Thursday, August 4, 2011

My Secret Origin, The Dark Times

At the end of this week I turn 30 which would be weird enough on it's own, but it also marks my TWENTIETH year reading comics. As a celebration (or validation) of this anniversary, I've decided to take a trip down memory lane and highlight some milestones. The past few days I've discussed how I became a fan through circumstance, fate, and some social pressure. Alas, the good times couldn't last forever, and with an imminent move to college, they were destined to come to an end...

As bad as a rap the 90s gets for being pure terrible comics, it was the perfect time for me to start reading. Issues were relatively cheap (unless they had some gimmick cover), the selection was huge, and they were readily available every where I went. For a kid looking for a hip new hobby, comics certainly made it easy on me. And for this kid, it was all about Spider-Man and X-Men.

Spider-Man was a constant in my collection for years, but unfortunately the 90s were terrible times for the webslinger. While I was intrigued as anyone by the angst-ridden 'There is no man, only The SPIDER' stuff it really didn't grab me the way I suppose it intended. Same thing with the Spider-Clone fiasco. As interesting as it all was, I never felt truly invested in any of the characters. So, when it seemed that the clone saga was never going to end, I got out and never looked back. Besides, I still had the X-Men and life was good with them.

There was nothing not to like about X-Men in the 90s for an eager teenage comic reader like myself. Each issue was jammed packed with intrigue, hot girls, big action, and plenty of plot twists to me on the edge of my seat. Contrary to logical thought, I loved the intertwining storylines, the never-ending flow of events, and the utter ridiculousness of some of those characters (I'm looking at you, Nate Grey).

However, post Age of Apocalypse, the quality of the events started to wane. Starting with Onslaught and continuing through Zero Tolerance and the Magneto War, each event seemed to set up some amazing premise and fall on it's face. For whatever the reason, I always let it slide, hoping that the next event would be the one that returned everything to the franchise's former glory. And then there was The Twelve.

The notion of "The Twelve" was one of those dangling, long standing plot lines introduced by a throwaway line in an early issue of X-Factor (surprisingly not by Chris Claremont). In the issue in question, a rampaging Master Mold tells Cyclops that he's one of the twelve mutants that will form the future. From that one line, fans went all conspiracy theorist and demanded answers.

Almost ten years, a major cultural movement, and countless crazy-ass events later, Marvel decided to give in and figure out what this 'The Twelve' thing really was. And it was terrible.

Nominally a story about Apocalypse and his latest scheme for world domination, this time with the help of twelve cipher mutants, it attempted to be the cap on years of storytelling and that was my major problem with it. It might have been the years building up to it, or the fact that I was getting ready to go to college, but suddenly I found myself just plain not caring about anything that happened.

Where before, when I was a younger reader, I loved the complexity of the X-Men, with The Twelve it became more of a chore, and frankly one that I hated. For every character that showed up, there was some kind of caveat that I needed to know about why they were there and their relations with the rest of the cast. Sounds pretty standard, I know, but when it comes down to "Bishop just showed up and he's confused because in his own series he's running around in a strange future-ish world where he's the last X-Man but doesn't know why" it gets a little tedious.

Plus, I hated all those fucking mutant skrulls that I feel were thrust on the situation. A pox on Fiz and his stupid brethren, I'm glad they were subjugated. Stupid skrulls, got no business being in my X-Books.

Sorry, that was a tangent. Anyway...

As bad as the massive amount of backstory needed to enjoy The Twelve was, the worst thing about it was the ending. Alan Davis actually came up with a pretty neat idea involving The Twelve where each mutant in question represented what would be a part of the new world he was going to create. To wit, The Living Monolith was the Earth; Magneto and Polaris the poles; Iceman, Sunfire, and Storm as the elements; and you get the point, it was clever. So, of course, they all escaped at the last minute to face off against the ailing Apocalypse, who was attempting to jump into a new host body (Hey, there's Nate Grey again). With options running out, Cyclops, the man that started all of this, leaps in the way and ends up becoming the new host for the world's first mutant.

And then the event ended.

Sure, it was supposed to lead into some other crazy event right away, but I didn't care. After roughly six months of explicit set up, not to mention the years of storylines previous, everything ended right when things got interesting. A quick glance at what was coming up the next month - a strange Age of Apocalypse knockoff - confirmed it for me, I was done. Done, not just with the X-Men, but with comics in general.

"Besides," my 17 year-old brain rationalized at the time, "I'm going to college and it's time I grow up a bit. I don't want boxes of comics scaring away all the cute girls I'm going to meet." (ED NOTE- there were none)

And so, that was that, with my boxes tucked safely away at my parents' house I drifted off to college, content in the belief that I was done with comics forever. It was one the most "Spider-Man No More" moments I've ever had in my life.

As I'm sure you can surmise, this new resolve didn't last forever. Come back tomorrow as my love for the medium is rekindled, my outlook on collecting is changed forever, and my collection soars to crazy heights that would make my 9 year-old self implode with jealousy.

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