matrix, I love you (no homo) because you are a fearless, opinionated, and - most importantly - an evil, hateful man, but in this case you are cuckoo like the Stepford sisters, gnomewhatimsayin? (HEEEEEYOOOOOO!!!)
Chris Claremont is one of the patron saints of comic books, let none debate this. His run with John Byrne on Uncanny back in the 80’s is in my opinion the greatest run of comic books in all of history and I am continually grateful my cousin let me read all of his books when I was but a wee lad, and I grew up with Claremont and Jim Lee X-Men in the early 90’s in my own era. Let none debate the merit of his contributions to comic books, for they are great in number and of immeasurable significance.
That said, anything he’s written like after 1993 has been complete ass. This is just not an era where being trapped in giant pinballs by Arcade is a readable story now, although Chuck Austen did his best to show him up with some truly terrible stories during his stint as an X-writer.
I’m completely convinced that Marvel is just letting him write X-Men books now only because they’re obligated to let him keep going until he doesn’t want to (like Brett Favre and the Packers…only if Favre became a double amputee and they still trotted him out for the 2011 season) because of past achievements that can never be truly repayed. The only problem is that he does indeed apparently love writing X-comics, and he’ll never want to stop.
And I’m okay with that, and I’d do the same thing if I were Marvel. The man is a first ballot Hall of Famer, let him keep playing until he doesn’t want to. Like the quality of the X-books has ever factored into their sales anyway - they could print decade old Chinese newspapers, slap an ‘X’ on them, and they’d still sell in the top 25 every month.
But the reason X-Men was so good in the past was precisely because they weren’t traditional superhero comics. It was because they were like this sappy, unconventional family unit with all these soap opera subplots that made them so good. All the intercharacter relationships was what made X-Men so good during his run, and throughout the history of X-Men comics. Think of all the cheesy soap opera romances that have popped up with each character, all the various love triangles/quadrilaterals/polygons that have been featured…Psylocke ALONE has slept with like half the mutant population pre-House of M.
(Quick pop quiz - which is greater? The number of X-Men that have banged Psylocke, or the number of teammates Colossus has painted in the nude? Regardless, I think the combined over/under number is like 127 or something.)
The X-Men are a band of social outcasts that must protect a world that both hates and fears them - that’s their gig! And so they band together and conquer the trials and tribulations of a fearful and prejudiced world…TOGETHER. There’s so many socially themed stories and themes throughout the years about prejudice, teenage angst, and the odd religious angle here and there (ie. God Loves, Man Kills). The X-Men are the X-Men PRECISELY because they are not the typical superheroes beating up the typical supervillains - it’s the soap opera type angles and the relationships between the characters that make X-Men stories so good.
And whose responsible for that soap opera stuff? CHRIS CLAREMONT. Everyone after him is just following his lead, and paying homage to it. As well they should, because he had the greatest X-Men run of all time, and THAT is the reason it was so good to begin with.
For example, why is Astonishing so good? Just ignoring the objective qualities of how good and sharp Whedon’s and Cassaday’s writing and art are, for one, the throwbacks and the homages to the past, classic X-Men stories - Claremont’s stories - are endlessly entertaining because there’s such a great sense of history with these stories that all comic book fans grew up with. But that history’s all about characters relating to one another - Kitty and Colossus finally getting together, Wolvie’s role as the old grizzled veteran, Cyclops’ undisputed leadership even when he’s useless and powerless… The best moments so far in one of the greatest X-Men runs in recent memory have all involved throwbacks the old classic X-Men stories and how the characters related to one another. When Wolvie walks in on Kitty and Colossus the morning after and goes like “…finally” - great moment that’s built entirely on years of history between both characters. Or when Wolvie tells Colossus “then I just got two words for you, bub” - GOOSEBuMPS, it was so awesome. Fucking Whedon doesn’t even write the two words - it’s all we need, because we know the characters so well and we already have all the context at front of our minds.
Compare that to JLA, which IS (or should be) a superheroes doing superheroes thing type of comic, and it’s night and day. The world doesn’t hate and fear the JLA. The core idea behind the league is the fact that it’s a collection of the world’s absolute greatest superheroes, to combat the absolute greatest threats to world safety. It’s a team, the most elite team of superpowered ass kickers in the world. The X-Men are a dirty, mutie family that no one else loves.
The JLA back in the 80’s with Keith Giffen were fantastic and had a lot of that X-Men style intercharacter fun - for example when Batman punched out Guy, and Blue Beetle keeps shouting “ONE PUNCH!” and Black Canary keeps going “I can’t believe I missed it…” - that’s a great comic book moment because of all the history between the characters. But my favourite JLA stories, and in my opinion the best ones, were with Grant Morrison and Mark Waid, when they revamped the book to just feature “The Big Seven” and just made them kick ass all the time, and there were virtually no character development subplots at all between the big guys - I mean there was some with the minor supporting characters like Plastic Man, Steel, and Huntress, but they let the sappy stuff between the big characters handled in their own monthlies, where it belongs.
And then afterwards, during the tail end of Joe Kelly’s run, with Kurt Busiek, and Chuck Austen…they started that whole sappy character development stuff again and got away from the whole superheroes doing superhero things, and the book became crappy again. And not surprisingly they had to reboot it again, starting with Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman choosing candidates to once again build the best possible TEAM.
And another contrast to the X-Men - all the throwbacks to vintage JLA stories were all plot-based, of supervillains they previously defeated. Not intercharacter development angles. Like when the Shaggy Man came back as The General. When Starro and Soloman Grundy were featured as the new baddies in the first JLA run with Brad Meltzer. All the cool JLA throwbacks and homages in stories are to villains and characters that haven’t appeared in a while. All the cool X-Men throwbacks and homages in stories are about relationships between the characters.
JLA is a book that works best when superheroes are doing superhero things. X-Men is the opposite.
Obviously the stories vary from writer to writer and those are obviously not always the case…but even intrinsically, you can see in the nature of what the JLA are (team of ass kickers) and what the X-Men are (team of ass kickees that have banded together to become ass kickers) and what type of stories they’d tend to respectively facilitate easier.