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Just couldn’t cut it no more, you were the law: Graeme goes down memory lane.

Graeme McMillan

After reading the Endangered Species one-shot last week and then this week’s X-MEN #200, I’ve come to the following obvious conclusions: Mike Carey writes really good mid-80s Chris Claremont stories. It’s up to you whether you feel that that’s an insult or a complement, however.

(The interesting thing was reading this after reading Carey’s Re-Gifters, and also starting his “The Devil You Know” novel – Carey’s clearly a very gifted writer, and looking at the different voices in each project makes it clear that the Claremontisms in his X-Men work are intentional choices, as opposed to just the way he writes in general. The question may be whether it’s intentional for them to be so similar to Chris Claremont’s work, or whether the way that Carey feels the characters should be written just coincidentally seems so strongly Claremonty.)

Reading Carey’s special anniversary take on Marvel’s Merry Mutants – and when was the last time they were called that, I wonder – really is very much like stepping back in time to Claremont in his prime. All of the themes are there – the X-Men as a family, the X-Men as outcasts, the X-Men as tortured individuals (Poor Rogue, now more tortured than ever), and interpersonal conflicts and betrayals. It’s all in this story, but to such an extent (The X-Men get betrayed by three of their members, and – speaking of conjuring up Claremontisms – all of them are women) that it seems somewhat more ridiculous than you remembered it. Was this really what it was like, back then, or do the plot twists seems more over-the-top because the comic landscape was different (and more melodramatic) in those days? Maybe I was just younger and more forgiving back then.

The thing is, this is a perfectly Good comic, despite it feeling twenty years old. Everything hits all of the right soap operatic points, even down to the dramatic return of fan favorites and unfortunate hook-ups, but moves along fast enough to gloss over the weaknesses in plot or execution. Humberto Ramos and Chris Bachalo prove a good pairing of pencillers, with their individual quirks complimenting each other without there being a massive break in visual continuity. It’s weird to think of the X-Men books being old-school nostalgiafests in a sea of otherwise uncomfortable Marvel books, but this issue really gives that impression. Mike Carey, you’ve got a lot to answer for, if I end up reading this series again on a regular basis…

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