The Avengers & The X-Men: The 50th Anniversary! // artwork by Jack Kirby (1963)

Well the day is coming to an end but I didn’t want it to let it go without sharing a little comic history around here. You see in this very day on September of 1963 (that’s 50 years ago bucko!) Marvel Comics unleashed to the world what it would become the premiere superheroes teams in comic history of this modern era. Yes, you may argue that slot was already filled by the almighty Justice League Of America featuring the Pantheon of Olympus taking care of the world. But the dynamics of team books had already been redefined by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in The Fantastic Four two full years prior to these releases. Here we had nothing but a brand new take on a basic idea. The Avengers was a team of heroes that really didn’t get along but nonetheless gathered together to resolve a crisis that none of them could handle alone. The X-Men however was as it’s tittle aptly put it “The Strangest Superheroes of All”. While every hero in the Marvel universe got his/her powers because of radiation or accidents, these guys were born this way and they were hated and feared because of this. Most outcasts could relate to this concept and as time proved the brand was Marvel’s ticket to success in the comic business (for almost all of the 80’s and the 90’s the top selling book was Uncanny X-Men, the only comic that could challenge those numbers were the New Teen titans of DC in the 80’s and Spawn of Image in the 90’s).

As the 21 century approached and The X-Men had their day in the sun, now it was the time for the Avengers to shine. Blessed for most of their story with the top notch talents of the industry, The Avengers became a franchise in the early 2000’s with multiple books and the basis for the Cinematic Marvel Universe a move that was so brilliantly executed that it made the team as recognizable and loved for the casual viewer as Marvel’s main staples (Spider-Man and Wolverine) and DC Powerhouses Superman and Batman.

Today you can find The Avengers and The X-Men all over the place and in every flavor you may like (Animation, Action Figures, Movies, Video Games, etc.) But to the true fan their legacy lives on in the Comics where we met them, the Comics that have chronicled their victories and defeats, the Comics where we learned to love these characters, The Comics where we still have some of the greatest talent in this world telling the best stories they can with these awesome characters.

Here’s to 50 years more! Congratulations guys!

My first reviews of these books: X-Men #1 // The Avengers #1

Comics Forever tags for both teams: The X-Men // The Avengers

Milestone Moment #8: Wolverine Comes Back for Jean Grey

Whoever reads the X-Men knows that Wolverine always had the hots for Jean Grey. Maybe the correct statement should be that he loves her very much, but the commitment of Jean to Scott Summers and Logan’s sense of honor have always kept them apart. In Wolverine #75, part 5 of the Fatal Attractions storyline, we got to see how deep these feelings go for the canuck.

Injured, battered and broken from a battle to the end with Magneto, the X-Men are trying to get home in a modified Blackbird plane that allows space travel. Wolverine got the short end of the stick having his adamantium pulled out of his body by the master of Magnetism. His injuries are maxing out his healing factor and life is slipping out of his body.

Professor X can only go to Logan through his mind in the psyonic plane and avoid him the pain of understanding how much damage has been done to him, but the light of death is calling and Wolverine is tired of the battle and of the never ending fight.

…So he’s ready to welcome the light in the form of Colossus’s sister the recently deceased Ilyana Rasputin, who surprisingly pushes him away!

Meanwhile in the outside the X-Men are fighting a losing battle against bad weather and failing technology, Professor X states that there’s nothing he can do for Logan anymore as Jean tries with all her power to keep the plane together.

When lighting strikes, the main hatch is gone and only Jean can keep the other members of the team in the plane as she’s being sucked out by the sheer pressure.

Thinking only of saving his team and the man that has made her have doubts about his true feelings, Jean unleashes the last of his telekinesis and asks them to not look back and save themselves.

In the underworld Wolverine listens to a voice calling for help. A voice that makes the light fade away.  A voice that calls him out from his heart. Just in that moment he understands why Ilyana pushed him away.

The voice of his beloved Jean Grey makes his battered and broken body regain the strength to go for the cries for help and just as Jean is about to let herself go to a certain death is Wolverine who catches her at the last second proving how much he truly loves this woman.

Wolverine makes one of comic’s greatest last minute save by overcoming death just to be with Red one more time. If this is not a milestone from the heart and a true tearjerker, I don’t know what it is!

