Click here to return to the Shaking Through Home Page


  Shaking WWW


 Archive Home | Movies | Music | Books | Comics | Editorial


Comic Archives: Most Recent | Highest Rated | Alphabetical


  X-Treme X-Men


Chris Claremont, Salvadore Larroca

Marvel, 2002

Rating: 2.5



Posted: April 1, 2002

By The Gentleman

There was a time when Chris Claremont's penchant for dialogue was a good thing. In the late '70s and early '80s, before the heyday of Alan Moore and the idea of comics as anything even remotely approaching literature, Claremont's work on Uncanny X-Men was remarkable for the eloquence of the characters' elocution. Of course, his knack for mythos-building and imagination-capturing storylines certainly helped elevate the book above the masses, but it was Claremont's knack for characterization, delivered in ever-unspooling soliloquies, that made the book stand out.

Of course, we've come a long way since then. As Moore and a cadre of harder-edged, deviously imaginative writers have left their indelible marks on the medium, Claremont's distinctive style has joined the duck-billed platypus in the tarpit of ancient relics. If this seemed shocking in the early '90s, when he left Marvel's mutant franchise in the hands of less-than-capable successors, it's painfully obvious now.

Case in point: X-Treme X-Men, which collects the first nine issue's of Claremont's new stand-alone mutant title. X-Treme can be seen as Marvel's attempt to keep the father of mutant writers happy and (somewhat) in the loop, even as the franchise's two core titles were handed over to younger, "hotter" talents (including Grant Morrison of Doom Patrol and JLA fame). But the result is a painfully laborious read that fails to stand out amidst the constant clutter of the ever-too-large X-universe. (Honestly now, does the world really need a Mike Allred-produced mutant book?)

So as not to get in the way of the regular X-Men titles, Claremont takes a team of seasoned fan-favorites (Storm, Beast, Rogue) and underdeveloped ideas (Sage, the new Thunderbird) and sends them on a long quest. The team seeks Destiny's Diaries, a series of journals in which the blind mutant precog Destiny recorded her visions of possible future Earths, and which series has only brought pain to the late mutant and her former cohort Mystique.

So far, so decent. But Claremont, to his shame, fails to deliver a plausible or even reasonable explanation for this particular team's decision to hunt the books in secret. Apparently, these mutants (also including Psylocke and the time-displaced supercop Bishop) take it upon themselves to gather the tomes, feeling that even their leader and mentor Charles Xavier would not prove immune to their inherent temptation. Just what rationale these "X-treme" X-men operate under, to believe that they alone are worthy of carrying out such a quest, while hiding from their fellow teammates and the world, is never adequately presented.

While glaring and, indeed, critical, this is not the collection's only flaw. The action, such as it is, meanders, beginning with a too-long thread that involves the team getting captured by a super-secret branch of Spain's Guardia Civil and run through tests for the flimsiest of explanations regarding national security. Claremont also relies too heavily on flashbacks to fill in the expository holes, and the jumps are jarring.

But easily the most tiresome aspect of these stories is Claremont's tendency to have his characters orate like figures of Shakespearian tragedy at the drop of a mutant power-blast. At best, such hyper-verbosity comes off as self-indulgent whining (as when Rogue fumes "This ain't FAIR!" over and over again). At worst, the characters stumble over clumsy chunks of dialogue (and thought-balloon reflection) that would get any aspiring scribe flunked out of Creative Writing 101.

As Claremont has proven countless times over the years, at the helm of such insipid storylines as the "Mutant Massacre," he's only as good as his artist -- it's no state secret that the most successful X-Men eras combined solid stories with the exemplary superhero art of John Byrne or Dave Cockrum. Salvadore Larroca is by no means a terrible artist, but his fluid, painterly style lacks a crisp, dynamic boldness needed in action-driven books such as this one. The coloring (courtesy of someone/thing known only as "Liquid!" in the credits) doesn't help, as the team's identical blue-black costumes help muddy the all-important clarity of action scenes.

Claremont's eye for exotic locales and dense, wandering plotlines might better serve a far-flung space opera or espionage title, but on a high-profile superhero book, they're excesses that the writer himself lacks the discipline to rein in. Which makes this latest branch of the X-Men tree one that cries out for a pruning, post-haste.

Related Links:

New X-Men: Imperial

New X-Men: E is for Extinction

Uncanny X-Men: Poptopia

Classic Claremont
For a taste of Chris Claremont's better X-Men work, interested readers should seek out Marvel's black-and-white Essential X-Men reprint collections. The Dark Phoenix Saga is the other obvious starting point. Meanwhile, Mutant Genesis (available in April), which collects the first seven issues of the new X-Men title of the early '90s, shows that Claremont still had a flair for good action storytelling even in the early '90s (aided and abetted by a pre-Wildstorm Jim Lee).

Site design copyright 2001-2011 Shaking All original artwork, photography and text used on this site is the sole copyright of the respective creator(s)/author(s). Reprinting, reposting, or citing any of the original content appearing on this site without the written consent of Shaking is strictly forbidden.



 Ratings Key:
 5.0: Breaks new ground
 4.0-4.9: First-rate
 3.0-3.9: Solid
 2.0-2.9: Mediocre
 1.1-1.9: Bad
 0.0-1.0: The worst

Archived Reviews

Most Recent

Highest Rated



Best of: 2005 | 2004 | 2003 | 2002