In honour of the 50 Greatest X-Men Stories (and the 50th anniversary of the X-Men), Comic Book Resources has done a countdown of the 50 Greatest X-Family Stories. As before, I voted for my top 10, and here they are. Two weeks ago, I did 10-6. Today, my top 5.
5. Charon (X-Factor Annual #8): So this one requires some explanation. In X-Factor #72, a guy named Professor Vic Chalker decides to kill X-Factor. Over the next few issues, he builds a suit of power armour, then dies when he takes it out in the rain, since there’s unprotected wiring. His brother, Rick, started calling himself Number One Fan, and replaced his hands with blades, and then couldn’t leave the house and killed himself when he tried to face-palm. Then their “mutant outcast” brother, Dick, who went by the name Carnivore, decided to avenge them by killing mutants, and was immediately run over by a car. So that brings us to the Annual. A guy with a vendetta against all mutants (and a particular hatred for Strong Guy) goes to a demon named Cloot for help against X-Factor. The guy is turned into Charon, and given the Chalker family to help him against X-Factor. They declare themselves X-Factor’s greatest enemies, despite literally never actually meeting them. It’s utterly ridiculous, in the way that only Peter David could pull off. The pencils from Terry Shoemaker were awful, unfortunately, but PAD’s writing was great. Some good character stuff, but mostly just a chance for X-Factor to go up against some really stupid foes. I loved it.
4. Good Omens (X-Statix #1-5): Peter Milligan and Mike Allred had already been doing X-Force for a while with the same team, but in September 2002, X-Force was ended, and relaunched as X-Statix, continuing to follow the superhero reality show team. This first arc deals with them recruiting a new member after U-Go Girl’s tragic death, and also dealing with a reality manipulating boy in a small town who forces himself onto the team. The kid is an X-Force fanatic, and also deeply unstable. Even more than the rest of the team. We’re also introduced to a rival team, O-Force, though they don’t really remain rivals for very long, and largely fade away after this arc. All the Milligan/Allred stuff was great, and I could’ve gone with just about any arc. But I ended up going with this one. It was a tough call, but I think I like this one most, Back From the Dead would be a runner-up. They did a great job lampooning pop culture. It was a book that was ahead of its time, and it was hilarious, but also really poignant.
3. Magneto: Testament: This 5-part mini by Greg Pak and Carmine Di Giandomenico was amazing. It details the early life of Magneto, whose actual name is finally revealed as Max Eisenhardt. We see what his life was like before the Holocaust, living in Germany during the rise of National Socialism. And then we see his experiences during the Holocaust. Pak did a lot of research about the Holocaust, and strives for a sense of horrific realism. There are no colourfully-garbed heroes or villains running around. There’s no mutant powers or super-soldiers. Instead, Pak tries to show what people really went through. It’s full of moments of horror, and very few moments of light. Carmine’s art is gorgeous, which just makes it even worse. Matt Hollingsworth does a fantastic job with the colours, as well, heightening the story. The whole thing is masterfully done, and absolutely soul-crushing.
2. Cross-Time Caper: By Chris Claremont and (primarily) Alan Davis (though he did leave for a few issues), the Cross-Time Caper officially ran for a full 12 issues, from #12 to #24. It began a couple issues earlier, with an alternate-reality version of Excalibur popping up. The normal Excalibur, while exploring the alternate reality team’s train, got shunted to another reality by Widget and the Phoenix Force. They spent the next dozen issues trying to get home, hopping from one timeline to another – hence the title. It was a fun adventure, full of great with and humour. Marvel’s multiverse is a really interesting place, and seeing some of the other realities was great. Alternate realities was always something of a theme in Excalibur. It was always a fun series, and Claremont and Davis worked well together, and clearly had a blast on the book. The fill-in artists while Davis was off the book weren’t quite up to his standard, but they were mostly good. Still, the book was at its best when Davis was on art duties.
1. Multiple Birth: The CBR poll put this under Time and A Half/Overtime, X-Factor (Vol. 3) #39-50. Those were great issues by Peter David. #40-50 brought back Layla as an adult, brought back Shatterstar and revealed his bisexuality by having him immediately start making out with Rictor, and has some great future stuff involving Ruby Summers, the Summers Rebellion, Fitzroy, and a senile yet still awesome Doom. Amazing stuff. However, the main issue I voted for was X-Factor #39. Titled Multiple Birth, the issue is about the birth of Madrox and Siryn’s baby. What happens after their son is born is one of the most shocking moments in comics. A lot of moments get described as shocking. This one truly deserves that description. It’s been long enough now that what happened has been spoiled, but I’m not going to say what happened. I urge you to find the issue. It’s in the Time and A Half TPB. I’d suggest getting a couple of the previous TPBs, as well, just to have some context building up to that moment in X-Factor #39. It was just a jaw-dropping scene, powerful and emotional. And then it’s followed by a bunch more awesome issues full of more surprises, twists, turns and just all-around great work by a great writer.