The Aging of X-Men

Now that I’ve gotten a footing with the modern comic book landscape, I’ve broadened my scope a bit to dig through the archives. My first dive was a huge success, as Batman: The Killing Joke from 1988 is awesome. Next on the list is the X-Men omnibus I picked up from Toronto Comiccon. Dating back to 1989-1991, this is the X-Men era that was current when I was a kid. Within the first few pages of the book, it was plain to see the effects of time on these comics.

Having been spoiled by modern design techniques, most of the art looks simplistic and crude in comparison. Oftentimes, backgrounds are heavily simplified or only contain one background colour. Even the character drawings can be simplistic to a fault. I’m sure that, like pixel art for video game fans, there’s an appeal and nostalgia factor that comes with this style of art, but as someone without that context, it looks rough. Compared to The Killing Joke, which came out in 1988, this era of X-Men looks archaic in comparison. Then again, Batman’s classic tale was a standalone graphic novel and the version I read was re-coloured to match the writer’s original vision.

Beyond the art style, there’s no shortage of visual cues that date the material. The ladies have distinct 80s hairstyles. Wolverine is constantly smoking and drinking. The aliens featured in issue #245 look goofy. And then there’s Longshot. Oh man, everything about that guy is so 80s glam rocker it hurts. No wonder he was largely left in the 80s until a more recent revival in the late 2000s.

All of this is fine if it still delivers an entertaining read. I’m enjoying what I’ve read so far, but that’s with the context of me reading a comic that’s almost 30 years old. There’s a disconnect with the things that characters say and how the stories are told. Everything just feels of that era, rather than something that has longer legs like The Killing Joke.

The farther removed I am from the original release date, the more than anything’s appeal will deteriorate over time. It’s not necessarily fair for me to dig through the archives and expect everything to be timeless. Odds are, these types of books are probably meant to be the opposite. This is my comic book time capsule into an era where this is what was cool. I may not get the same enjoyment out of it as I would reading All New X-Men now, but there’s still enjoyment to be had from these issues from the vault. Also, the scene where the X-Men ladies are at the male strip club in issue #244 is awesome.

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