Axel-In-Charge: Extending "Secret Wars," Excitement for a "Totally Awesome Hulk"
In honor of the fiftieth anniversary of the X-Men, we’re doing a poll of the greatest X-Family (spin-offs of the X-Men) stories of all-time (Here is our previous list of the 50 Greatest X-Men Stories)! You all voted, now here are the results of what you chose as the 50 Greatest X-Family stories! Here is a master list of every story featured so far.
Here are the final three!
3. “The Demon Bear Saga” New Mutants #18-20
It is hard to quite imagine just what kind of a shock it was to go from Sal Buscema as the artist on New Mutants to Bill Sienkiewicz. Buscema is a fine artist, but Sienkiewicz was in the midst of an artistic display that few artists could rival, primarily because artists of Sienkiewicz’s particular skill set rarely stick around doing monthly comic books. Sienkiewicz’s avant garde art style was a major culture shock for traditional superhero art. His stunning and off-kilter designs took panels that would be seemingly average scenes in the hands of other artists and turned them into mini-masterpieces of dynamic design. It was here that the story from Chris Claremont really fit Sienkiewicz’s debut, because the opening arc features a demonic bear that had been haunting Dani Moonstar’s dreams since early in the series. Given that it is a DEMONIC bear, Sienkiewicz is not constrained by physics in how he depicts the bear and giving an artist as creative as Sienkiewicz open access to places like a demonic landscape is just asking for some bizarrely stunning designs and that’s just what we got. The story is about a demonic bear that had haunted Dani Moonstar for years and supposedly killed her parents. She confronts the bear and is nearly killed by it. The bear tries to finish her off in the hospital, but her teammates, the New Mutants, try to hold it off and protect their friend. This story introduced two new supporting characters, an ER nurse named Sharon Friedlander and a local cop named Tom Corsi. These two humans were captured by the Demon Bear and transformed into super-powered Native Americas and then the New Mutants themselves were transported to a demonic world, as the Demon Bear’s powers were growing stronger and it was beginning to affect the REAL world slowly but surely. Ultimately, Magik saved the day and Dani was healed and the Demon Bear turned out to be her parents. Sharon and Tom went back to normal, except now they looked like Native Americans (what a freaking weird ass idea). They both became major supporting characters for the rest of Claremont’s run on New Mutants (which yes, did indeed mean that they would eventually end up wearing leather S&M outfits, as all Claremont characters eventually do at some point or another).
2. “X-Aminations” X-Factor #87
This landmark issue by Peter David, Joe Quesada and Al Milgrom (Al Milgrom, coming through with two appearances in the top 12! Impressive) detailed the cast of X-Factor going to see psychiatrist Doc Samson (who David was then currently writing as a supporting character in the pages of the Incredible Hulk). What made this issue so stunning was that while David had clearly already shown a certain dark edge to the X-Factor characters here and there during his run to this point, for the most part the book had a bit of a light quality to it. This was turned on its ear when David was allowed to share some dark, dark aspects of each of the characters. In addition, overall it was a fascinating exploration of the characters period with some striking artwork by Quesada, then still early in his career as a superstar comic book artist. For instance, it contains the greatest description of Quicksilver’s personality ever. It is so good that later writers have just adopted it wholesale, as it would be a bit of a waste otherwise for them to try to outdo it. Instead, it’s like “Remember that issue of X-Factor? Just read that if you want to know why Quicksilver is the way he is.” David really blew so many people away with this issue that it still holds such a prominent spot in everyone’s minds two decades later (the 2007 “sequel” to this story even made the countdown).
1. Wolverine #1-4
When Marvel decided to expand their publishing approach with the addition of mini-series as a standard publishing tool (rather than a very rare occurrence), there was little doubt that Wolverine would be one of the characters getting one of these new mini-series. However, it likely still took people back at just how GOOD the mini-series was. A lot of these series turned out to be fairly forgettable but when you put the top Marvel writer, Chris Claremont, with the top Marvel artist, Frank Miller, you were bound to get quite a comic book. This series (with finishes by Joe Rubinstein, whose contribution to this series is often overlooked, I think – the guy didn’t just INK Miller, he did finishes – however, since Miller’s brilliance is often demonstrated by his panel DESIGNS rather than his character work, you can easily understand how Rubinstein was fighting a difficult battle for recognition – it’s one that I am sure Klaus Janson has had to deal with over the years, as well – despite Janson drawing the majority of the later issues of Miller’s Daredevil, he was still doing them over Miller layouts, and Miller’s layouts are SO distinctly Miller that it is hard to get out of that shadow). This series takes Wolverine to Japan for an epic battle between Wolverine and the evil ninja Lord Shingen and the Hand (the evil ninja organization from Miller’s Daredevil). We also meet the free-spirited Yukio, who helps Wolverine in Japan. In the end, Wolverine manages to achieve enough of a position of honor that his Japanese girlfriend, Mariko, can agree to marry him. By the way, the first page of this mini-series debuted the phrase “I’m the best there is at what I do.” So for that alone, this series would be pretty memorable.
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