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Underrated: X-Men: Fatal Attractions

This is a column that focuses on something or some things from the comic book sphere of influence that may not get the credit and recognition it deserves. Whether that’s a list of comic book movies, ongoing comics, or a set of stories featuring a certain character. The columns may take the form of a bullet pointed list, or a slightly longer thinkpiece – there’s really no formula for this other than whether the things being covered are Underrated in some way.

This week: the multi-part crossover event X-Men: Fatal Attractions.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – my Golden Age of X-Men comics is from the mid 90’s to the early 2000’s. Despite this being several years before I actually started reading comics, it’s one of the eras I remember most fondly. I started reading comics in the late 90’s, and I was largely reading the UK reprint magazines Wolverine Unleashed and Essential X-Men. There was also a Spider-Man book, but that’s neither here nor there because it’s the two X centric books that are relevant today. Because I could only find the reprint magazines I wasn’t reading the current comics – the reprints were probably always a good two to five years behind what was being published and sold in comic shops (it would be another two years before I finally found a comic shop) depending on the story being presented in the magazine. The reprint magazine had space for three comics in it – this wouldn’t always be three concurrent issues, but was often an issue of Uncanny X-Men, X-Men or one of the other X-books if a crossover was involved that were published within the same month and an issue of Uncanny from the 60’s or 70’s). These reprint magazines are actually responsible for the weird dichotomy in my head of knowing the stories very well, but having no context for what issue they came from (yes, the reprint did tell you what comics they were reprinting, but I rarely paid attention).

Over the years, I’ve slowly been picking up and working on completing a run of X-Men comics from issues 100-500, though my focus for years was around 250-400, but because I’ve been largely focused on Uncanny X-Men, I don’t have a lot of the issues that form the giant crossover – if I even have all the Uncanny issues (look, I was often going by cover art and price when picking books up, not sequential numbering, so I have holes everywhere in my collection), so for a story that I really want to read I’ve been picking up collected editions just to be able to read or reread them. There’s collecting for the joy of the hunt and collecting to (re)read the stories – sometimes those things are one and the same, and sometimes they’re not, because I have no intention of risking damaging the early Uncanny issues I own, I’ve also been looking for collected editions of The Dark Phoenix Saga and so on.

Despite having several issues of Uncanny X-Men that comprise the Fatal Attractions, there was a lot more that I didn’t have, and won’t be getting any time soon because I’m focusing on other things and so when I saw this trade for sale at my comic shop I decided to pick it up so I could finally read the full story.

Fatal Attractions was reprinted in the reprints shortly before I started picking them up, maybe a year or so, so it’s one of those stories that I’ve always heard about but had never actually read. The most famous outcome, that of Magneto ripping Wolverine’s adamantium from his skeleton through his pores, was one I was familiar with but otherwise the story was largely a mystery to me.

The basic plot of the story involves the X-Men going to Avalon, Magneto’s asteroid home, to stop him from waging his war on humanity for the mutant cause – this is a gross oversimplification and misses a lot of the nuance in the story (some could consider that summary a spoiler based on the blurb on the back of the book, but frankly despite Magneto being “dead” at the beginning of the book, we all know he’s still a prominent feature in the Marvel universe so that shouldn’t be a surprise).

The version I read was the X-Men Milestones: Fatal Attractions trade (pictured above), and it told a very comprehensive story. It’s a heavy volume, like most of the Milestone books, with a hefty price tag ($45 US dollars), but is one of those books that really is worth the price tag. Can you find the issues in question for less than the price of the trade? Yeah, maybe. Eleven comics for $45 isn’t unheard of (and works out at roughly $4 an issue), and given that these were released in the height of the 90’s comic book boom, you’re more than likely to be able to find them in dollar bins if you look long enough – but I don’t always have that patience, and I’ve found that I enjoy reading the trades more than the single issues when reading big crossover stories.

Oddly, despite my love of the X-Men from the 90’s, I’ve got a lot of holes in my collection to fill, which should be pretty easy given how many are in the back issue bins, and a lack of desire to branch out into anything that isn’t specifically Uncanny X-Men or X-Men which is why I love these big collected editions so much. After all, 90’s comics aren’t all bad, there’s just a huge number of them in longboxes across the country because so many were printed to satisfy a demand that disappeared almost over night. So that just makes them worth less than the comics from the 70’s and 80’s, but it doesn’t mean they’re not any good.

X-Men: Fatal Attractions eventually leads into Phalanx Covenent, another story I’ve never actually read (but is sat on my To Read pile) and likely subject of another column at some point in the future, as it holds up fairly well to this day. These stories may seem like an entirely unfamiliar era to many, because the characters we’re used to seeing have gone through a lot of changes over the years, but the reasons we love them are still evident.

Plus, the story is damn fun.

Join us next week when we look at something else that is, for whatever reason, Underrated.