's a fight between parents. Now a fight between parents is either boring as hell or traumatizing. We never find out which it is hear because there's a blinding blue flash, which if you read the first few pages should seem familiar.
From the flash, we go back to the present and we find out who the blue light belongs to. They call themselves the Evolutionaries. They look like a half-rendered agent from the Matrix, only ten times more badass. They come claiming that they want to ensure the survival of the mutant race. Somehow, Jean made him forget about these creatures and stop whatever sort of help they offered. It probably involved shit that explodes or maims. Whatever it was, the Evolutionaries seem to remember it more than Cyclops. When they see him in the present, they say he lied to them. So suddenly the Neo are no longer that pressing. In fact, they're about to become as menacing as a terminally ill chipmunk.
Oddly enough, the Evolutionaries aren't too miffed about being lied to. Their purpose now is the same as it was when they showed up to the first class. They want to protect the mutant race. To do that, they deem that the Neo have ceased to evolve. They also present a clear threat to the mutant race. So with power that's not entirely clear, they do to the Neo what OJ Simpson does to cheating wives. They takes care them and doesn't need Johnny Cochran to clear their names. So all at once and all over the world, the Neo are completely wiped out. They blow up like ants under a magnifying glass. It isn't just on Utopia. Every Neo in every colony all over the world dies. And the Neo don't even break a sweat in the process. That's both badass and fucked up at the same time.
The fight with the Neo ends ugly and the X-men can't do shit about it. They just watch them melt away the same way they would watch a rat drown. It's not every day the X-men watch an entire race go extinct. It hits them a little harder because they've been on the receiving end of a lot of attempted genocides. They're like the Jews in that they're more inclined to feel empathy for the victims. But the Evolutionaries aren't done yet. In both the past and the present, they make the same statement. They want to protect the mutant race. In order to do that, they have to kill all humanity. It sounds cold, but think back to Second Coming and Xtinction Agenda. More often than not, it's humans who try to kill of the mutant race. So while it seems so devious, it has a sick logic to it.
And this, my fellow fanboys, is what justifies the Giant in Giant Size X-men. By the end of this comic you don't just get one long, drawn out story in the present. You get two stories, one of them that takes place in the past and is tied to the present in a profound and insightful way. It's fits together so nicely that you could build pyramids out of it. It feels like two comic in one, an issue of X-men First Class mixed with the current adjectiveless X-men series. Anyone who bitches about the $4.99 price needs to take a finance course and learn the definition of value because this book has that in abundance.
There are new concepts mixing with old ones in a uniquely creative way. The Evolutionaries don't come off as these powerful new foes that the X-men must overcome. They're a much more difficult foe in that they don't think they're doing something wrong. They're actually trying to help the X-men and their kind. In their own twisted logic, they deem it necessary to wipe out all of humanity. It puts the X-men in an awkward position because it's humanity that's often fucking them over. They're the reason they have to live on a tiny island in San Francisco. It's a difficult situation to be in and one that opens the door to so many possibilities. How do the X-men even fight something like this? Past or present? It sets the stage for a great story and one that has elements that old school fans and new school fans can unite over.
I honestly can't find too many flaws in this book. It's very nicely refined from the dialog to the art to the progression of events between the past and the present. If there are any shortcomings it's that it doesn't feel like enough characters are involved. Sure, you get glimpses of some characters in the background, but they really don't seem like part of the bigger picture. It makes the scope of the story seem more narrow than it really is. I know it's difficult for writers to include every character, but in a book titled Giant Size X-men it commands a bigger scope. There are still a few issues of this arc left so there are plenty of chances for Chris Yost to include more.
I still can't dock points off a book for simply not throwing too many characters into a scene. Unless you're really that petty, there's so much more to love about this issue. If you're a fan of the classic X-men, you'll find something to love. If you're a fan of the more contemporary X-men, you'll find something to love. There's so much love to go around it's almost like being in Hugh Hefner's bedroom. With that in mind, I give Giant Size X-men #1 a perfect 5 out of 5. This is one of those rare one-shots that's worth waiting for every year. If you're an X-men fan, past or present, you owe it to yourself to get this book. Nuff said!