Poseidon sucked. The Da Vinci Code sucked. X3 won’t suck. (We hope.)
Q: I’ve never read the X-Men comics or seen the other two movies, but I’m going to this one. Help!
A: Okay, let’s start with the basics. The X-Men are mutants, the next step in genetic evolution, possessed of amazing powers, and feared and hated by the mankind they have sworn to protect.
Q: And what’s all that mean in English?
A: They’re born with superpowers, and they scare people.
Q: What kind of powers?
A: Well, we’ll cover the ones in the movie. The good guys: Professor X reads minds, Cyclops shoots a laser out of his eyes, Storm controls the weather, Jean Grey has Jedi mind tricks, Wolverine heals fast and has an unbreakable skeleton and claws, Rogue steals other mutants’ powers by touching them, Iceman makes ice, Colossus turns through metal, Shadowcat walks through stuff, Angel has wings, and Beast is a furry blue monster-man.
Q: I thought Nightcrawler was the furry blue monster-man.
A: Nightcrawler is a different furry blue monster-man, and he’s not in this movie. But he was in the last one. Anyway, bad guys: Magneto controls metals, Mystique can look like anyone she wants, Juggernaut is big, strong, and stupid, Callisto can track anything, Pyro controls fire, and Jean Grey has Jedi mind tricks.
Q: Wait, I thought Jean was a good guy…
A: Yeah, you probably thought she was alive, too. Let me start with the first movie: Rogue and Wolverine met and joined the X-Men, mostly because Magneto wanted to kidnap Rogue to power a machine that would turn all the world’s leaders into mutants, and Wolverine happened to be around at the time. The good guys, of course, won, and Magneto was tossed in jail. In the second movie, a nutty army colonel named William Stryker launched an invasion of the mansion and kidnapped the Professor, Cyclops, and some of the students. His plan was to stick Xavier in a machine and use him to kill all the mutants on the planet. The remaining X-Men, joined by Iceman and Nightcrawler, joined forces with Magneto and Mystique to stop him. The good guys won again, but Magneto and Mystique got away, and Jean apparently died saving the others when Stryker’s base collapsed. In this installment, a cure for mutancy has been developed, which touches off a war between the bad mutants who want to conquer humanity before it conquers them, the good mutants who just want everyone to be friends, and the humans who wish they’d never heard of any of these people in the first place. Oh, and Jean is apparently not dead, way more powerful, and evil.
Q: No big machine?
A: No reports of one as of press time.
Q: I hear there’s some behind-the-scenes controversy.
A: You hear right. The first two films were directed by Bryan Singer; he was expected to direct this one as well, but left at the last moment to direct DC/Warner Bros.’ Superman Returns. The new director, Brett Ratner, has a somewhat less established pedigree, and many fans have objected to the switch. In addition, James Marsden, who plays Cyclops, is in the Superman cast as Lois Lane’s boyfriend, and as such was not available for extended shooting, leading many fans to believe he will appear in one scene near the beginning, die, and never be spoken of again. Finally, Fox Studios heavily pressed to have the film ready for a late May release date, which led to an abbreviated shooting schedule, and some fans feel the quality of the film might suffer.
Q: Let me guess: Quite a lot of fans believe Fox hates them, personally, and is intentionally making a bad film to spite them.
A: You catch on fast.
Q: I’ve had practice and education. Okay, say I like the movie; I mean, Famke Janssen/Hugh Jackman is really hot, and there will likely be explosions. What comics should I go after?
A: Well, X-Men has over 40 years of publishing history as a comic, so there’s quite a lot to go through. In terms of trade paperbacks and past stories, the Essential X-Men volumes are handy, if you can deal with the black-and-white; there’s about 5 or 6 volumes, covering from the mid-70s to present. In color, The Dark Phoenix Saga is widely regarded as one of the best X-Men stories ever. And, while it’s hard to find, a short graphic novel called God Loves, Man Kills is a major highlight.
Q: And what about the regular monthly comics being released now.
A: Wait a bit; June is a very good jumping-on point for a lot of books. Let me run down the list:
Uncanny X-Men is about to receive a new creative team of Ed Brubaker and Philip Tan. In addition to Professor X and Nightcrawler, Warpath, Havok, Polaris, Marvel Girl, a new character called Darwin, and the galactic Shi’ar Empire will be featured.
X-Men is also getting a new team, Mike Carey and Chris Bachalo; their team will consist of Rogue, Iceman, Mystique, Cannonball, Sabretooth, and Cable, with some interesting guest stars. Both X-Men and Uncanny X-Men will ship two issues in June.
Astonishing X-Men is bi-monthly, and features a lot of movie characters: Cyclops, Beast, Wolverine, Colossus, and Shadowcat, plus the White Queen. It’s by Joss Whedon and John Cassaday.
If you like the “school” concept of X-Men, you’ll probably want to check out New X-Men: Academy X. The characters are mostly new, and haven’t appeared in the movies, but it’s got a large fanbase and is well-received by most. Chris Yost, Craig Hine, and Duncan Roleau.
I personally recommend X-Factor, a series about a mutant detective agency. Peter David and Dennis Calero.
Finally, Wolverine has his own solo book, but at the moment, it’s caught up in Civil War, Marvel’s big crossover event, as Wolverine tracks a supervillain called Nitro around the world. Marc Guggenheim and Humberto Ramos. There’s also a Civil War: X-Men miniseries, by David Hine and Yanick Paquette.
Q: So, I’m gathering the X-Men are kinda popular these days.
A: Yeah, you could say that.
Q: If the movie sucks, am I allowed to make fun of it, like Mystery Science Theater 3000?
A: That’s my plan B.