While things continue to move on all the Jonathan Hickman-led X-books, this past week saw the House of Ideas look back with a new series, X-Men: Legends. This book, currently written by longtime X-scribe Fabien Nicieza, features stories that took place in the continuity but haven’t been told until now. It’s an interesting concept and, for those of us currently immersed in the contemporary series, reading the first issue of X-Men legends was a bit jarring.
The story, in short form, is that the Summers brothers’ grandparents have been kidnapped by renegade members of the Shi’ar Empire. This leads them to a confrontation with a mutant named Adam, and a new revelation about their family history.
The art for X-Men Legends #1 comes from Brett Booth and its outstanding. Booth’s work is fresh and kinetic, carrying the feel of ’90s X-titles, and compliments Nicieza’s work, which definitely reads like a throwback to a classic era of storytelling. There’s a significant amount of exposition off the top that threw me off a bit (much like reading all the ’90s books today), but by the end of the first issue I was invested in the tale, and I’m eager to pick up issue #2.
True Believer: The Rise and Fall of Stan Lee
When I wasn’t reading comics over the past week, I was reading Abraham Riesman’s new book on one of the masterminds of the Marvel Universe. The Rise and Fall of Stan Lee goes deep into the life of Stan The Man’s life, warts and all. Unfortunately, Riesman’s book often reads as though the author is determined to focus on the warts of Stan’s life, which anyone with an interest in pop culture knows has always been problematic.
Throughout the book, we learn about Stan’s strained relationships with artists like Steve Ditko and Jack Kirby, both of whom can and should certainly be considered co-creators of the Marvel Universe. We also read about Stan’s inroads into Hollywood, and his last few tragic years surrounded by people more than willing to take advantage of an older man. Like so many of us, Stan Lee was a deeply flawed man, but he was also a pivotal and groundbreaking creator of what’s become huge parts of our culture.
We’ll never know for absolute sure who did what when it came to creating the Fantastic Four for instance, since both Lee and Kirby told different stories over their lifetimes, but the tone throughout The Rise and Fall of Stan Lee makes it seem as though Lee was the villain. I honestly don’t know if that should be the takeaway – both men’s successes, or lack thereof following the demise of their working relationship makes it clear, at least to me, that it was the sum of their parts that made the golden age of Marvel Comics what it was.
The Rise and Fall of Stan Lee makes for a compelling read, but historians and readers interested in Marvel and the comics industry overall shouldn’t stop there. Check out titles from TwoMorrows Publishing or Sean Howe’s Marvel Comics: The Untold Story to go deeper and find a more rounded take on the business.