Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Comic Book review: X-Men ’92

The Battleworld that God Emperor Doom forged at the start of Secret Wars is a patchwork of many wildly different realms. Many are based off of classic Marvel storylines, or even some of the more recent comic book arcs. But X-Men ’92 is the only comic among them to be based off a television show that was, itself, based off a comic book. X-Men ’92 sees the bright yellow and dark blue costumes of the 1990s Fox series return in the form of ink and paper, along with all the snappy one-liners and cheesy-yet-endearing character portrayals of everyone’s favorite mutant heroes and heroines.

In the realm of Westchester, Magneto and his Brotherhood of Mutants have been defeated, and the healing process of the human populous coming to accept the X-Men among them is already underway. The story opens with a friendly game of ‘Extreme Lazer Tag’ inside the local shopping mall, with Jubilee claiming the high score. But the relaxed afternoon is interrupted by one rogue Sentinel, among the last of its kind, and still determined to wipe out mutantkind. Causing a scene as they take down the mechanized giant, the X-Men are sternly greeted by Baron Robert Kelly, who informs them of a place known as the Clear Mountain Institute, a rehabilitation facility for their former mutant foes. Supposedly, former Brotherhood members including Sabretooth, Toad, and Blob have gone to this Clear Mountain Institute willingly, seeking to renounce their villainous ways, but the X-Men are not so sure.

They travel to the Institute, where they are greeted by its head of operations, one Cassandra Nova, who offers to provide the mutants with a tour of the facilities. Despite their run-ins with former foes being entirely peaceful within the facility, both Wolverine and Cyclops get the feeling that something isn’t right. Jubilee is separated from her older teammates, and distracts herself by playing the X-Men arcade game (yes, the one that existed in our own reality of 1992, and featured Colossus, Cyclops, Nightcrawler, Dazzler, Wolverine, and Storm). Meanwhile, the X-Men are given an up-close and personal look at Cassandra Nova’s rehabilitation machinery, but not in the way they had hoped, as they are taken to a place known as the Mind Field, where Cassandra Nova is able to manipulate their thoughts, and attempts to break their self-images into more cooperative, obedient individuals.

X-Men ’92 is endearingly self-aware of its setting and the appropriate tone to lend to its narrative. It pokes fun at its roots a number of times, with Jubilee remarking that she finds Dazzler’s costume in the arcade game to be quite tacky. X-Men '92 also breaks the fourth wall, cracking jokes that are, just one panel later, deemed to be too mature for readers, and are subsequently marked out in red ink before receiving a stamp of approval (a jab at the restrictions of using certain words in children’s shows that Marvel and Fox agreed to in 1990s). The dialogue is expertly handled as well, treading a line that allows both younger readers and longtime fans to find equal enjoyment from this superhero action-comedy period-piece.

The second issue is the weakest link in the four-part story, as it suffers from a repetition. By the time readers are nine or so pages in, it shouldn’t be too difficult for them to detect where the rest of the second issue will go. Thankfully, the third issue picks up the slack, bringing the X-Force members onto the scene to rescue their X-Men allies, with Deadpool in tow. And the fourth and final issue provides one explosive finale that is sure to geek out more than a few fans of the X-Men, with its absurd escalation of action, as well as a number of cameos by iconic characters – some of whom previously appeared in the 1990s cartoon, and others who did not (but have nonetheless been adapted into this comic book reimagining). X-Men ’92 is a riot; as much a love letter to the classic cartoon as it is a parody of it. And with Marvel having picked up X-Men ‘92 as one of their new ongoing series in 2016, the potential for future adventures and zippy dialogue holds wealth of potential.

My rating: 9 (out of 10)

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