This great milestone was produced by the more than capable hands of writer Larry Hama, penciler Adam Kubert, the inks of Mark Farmer and the colors of Steve Bucellato.

Milestone Moment #7: Magneto’s Last Words.

Way back in New X-Men #132, The X-Men went back to Genosha to pay respects to the fallen nation, only to find themselves trying to solve the mystery of ghosts and apparitions led by a green haired woman. What they find is Lorna Dane, retrieving Magneto’s last statement to mutants, his declaration of immortality. The moment didn’t stick, but it would have been one hell of a farewell to a very powerful and iconic character.

"It’s a strange thing to die in the darkness, It’s strange thing to die. I was Magneto master of the magnetic forces… Now I will be a voice in the darkness, echoing forever. Once I was a mortal man, Now I am becoming a memory, inmortal. They have though they could silence us forever. Instead we have become magnetic, unstoppable. Do you understand? Our voices will be broadcast around the world… into space. At the speed of light. At the speed of radio. Our voices traveling without end through the depths of time and space. Beyond this life. And far, far… beyond this death."

An amazing tearjerker brought to you by the talents of Grant Morrison and Phill Jimenez.

Milestone Moment #6: Aquaman Meets The Justice League

This is pretty recent but it’s an amazing moment. As I stated in an early review Aquaman has emerged as a powerhouse in the DCnU, not only is he royalty, he’s also a fast talking strategist with tons of combat experience and a chip on his shoulder the size of Alaska. His first impression of the team is best left said by his choice of words to them when they first meet:

As proper introductions are made, The King of The Sea explains to the League how the invading forces of Parademons are destroying his kingdom, he’s the first to acknowledge the fact that they are together to fight the invasion, something that no one on the recently formed team had noticed.

Aquaman is not there to waste time. Displaying a No-nonsense attitude, he begins to lay out a strategy to fight what he believes is the center point of the invasion, but find opposition in Hal Jordan, The Green Lantern who chews him off and dismiss him, reminding the king that he’s not under sea anymore and he’s not a fish he can boss around.

Jordan goes as far as asking the King what the hell he’s supposed to do regarding about his powers, pointing out all the comical references made about him in pop culture and  pointing out the abilities of his recent partners who have more than enough power to lead.

A swarm of Parademons appears before the team as Jordan ceases his little rant. Aquaman, who never lost his cool during the little confrontation let’s his actions speak for him.

Using his natural telepathic abilities he commands the life of the undersea, to take care of the problem for him, the next few panels prove that the king his here to kick some ass and take some names!

Aquaman shuts Jordan’s mouth who can only deliver a “Never mind” after such an amazing display. The King has arrived!

 

Milestone Moment #5: The Illuminati’s Ultimatum

Oh my… this kicks so much ass that I get a rush retelling it. This tale predates Secret Invasion and it’s a fine example of how the build up to this story was great, even more than the actual event. The Kree-Skrull war had just ended, the Skrulls were forced to retreat by the alliance of The Kree and Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, the King of the Skrulls aboard his mother ship demands an explanation for the recent failure.

With excuses and regret the loyal advisor try to make the leader understand the need to settle for defeat and to regroup and rethink their strategy, the King of The Skrulls will have none of that.

In that very moment a small, but powerful group of Marvel’s finest arrive to the mother ship and introduce themselves, they are the leaders of several factions of the Marvel universe together they gather to dictate the way things should be done to ensure the survival of the human race, together they are the Illuminati!

Losing no time they state the reason for their presence in the Skrull home world, the scene doesn’t lack in testosterone in any of it’s panels, the demands of the Illuminati are very simple: Leave the earth alone or suffer the consequences.

The Skrull King spit back at the words of the earth heroes, dismissing their threat and their recent defeat as a temporary setback and that eventually the planet will belong to them, threatening every living subject on the planet and the familes of those in front of him, The Illuminati, having offered their ultimatum just have one resoruce left to make the Skrulls understand that they mean business…

They let the King of The Inhumans, Black Bolt, whose sole whisper can bring down mountains, cut loose with his voice, crushing the mother ship and killing every one in the process! Talk about badass!

