Today’s Super Comic — X-Men #98 (1976)

Allow me to pinpoint the issue where Chris Claremont’s legendary X-Men run started getting great:

X-Men #98. The preceding issues show lots of promise, but here’s where the momentum and excitement begin to kick in.

It opens as many great X-Men stories do—with the team enjoying some downtime, just trying to live their lives, until the world’s fear and hatred get in their way. In this case, that fear and hatred manifest in the form of the robotic, mutant-hunting Sentinels.

(Coincidentally, one of the strongest ‘60s X-Men stories was the Sentinels’ debut, and here their return coincides with the book’s tremendous increase in quality. Makes sense, then, that the ‘90s cartoon used them in the pilot episode.)

The Sentinels capture Jean Grey, Wolverine, and Banshee, who then must fight their way through bigots and robots. They’ve been abducted to a facility at an unknown location, and when they learn exactly where they are…yeah, that’s going to pose some new challenges.

Part of the X-Men’s success has involved mixing and matching great characters and watching them play off each other. This issue gives an early example of that by pulling together three X-Men who had hardly ever functioned as a team, and certainly not with just the three of them.

It’s especially interesting to read this early-draft version of Wolverine. He’s acquired quite the convoluted backstory over the years, but none of that’s known at this point. He’s basically an irritable mystery man, and the script hints that there’s more to his past than we may suspect. It’s even suggested he might not be a mutant, and Cyclops questions whether he’ll work out as an X-Man. Both of those proved to be absolutely wrong, but one thing that did take hold—we get some of the earliest signs of Wolverine’s burgeoning crush on Jean.

The X-Men are definitely in their formative years here. The best is yet to come, but this issue offers up a great start.

Writer: Chris Claremont

Penciler: Dave Cockrum

Inker: Sam Grainger

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology; included in Essential X-Men vol. 1 (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 9 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Generation X #18 (1996)

generation_x_vol_1_18I probably could’ve pulled off this yearlong series of positive comic reviews with X-Men books alone.

The X-Men had about a million spinoffs in the ‘90s, and one of the better ones of that era was Generation X. It brought us back to the X-Men’s roots as a series about teenage mutants learning to control their powers in a highly specialized educational environment. But Professor X wasn’t teaching this latest generation—stalwart X-Man Banshee (Sean Cassidy) and former villain the White Queen (Emma Frost) had that job.

Though the book is ostensibly about the teens, the dynamic between these two very different teachers is one of the best parts…as #18 demonstrates, when Emma telepathically compels Sean to walk off a plane at 30,000 feet in the air (it’s okay; he can fly). Her well-intentioned drive to keep her students safe, combined with her less rigid morality, make her a compelling character and one who plays well off of Banshee’s more traditional superhero type. Instead of spy vs. spy, we’ve got teacher vs. teacher (and teacher vs. students).

And artist Chris Bachalo is in top form here, with creative layouts and memorable images. A scene of Banshee breaking out of Emma’s spell is especially well done, though there isn’t a weak page in the book.

Writer: Scott Lobdell

Penciler: Chris Bachalo

Inker: Mark Buckingham

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues

Appropriate For: ages 11 and up