Friday, January 6, 2017

Xtreme Satifaction From A Most Xtreme Era: X-men 92 #10

The following is my review of X-men 92 #10, which was posted on PopMatters.com.


Every era has distinct spirit and style that defines it. Just as the Beatles define the 1960s and disco music defined the late 1970s, the edgy grit of the X-men helped define the 1990s. Along with Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and the OJ Simpson trial, the X-men embody an era where differences and extremes shoved their way into the mainstream. Mutants, being an over-arching metaphor for minorities, set the tone for this era and ran with it full-speed.

That time now seems so long ago as a new era driven by movie rights and the rival companies that fight over them takes hold. While the X-men still have a place in this era, it is nowhere near the prominence they enjoyed in the 1990s where toys, trading cards, and Pizza Hut promotions embraced all things X-men. X-men 92 doesn't come with those same promotions and it's not just because Pizza Hut has scaled back their marketing efforts. Even without those promotions, X-men 92 still carries with it that same spirit and style.

X-men 92 is series that simply cannot fit into an era where a talking raccoon with a machine gun generates the same interest as Wolverine. In another decade, it could be the gold standard for an entire franchise. Instead, it can only manage a short 10-issue series that capitalizes on the nostalgia and style of a bygone era. This doesn't give Chad Bowers and Chris Sims much to work with, but that doesn't stopped them from making every issue of X-men 92 count.

With X-men 92 #10, the limited narrative they've crafted reaches its premature conclusion. In many respects, its too premature to generate the same impact, even to those passionate X-men fans that cling desperately to the glory days of the mid-1990s. Despite these limits, Bowers and Sims still find a way to make X-men 92 #10 conclude in a way that feels epic, compelling, and dramatic to an extent that works beautifully in any era.

What begins in the Secret Wars tie-in culminates in this issue. It's not an overly elaborate plot. It doesn't have the same twists, turns, clones, retcons, and superhero civil wars that every plot after 2004 seems to mimic. That's not to say it's an overly simple plot either. It's not just the X-men fighting a killer robot. It's not just Wolverine snarling every other panel. There's a certain level of depth and drama that help heighten the emotions. For a series that draws from the fond memories of a cartoon that ended in 1997, that's quite an accomplishment.


The primary conflict, which has been building since the series began, involves a threat so big that even Apocalypse dreads it. It's the kind of extreme, over-the-top threat that emerged every other week in the '90s X-men comics. It's not too contrived either, building off the X-men's history with the Celestials. These space god robots definitely qualify as extreme and over-the-top, making them the perfect threat for this brand of X-men to face.

Beyond the threat, Bowers and Sims do what they can to resolve the outstanding plots that unfolded throughout the series. Given the tragically limited breadth of this series, this isn't too difficult. They resolve the side-plot with Cyclops and Jean Grey. They build off what they established with Dead Girl during the first major arc of the series. They take the time and effort to incorporate every one of these elements into the final resolution. That kind of impact reflects a genuine effort that isn't always obvious in a comic, be it a limited mini-series or a full-blown crossover event.

X-men fans from both the '90s and every other era will appreciate such efforts. They make for beautiful moments, some of which could easily fit right into the famous '90s cartoon. Moments like Cyclops and Jean Grey confronting Cable or Gambit finally sharing a moment with Rogue will warm the hearts of anyone who made watching that cartoon part of their Saturday morning. It's presented in a way that even those who never watched that cartoon can appreciate.

As nice as these moments are, they still only deliver a fraction of the dramatic weight that X-men 92 #10 delivers. Bowers and Sims really swing for the fences in resolving the Celestial conflict, taking Charles Xavier's dream and raising the stakes to a level that can only ever work in the final issue of a series. It goes beyond merely fostering peace between humans and mutants. More than anything else, it reveals the most important tenant of this dream and why it sets the X-men apart from their enemies, human and mutant alike.


For men like Charles Xavier, peace and understanding cannot be forced. It cannot be coerced, imposed, or telepathically forged. It has to be chosen and embraced. This is something that the Magnetoes, the Apocalypses, and the Sinisters of the world refuse to acknowledge. They don't trust ordinary humans to choose such a path. Charles Xavier has faith in humanity that they will make this choice when given a chance. That faith is ultimately rewarded in X-men 92 #10.

This reward still comes at a price, but one that is both fitting and satisfying. Bowers and Sims set it up in a way that feels right. It gives the impression that this is how Charles Xavier's dream must be realized. This is how that dream takes form and substance in the context of the X-men's overall narrative. It doesn't need to be tragic, but it doesn't need to be as fanciful as a Disney movie either. At a time when it's easy to be extremely cynical about human nature, the culmination in X-men 92 #10 offers a wonderfully refreshing perspective.

Even with a series that had so little time to grow and ends so abruptly, X-men 92 #10 manages to accomplish so much in such a short span of time. Given the scope and scale of the narrative, it's impossible to resolve every element without making a triple-sized issue, complete with bonus pages. Chad Bowers and Chris Sims still succeed in completing the X-men's narrative. Whether it's a cartoon from the mid-90s or a limited comic book series from 2016, it's still extremely satisfying. For X-men fans of all eras, especially the extremes of the '90s, it's astonishingly fitting.

Final Score: 9 out of 10

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