The Ages Of The X-Men (No. 3) edited by Joseph J. Darowski (book review).

AgesOfTheX-Men  Despite assurances in the introduction that the nineteen essays in ‘The Ages Of The X-Men’ would spread throughout its forty year history, the opening essays focus entirely on the same subject, that of the book’s initial creation. Although John Darowski draws parallels with the Brotherhood Of Evil Mutants being a metaphor for communism, which escaped us here in the UK as being purely good versus evil, there is little reference to the likes of Factor Three where evil mutants were willing to set America and the USSR against each other which clearly showed their distain for both. Likewise, his examination of Jean Grey and her more weakened power is explained much further along in the time-line by Xavier having to reduce her telekinesis after she nearly killed her best friend and her fainting from over-use was more to do with struggling to really let go and only bumping into one of his mental blocks.


Jean-Philippe Zanco’s look at the original X-Men’s life style and Bobby and Hank hanging out in Greenwich Village belies the detail that doing anything extraordinary there would seem quite normal. I mean, the villagers were in awe of Hank’s large feet which is actually covered, in text not by socks. If anything, it’s more surprising that the rest of the X-Men only went there once for a party as Cyclops with his sunglasses always on would have looked totally hip.

The looks at ‘Days Of Future Past’ and ‘Love Loves, Man Kills’ provides some insights. When I read the latter as one of the nascent Marvel graphic novels, I never thought Brent Anderson’s art (and he was good elsewhere) for a team book and it tended to distract from the story.

Gerri Mahn’s assertions about masculinity of the male members of the X-Men as sex objects seems to have missed out on Gambit, who must surely have been the more amorous of the team with his Cajun charm even if his black eyes must have looked spooky. I often wonder how any of these mutants developing any strong interest in the opposite sex when they express their energy in fighting so much.

Although these authors point out how the X-Men symbolise how minorities are portrayed tend to forget the attraction to comic fans in the first place. Although we’re pretty prevalent today, back in the 60s, we more earnest fans were loners spread across the country, few and far between. Outsiders. Notice the connection? The title obviously didn’t hit on all comicbook readers obviously in the 1960s but it clearly went to town in the 1970s as more people found the series and the diversity of the characters in both colour and nationality. Although the general public get our taste for comics today, we’re still looked on as still being a bit quirky.

I’m not sure if I go along with David Allan Duncan’s assertion that Nightcrawler is disfigured though. Of all the second team, Kurt Wagner was happy in his own skin which was down to Dave Cockrum’s original design and carried over by John Byrne until later authors thought to give him angst.

Christian Norman forgot that where the mutant cure was concerned, the Beast wasn’t born blue and hairy but a continual mutate from a serum he devised when he first left the original X-Men. Although I can understand the metaphor of finding a cure to being a mutant to, say, for being gay, well and truly it could apply to being any condition. Humans tend to be very wary of those who don’t conform to being part of the pack but history has shown that if it won’t go away will be seen as belonging to it over a longer period. It’s a shame he didn’t go further and explore why people prefer to be different than conform, showing a different side of the human psyche.

Nicholas Labarre looking at Grant Morrison’s run on the ‘New X-Men’ and the school riot appearing around the same time as the Columbine massacre kept nudging in my head that a similar thing was going on with an episode of TV’s ‘Buffy The Vampire Slayer’ around the same time. Although Labarre notes it at the very end his article, it is just one of those synergy things where events clump together. It’s hardly like there hadn’t being a shooting at schools before in America so it was hardly a new template.

There are several mistakes that editing should have caught. On page 33, Cyclops is described as being blind and on page 38, the Beast’s own adventures weren’t in ‘Strange Tales’ but ‘Amazing Adventures’. On page 40, John Proudstar’s codename was called ‘Warpath’ (which was his brother James’ in the Hellions incidentally) instead of Thunderbird, which was corrected on page 42 in the essay. I’m pointing these things out, not so much because of familiarity with the subject but it tends to distract and I’m sure other X-fans in the know would feel the same when reading this book. With a forty year history, I doubt if any of the writers in this book could have possibly have read everything but they really could have had someone with proper comicbook knowledge looking over their shoulders and directing them where to look for missing information or even use the ComicVine on the Net.

Of all of ‘The Ages’ books so far, this one has had the most depth and the most to think about. I suspect the authors are either a little more read on the subject or find themselves in a subject matter about prejudice that they can recognise the metaphor with the X-Men better. As can be noted form my comments above, there were some areas that they overlooked completely in their analysis but give you plenty of room for discussion which is all for the good of any book.

GF Willmetts

February 2015

(pub: McFarland. 240 page indexed small enlarged paperback. Price: £34.50 (UK), $40.00 (US). ISBN: 978-0-7864-7129-2)

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