In honour of the 50 Greatest X-Men Stories (and the 50th anniversary of the X-Men), Comic Book Resources is doing a countdown of the 50 Greatest X-Family Stories. As before, I voted for my top 10, and here they are. First, from 10-6, and next week, the top 5. Be warned: There is a lot of X-Factor on here.
10. Pryde & Wisdom: This three-issue mini from 1996 was written by Warren Ellis. Terry Dodson did pencils for all three issues, along with Karl Story for #1 and Aaron Lopresti for #2 and 3. Warren Ellis, at the time, was nearing the end of his excellent run on Excalibur (his last issue of Excalibur came out the same month as part 3 of this series). The story follows Kitty Pryde and Pete Wisdom investigating a rash of mysterious deaths. This was after they’d broken up, but they still work well together. We get to meet some of Pete’s insane family, and they’re great. The killer turns out to be a religious nut who believes himself to be Cain – as in the Biblical Cain – trying to ask forgiveness from god for killing Abel. Kitty and Pete track him down, dealing with all sorts of other intrigues and craziness, and insulting each other constantly. They always had a surprisingly good chemistry – they were equals for each other. They were both highly intelligent, and they both had a very sharp, sarcastic wit. They both gave as good as they got. Kitty’s cheerful optimism played well off Pete’s grumpy cynicism. The story itself was really fun; the killer was interesting, the intrigues were amusing, and the art was pretty good for 1996. This was still relatively early in Dodson’s career (about 5 years in or so), so he was still developing. He’s refined his style over the past 15 years, but most of the elements were there. He just needed to tighten it up a bit.
9. Breaking Points (X-Factor #241-245): “Five days that will change X-Factor forever.” That’s the subtitle to this arc. It’s written by Peter David, with pencils by Leonard Kirk. Day One has the now-soulless Guido quit X-Factor when Monet rejects him. Day Two has Darwin nearly kill Rahne’s son, Tier, before he’s stopped and Rahne is reunited with Tier. Day Three shows how Lorna’s parents died, and ends with her catatonic. Day Four has Siryn take over as the Morrigan, from Irish mythology, to heal Lorna. And Day Five has Alex leave, and Madrox and Layla decide to go get married. These five issues were something of an emotional roller-coaster. Most of the issues were roller-coasters on their own, actually. Tragedy and triumph. Numerous people leave the team, and the rest have to keep dealing with the fallout from one thing after another. It’s full of Peter David’s normal sharp dialogue as he explores the mental states of all the characters, and their relationships to each other. He was clearly setting up some big things down the line, but he resolved a few things, as well. Most notably, PAD resolved all the confusion about Lorna’s parentage, giving us what I suspect will be her definitive origin. That issue also happens to be probably the most emotional of the arc, which is saying something. Kirk’s pencils were . . . adequate, I suppose.
8. World Tour (Exiles): Written by Tony Bedard, and drawn by a bunch of people, this was an interesting one. It lasted from #69 to #82. 13 issues is long for a single story, but while it was split into multiple short arcs (for each world they visited), it really was one story. It started during a visit to the House of M, where that reality’s version of Proteus possessed the Exiles’ version of Mimic. He escaped before the House of M returned to normal, traveling to the New Universe, where Mimic died and Proteus switched to Justice. From there, he travels to 2099, where he possesses Hulk 2099 before jumping to the Squadron Supreme world, then to Future Imperfect, where he tries to possess the Maestro, but instead winds up in Morph’s body. He then jumps to the Heroes Reborn world, which is actually still in 616 reality, just on the opposite side of the sun. THere, they finally manage to bring the chase to an end. This story was really fun, but also really tense, given the fact they were going after a reality warper who possesses people and burns out their bodies. We get to see a lot of worlds from classic stories (and Heroes Reborn), which was a treat. 2099, Squadron Supreme, even the New Universe – they were fun places to visit again. Mimic’s death was a truly emotional moment – he was one of the original Exiles, so his death hit hard. The art was fairly consistent throughout the story, and Bedard did a good job selling the stakes as the Exiles chased Proteus throughout the multiverse.
7. Rube Goldberg (Exiles #54): This done-in-one issue is by Tony Bedard and Mizuki Sakakibara. The Exiles are given a simple but bizarre mission: Buy a Danish. They’re supposed to go into a specific shop and buy the last cheese Danish. They spend quite a while talking about the mission, given how little sense it makes, before Mimic buys the Danish. He takes a bite. And it’s pretty good. And boom, on to their next mission (which was another great arc, with Kulan Gath). However, if you know who Rube Goldberg was, then you can guess what happens: Somehow, buying that Danish sets off a series of complicated events that ultimately lead to Earth being saved from an alien invasion. Yes, a single Danish saved the world. The chain of events is ridiculous, and oh-so-good. It’s a fun done-in-one story with absolutely no bearing on anything else, a breather issue. It doesn’t even really give much room for exploring the characters, because the premise is just too weird to do it. But it’s just an amazingly fun issue. Sakakibara does a good job on the art, too. He makes the reality look like a normal comic book world. It wasn’t anything innovative, which was kinda the point. She was tasked with drawing an utterly normal comic book world, and she did a perfect job at it.
6. Hard Labour (X-Factor #220-224): More Peter David, with multiple people on pencils. Over in X-Force, Rahne got herself pregnant with Hrimhari’s child. For some reason, a whole lot of mystical beings are interested in Rahne’s unborn child, probably because Hrimhari is an Asgardian Wolf God, so his kid would be semi-divine. We get the ghost of Feral, a demon named Sin-Eater, some Cu Sith (demon hounds who replicate when injured by metal weapons), Bastet, Okami, Kasha (a cat-like version of Okami), the Fenris Wolf, Hela, Agamemnon (Loki’s kid, Vali Halfling) and Werewolf By Night (Jack Russell) all get involved. Most are trying to get the kid for themselves. Jack and the Fenris Wolf are trying to protect the kid, which leads to some pretty awesome scene of the Fenris Wolf kicking some ass. In the end, Rahne gives birth, leading to the big finale. That’s the big moment in this arc. Up to that point, the arc had been exciting and cool, full of all sorts of wolf-oriented creatures. But then there’s that moment, and it’s just a punch to the gut. Feral’s ghost was an added bonus for the arc – her death was a real shame. The rest of X-Factor doesn’t get a whole lot to do here, but there’s still some cool fights and snappy dialogue. This is Rahne’s story, and it’s an incredible one, with a truly shocking end.