Milestone Moment #4: Wolverine Kills Charles Xavier!

Some folks out there like to bash the early 90’s as a time of a lot of inconsistencies on Marvel Books, half the time I don’t know what they are talking about, since some of these comics are the ones I grew up to and I used to read them passionately, and most of them are still very dear to me, most important than all: they made sense to my 12 year old mind; X-Men: Crossroads was one of those, one of the times when Jim Lee got to show off what he was capable to do as an artist, following the plots of Chris Claremont, the duo worked so well that they were given their solo book on the mutants (you know it today as X-Men: Legacy), this was magic working predating the Image revolution.

Anyway, back to this milestone, this ain’t a “What if”, this is canon continuity, and it happened in Uncanny X-Men #276: Charles Xavier is serving as Warlord for the Shi’ar empire, after a big reveal, he manages to survive an ambush by two fellow X-Men and Deathbird, who promptly make their scape, the rest of the team arrives on the scene, but one of them smells something funny in the air.

Wolverine instinctively knows when somebody doesn’t smells right and I ain’t talking personal hygiene here folks, he can smells lies and doppelgangers from afar, and when his nose stars to tell a different story than the one told by his mentor he knows that is time to act!

Without a second to lose, Wolverine acts on pure instinct alone and goes for the kill, his reputation precedding him, just one lethal blow proves fatal for Charles Xavier who instantly falls to his death in the arms of Lilandra.

 

His teammates wondering if he has gone mad, are left asking themselves what made Wolverine go for such a harsh move without warning?, the answers to these questions comes, of course, but let’s just say that “Secret Invasion” wasn’t the first time that a planetary system was tried to be overtaken from the inside. One hell of a read, with enough action and intrigue to make it a worthy X-Men story.

Milestone Moment #3: The JLA Vs Heaven

The JLA where literally screwed. In one fast-paced storyline, where there is not a single moment to breathe, the JLA squared it off against the forces of Heaven and won, this powerful story happened in JLA #6 & 7 of the 1996 series, with words by Grant Morrison and art by Howard Porter; the tale is full of memorable moments, but the greatest one involves the defacto leader of the team, Superman who was going through his phase as an energy being, it all begins with Zauriel, a rogue angel who has fled from Heaven, Asmodel the second in command of the celestial forces comes looking for him with a whole damn army.

The team however has been incapacitated, with Flash stuck into dimensions in a teleporter, Superman stranded on the moon, Batman being MIA, and only a handful of heroes to deal with the incoming invasion, to makes things worse, Neron, the self appointed ruler of hell in the DC universe makes the moon come down to crash the earth.

With things looking pretty grim, the team does what it does best and they star kicking ass, with Superman taking care of business in the moon using his new powers to repel the satelite from earth and back to it’s proper place.

On earth Asmodel is facing off against the only member of the league powerful enough to stand up to him: Martian Manhunter, however there is only so much he can do being incredibly vulnerable to fire and Asmodel relying heavily on it to best him, the cards are flipped once Superman is able to return to his friends.

In what can only be described as one of the most epic moments in recent comic-book history Superman arrives to save his friend from a severe beating by one of the most powerful enemies they have ever faced, with strength and determination he let’s his tired friend know that he can rest by looking through gritted theet to Asmodel and saying: “I’ll take over now”

The impact of this confrontation it’s so grand that Martian Manhunter cannot retire, he can only witness as one of the most powerful beings he knows fights for the planet he loves so much.

Superman stands his ground, he would not let Asmodel take one more step or kill anybody else, the most powerful hero took on the forces of heaven and he would not yield to them, if this moment is not pure comic book gold, I don’t know what it is!

Milestone Moment #2: The Punisher Vs Sharks

The Punisher is a one man army, that’s pretty clear to whoever has been reading the character for the last 10 years, specially when a man like Garth Ennis is chronicling his adventures, sometimes, Franks takes on guys who are way stronger than he is, and sometimes he faces guys who have a wild imagination for murder, In a scene straight out of Punisher Max #36 Frank show us that he is a very resourceful man, when trying to take down Barracuda, a top assassin for a dirty energy company he finds himself along a gangster in the middle of the ocean with the grandaddy of Bruce the shark checking him out for lunchtime

The gangster, not knowing the company he’s keeping, is only worried about saving his hide, having survived his throat slit and his legs chopped off by the shark, the sea hunter is trying to make his mind about whetever the target is a worthy meal, Frank knows this, because he’s making up his mind too about what to do to save himself.

