X-Men: East Coast/West Coast

Since their debut in the 1960s, the X-Men have been based in upstate New York, at Professor Xavier’s School For Gifted Youngsters (Later Xavier’s Institute for Higher Learning). This mansion has been their home, their school, and their training grounds for decades, despite numerous demolishings at the hands of Sentinels, aliens, psychic constructs, villains, aliens again, radical religious fundamentalists, machines, and even the Hulk.

Most recently, the X-Men went to war with various factions of villains, and even themselves. The mansion was destroyed and Professor Xavier was shot in the head, which prompted Cyclops to disband the X-Men. But through various bizarre circumstances, they reunited in San Francisco, raised an asteroid out of the ocean, and founded their own country – Utopia – where almost all the remaining 200 or so mutants now live.

Until “Schism.”

Schism was – in my opinion – a fairly contrived storyline, that saw a bunch of rich child prodigies attack the X-Men. Things were understandably dour, and the time came when it had to be decided whether or not the children would fight. Cyclops – the time-tested, battle-hardened, compulsively militaristic leader – said “Hey, I know they’re kids, too bad, we all grow up eventually.” Wolverine – yes, THAT Wolverine – said “Maaaaaaybe sending kids into battle is NOT the kind of organization we want to be…” which, thank you, it’s about time. So, the two called it Splitsville, and Wolverine moved out.

The thing I’ve really appreciated about Schism is its willingness to unabashedly take sides. On the West Coast, you’ve got Uncanny X-Men (the Flagship Title), Adjectiveless X-Men (or Extraneous X-Men as I like to call it), the New Mutants, and Generation Hope (the new team of super kids). Back on the East Coast – at the renamed Jean Grey School for Higher Learning – we’ve got Wolverine and the X-Men (a second Flagship Title), X-Men: Legacy, Uncanny X-Force, and X-Factor.

The East Coast is undoubtedly the better franchise. Wolverine and the X-Men sees Wolverine in the role of Headmaster, wearing sweaters, drinking coffee, and teaching literature. Iceman is the accountant and constantly worries about money. Kitty Pryde is Headmistress, and is her usual adorable-if-neurotic self. The book is light-hearted, shows great characterization, and is just fun. X-Men: Legacy turns the focus from the senior staff and students to the rest of the staff: Rogue, Cannonball, Gambit, and others. This is the book that literally de-constructed and re-constructed Rogue and Professor X, putting them on their most solid footing in decades. This book has great action, a lot of interpersonal dynamics, power struggles, and a really strong focus: teachers fighting so their students don’t have to. Uncanny X-Force just wrapped up one of the single-most critically-acclaimed arcs in X-Men history, redefining X-Force as a book about personal sacrifice, hard choices, epic plot lines, and witty characters. And finally there’s X-Factor, Team On-The-Sidelines. This book is in its 8th year with the same writer – a rare achievement in comics – and shows no signs of slowing. Writer Peter David is fixing to tell a story that’s been FIFTEEN years in the making, according to him. So I’m pretty pumped. The book is witty, zany, moving, pop-culture-laden, consistent, and did I mention witty? It’s been my favorite Marvel title for oh… EIGHT YEARS.

The West Coast is… well… not my cup of tea. You’ve got Uncanny X-Men, which revolves around the Extinction Team: Cyclops’ first round draft picks. You’ve got Cyclops, Emma Frost, King Namor, Magneto, Storm, Colossus as the Juggernaut, Magik, sentient Danger Room Danger, and Hope – the “Mutant Messiah.” The book has solid concepts and execution, but I don’t particularly connect with it. I love snark more than almost anyone, but this book is ridiculous. There’s just way too much ego in general. Maybe that’s the point, and maybe things are just simmering before a big boil. I don’t know. I still read it, but mostly because I feel like it’s the book where all the “big stuff” is going to happen.

Next you have X-Men. The one I call X-Traneous X-Men because I am clever. This book… is mostly about vampires. And it includes my least favorite X-Man of ALL TIME: Jubilee. Like, grody to the max. Seriously. I hate her. So much. Reviews mostly range from mediocre to straight-up boo boo. It would take a miracle for me to read it.

Then there’s New Mutants, which used to be a book about the next generation of X-Men. Now they’re all early 20-somethings, and through various means they have been resurrected and brought together. Maybe this is a book for long-time fans of the classic team? Not really sure as I’ve only read a few issues. In general, I feel like it lacks a real mission statement or purpose other than nostalgia.

And finally there’s Generation Hope – the current book about the next generation of X-Men. I appreciate that this book is very multicultural, and features youngsters, and is the only book where we’re going to see new mutants appearing. And that’s well and good, except that I think Hope – the protagonist – is exceedingly bland. I mean, stoic is technically a personality type, but it just isn’t compelling to read.

Anyway, that’s my thoughts on the current Schism. Sorry SoCal, but my heart is clearly in En-Why-See. Hopefully this has been a good primer for anyone looking to get into the X-Men line but unsure where to begin (hint: Uncanny X-Force by Rick Remender), as I know oh-so-many-of-you are.

See y’all back on Friday, with a Music post from Stephen!

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