Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Too Much X-Men - It's Possible

Okay, I'll admit. Reading the remainder of this in a week (or even two) when less than half way through was not achievable. The important thing is that I got there in the end. It's a mammoth read (nearly 770 pages when you throw in the letters pages, intros from Stan et. al., and cover galleries galore) and unlike today's books, each one is full of plot, dialog, and action. Too much so in my mind. We all like to complain about how "modern comics are decompressed" without thinking too hard about it. Go back to stories like The Death of Jean DeWolff and you can see that things were still padded out in the '80's (maybe not as much as today), and then go read Busiek's Avengers and see that even recently some books were quite a hefty read. But to truly appreciate how a "compressed" story is a lot to swallow, you really need to go back and read the 1960s era of comics. This omnibus is Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Roy Thomas, and Werner Roth at some of their best from that era, and it's still overloaded. Takes-you-half-an-hour-per-issue-and-then-you-feel-tired overloaded.

The book itself is about the right size (a little too big by an issue or so, but not so big it's primary purpose is for fending off home intruders), and is the usual quality you expect from a Marvel Omnibus. Quite obviously it contains the original issues of The X-Men (the first 31, anyway) which goes through a range of villains, and any number of bizarre concepts. You want Magneto? You got it. Brotherhood of mutants? Check. Avengers, also included. Sentinels? Obviously. Juggernaut?No questions asked. What you might not expect incudes: Vanisher's first appearance, Professor X seemingly enamoured with Jean Grey (seems everyone was back then), high school level drama from Scott and Jean, Mimic, Count Nefaria, Jean Grey with telekinesis only, humanoid Beast, The Locust, El Tigre, Lucifer, weird poetry about Beast's feet, and some of the worst villains you've ever heard of. (Unicorn, Plantman, Scarecrow, Porcupine, and Eel anyone? How about Kukulcan then?)

Some of these plots and villains make me seriously question how this book ever kept going, leave alone the sanity of those writing it. The thing that does stand out though (particularly when compared with the Amazing Spider-man Omnibus) is that the dialog from Stan Lee is actually bearable. Stan is not trying to write like he thinks the kids talk, but how a group of five adults (by way of high school) would talk. More importantly, they aren't all about slacking off and having fun, nor are they all about the job of bashing villains to a pulp. It strikes a balance. A weird balance.

I'm not going to rattle off plot lines here for a number of reasons:
1. You've either read them before verbatim, or something derivative enough you don't need to read the book for the plots.
2. You would either think the whole thing is about Magneto, or that I'm making stuff up while drunk.
3. There's just too many of them, and I only have one life to live.

So far I'm not sold on this book. For good reason. Early Marvel work generally falls into one of two categories: brilliant, or terrible. I've yet to read "mediocre". As with all work of such an era, the art isn't close to what we modern readers are accustomed, and if it bothers you, don't even waste your time and money. If you like simpler art, or can at least handle it, you'll possibly find what I did: the quality of each issue comes down to the writing, and nothing else. Some issues/arcs (They did have multi-part stories even in the 60s) are brilliant, some are just downright silly. Same writer, same artist, variable quality. I'm sure if you lined up the issues with some indication of time to produce, and the number of other titles being produced by the same guys, you might see a direct correlation.

Would I recommend this book? Yes. Yes, if you've got the money to spend on it. Yes, if you've not read these stories before. Yes, if the nostalgia you have for The X-Men is strong enough to buy this and put it on your shelf (heck most of the Omnibuses look terrific on a shelf). If you can't slot yourself into any of those categories, don't buy it.

No while I've been delaying this review, I did read a bunch of other reading. As well as a trip to Melbourne during which other comics were purchased (and then read). So I'll juggle the order a little and say that his is what we get next.

1 comment:

  1. I've seen that X-Men Omnibus, but passed. Having read some older Marvel (and DC), I know what you mean- some of it can be laborious and too far out. Still, it can be fun in small doses.