When the shark stars to charge in their direction, the gangster stars the big rant saying who he is and offering everything he has to make Frank save him, he only introduces himself to him: “I am The Punisher”. 

Those are the last words he’ll ever hear before being tossed to one of the most cinematic (and funniest) deaths in comic books.

The scene, while gruesome, is one of the great examples that no matter the situation, Frank is always on his mission, no matter the odds he’ll fight for his survival because he has to kill every scumbag that has ever walked the face of the earth.

Milestone Moment #1: Commissioner Gordon & The Joker

Although It has never been explained why, The Joker has it out for Jim Gordon, The Commissioner of Gotham City, in what it’s about to become the old DC universe. Jim Gordon represents the ultimate poster boy for the rightness of the world, this man believes in the law and the reach of it to control anarchy, The Joker however is chaos incarnate, and he will not lose an opportunity to show the world how big of a joke life actually is, the defining moment of their relationship came at the end of the epic storyline “No Man’s Land” when Gotham was about to be rebuilt after suffering a major earthquake that destroyed the entire city, The Joker being the main antagonist that he is could not let the people of Gotham regain some sense of hope, so he kidnaps every single baby in No Man’s Land and is intent on killing them all, that is until Sarah Essen, Comissioner’s Gordon wife gets in his way.

The Joker shoots Sarah point blank to the head, killing her. Jim Gordon, who’ve had everything taken away by this mad man reaches for the only thing that will give a permanent solution to this problem.

Surrounded, with no way to escape, with Batman and the entire police force standing in front of him, The Joker plays the card of the law and his rights to keep himself safe, Jim Gordon is feeling, is remembering every bit of pain this man has caused him and wants nothing but to pull the trigger, his good friend can only hear his words of pain.

In the end no matter how far The Joker has gone, Jim Gordon will not let anarchy overcome him, he will not let this mad man has his way with him, he will not low himself to his level and he does what a stand up guy like him knows has to be done, he’ll go down by the book and nothing else.

Batman stood with his good friend until he made his choice, he is with Jim to the very last, doing what only a good friend can do in the presence of such a massive loss.

He keeps his friend together, he doesn’t let him fall apart; this without a doubt is one of the most powerful moments in the Batman mythology, this a defining moment for the friendship between this masked vigilante and this law enforcer, the best damn reading you’ll ever have about the relation between these two guys and worth every minute of it.

Batman meets Bane for the First Time.

Hollywood hasn’t treated right Bane, when he first turned up in other media different than comics, it was in the dreaded “Batman & Robin” (1997), in the movie what showed up was a bad caricature of the character who was a monosyllabic buffoon who only served as the muscle of Poison Ivy, the version of the character that showed up in Batman: The Animated Series did little to fix the damage.

Bane was created by Chuck Dixon, Graham Nolan and Dough Moench as the main antagonist in the storyline Batman: Knightfall, a story that pits Batman against a foe who not only is smart as he is, but is also stronger, with a determination that knows no boundaries, Bane first meets Batman short after arriving in Gotham City, he was puzzled as to how or why a creature of the night that inspired so much terror choose not to kill.

The realization just fueled the determination of Bane to take this city from this so-called protector and with bold words Bane foreshadowed to The Dark Knight that he would scream his name in agony begging for mercy as he defeated him, Batman, not one to be impressed with words, dismissed to threats of the masked menace as the words of another lunatic.

Little did know the caped crusader, who fell at the hands of Bane in the Batcave after a vicious beating, exhausted after being torn apart by the manipulations of Bane, one step at the time the villain pushed the Dark Knight to his very limits, discovered his secret identity and broke him making Bruce Wayne retire from the matle of the bat for a good long time.

Now Christopher Nolan got his hands on the character, I’ve got blind faith on the director and I know that no matter the story he chooses to tell, he will deliver a very good incarnation of the character that makes justice and erase the bad memories of the past!