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Dark Anniversary

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It’s amazing that any title would hit 200 issues in this day and age. With the recent trends of renumbering titles to gain a circulation boost and the financial realities that cause many companies to pull the plug on a title at the first sign of trouble, 50 issues has become a milestone in and of itself.

What’s even more remarkable is that X-Men is the SECOND book featuring these characters to reach the 200 issue mark (Uncanny X-Men hit that number in 1985). That is cause for celebration. And celebrate it, Marvel will.

The page count for the issue has been doubled. There will be three covers for fans to choose from: a wraparound from each if the issue’s artists—Humberto Ramos and Chris Bachalo—and a gatefold variant from superstar David Finch. In addition, the first "Endangered Species" back up will appear in this issue. And to top it all off, the story will mark the return of the most deadliest villains the X-Men have ever faced, a team that debuted in Uncanny X-Men 10 issues after it’s "bicentennial"—the Marauders.

I came into the X-Men books late. I missed reading the Dark Phoenix Saga and the Days of Future Past storyline when they hit the newsstand. I came in just before the Morlocks were introduced in Uncanny X-Men #169 . These were a band of mutants who lived in the sewers of New York City due to the fact that their mutations made them unpalatable to the human eye.

So, the most memorable arc from my early days as a X-Men reader was the "Mutant Massacre" arc. Starting in Uncanny X-Men #210 , it featured the Marauders going into the Morlock tunnel. No reason given, no explanation, they started killing the Morlocks, ruthlessly, quickly and efficiently.

The storyline spanned over the Thor, X-Factor, and Power Pack titles as well. During the crossover, Colossus, Kitty Pryde, Nightcrawler and Angel suffered grievous injuries that took them a long time to recover from and countless Morlocks lost their lives.

Several Marauders died during that first crossover. You got the sense that the heroes were truly in danger, they might actually die. Each side was in a fight for their lives, and anything could happen. Of course, deep down, we knew that there was likely to be no major changes, but as we were caught up in the story we forgot all about that.

It was later revealed that the Marauders worked for X-Men villain Mr. Sinister. The Morlocks were created using genetic research stolen from him, and he wanted to clean up all traces of them. The Marauders returned several times to plague the X-Men, even the ones who died in battle (it was revealed that Mr. Sinister has the genetic material to clone every member of the Marauders, except Sabretooth, as many times as he likes.)

These later appearances seemed to dampen the impact and the shock of the original storyline. However, if the solicitations to issue #200 are believed, the Marauders are about to go back to basics.

   

The solicitation states that a "mysterious strike force" (presumably the Marauders) have been slowly killing mutants. Since only under 200 mutants are left after House of M, and no more mutants are to be born, this means the return of the Marauders could spell the end of the mutant race.

I am beginning to feel the same sense that anything can happen that I felt during the first Marauders appearance. The story resonates with a sense of danger and dread that I find exciting. Yes, I know that the X-Men will most likely not become extinct after this arc, but I can’t wait to see how they stave it off.

Also out this week:

• X-Men: First Class #1

If you prefer to have your X-Men stories without all that death and grimness mentioned above, Marvel is happy to provide you with a much lighter alternative this week. The surprisingly successful X-Men: First Class miniseries returns—this time as an ongoing.

The series is two things at once. It is a telling of "hidden" stories from the X-Men’s past, much like Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes and Fantastic Four: First Family. It is also an all-ages, kid-friendly book which would be very much in place in the Marvel Adventures line. Perhaps that is part of its success. It truly is a book that adults and children can enjoy equally.

The story features a guest appearance by Sue Storm, brought in by Professor X to act as a role model for Marvel Girl.

Jeff Parker (W), Roger Cruz (A), Marvel Comics, $2.99. Ongoing Series.

• Fathom: Killian's Vessel #1

A murdered brother. A star crossed lover. A malevolent fugitive. A true romance. This is what the ad for this title promises. The title will also help define the affair between Killian, one of Fathom’s most popular characters, and Anya and give insight into both of their characters.

Fathom has truly become one of Aspen’s flagship titles. It, along with the Soulfire franchise, has allowed Aspen to thrive when other comic companies failed. Most of it has to do with the strength of the original concept and the popularity of characters Michael Turner created. When supporting characters can headline titles all by themselves, the future of the company is in good hands.

Vince Hernandez (W), Sean "Cheeks" Galloway (A), Aspen Comics, $2.99. One-Shot.

• Green Lantern: Sinestro Corps Special

The duality between superheroes and their arch enemies have never been so readily apparent as it is between Green Lantern and Sinestro. GL has a power ring, Sinestro has a power ring. GL’s ring used to not work against anything yellow, Sinestro’s ring created nothing but yellow constructs. It seems that the only thing that was lacking was that GL had thousands of other ring-wearers to watch his back and Sinestro did not.

That is about to change with this special. Sinestro has recruited the most retched scum and villains in the universe, many with grudges against the Lanterns, and united them as the Sinestro Corps. The world of the Green Lanterns is about to change for the worse and the universe will never be the same again.

Geoff Johns (W), Ethan Van Sciver & Dave Gibbons (A), DC Comics, $4.99. One-Shot.

• Sheena #1

Younger fans might think this series from Devil’s Due is a callous way for them to tap into the success of Frank Cho’s recent Shanna the She-Devil series over at Marvel. Heck, they are both jungle women and their names are almost exactly alike. They would be mistaken because the Sheena character is old enough to be Shanna’s grandmother.

Sheena first appeared in the British comic magazine Wags #1 way back in 1937. Created by the legendary Will Eisner and Jerry Iger, she first appeared on American shores in 1938 in Fiction House’s Jumbo Comics #1. As a matter of fact, she became the first female comic character to appear in her own title, beating Wonder Woman by several months. The character has appeared in a number of movies and TV series of her life span, and this new comic is just another in a long line of interpretations for the character.

Robert Rodi (W), Matt Merhoff (A), Devil’s Due Publications, $3.50. Five-Issue Miniseries.

• World War Hulk: Front Line #1

The Hulk is back on earth and he’s incredibly angry. We know this. He is mad at the Illuminati for shipping him into space. We know this. He means to exact vengeance on them by any means necessary. We know this. What we don’t know is how this conflict will play out with the everyday citizen of Marvel’s Earth.

That’s where the Front Line series comes in. Much like Civil War Front Line before it, it promises a ground level view of the conflict, filtered through the eyes of reporters Ben Urich and Sally Floyd.

I thought that Civil War Front Line was better than the main Civil War series until it went slightly off track towards the end. With the same creators on this series, perhaps the high quality will remain.

Paul Jenkins (W), Ramon Bachs (A), Marvel Comics, $2.99. Six-Issue Minieries.

# # #

William Gatevackes is a professional writer living in Mamaroneck, NY with his wife Jennifer. He once lived just outside Scranton, PA, where the Silverfish preview says that Daniel lives. This does not surprise Bill at all. He also writes periodic comic reviews for PopMatters and writes title descriptions for Human Computing’s Comicbase collection management software. Links to his writing can be found at his website, www.williamgatevackes.com.

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