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Back in the 1990s, comic books with gimmick covers and higher cover prices were abundant and also were easy targets for collectors. In the case of Marvel Comics, the concept of the “anniversary issue” was important because it gave them a chance to sell comics at a higher price.
To put things in perspective, many times back then Marvel would produce comic books with slightly more pages and a gimmick cover in celebration of a so-called anniversary such as the comic book series reaching its 25th or 50th or 75th or 100th issue and so on. Other anniversary celebrations include a character specific anniversary such as Spider-Man’s 30th anniversary celebrated with the comic book Amazing Spider-Man #365 which had a lot of pages and a hologram cover.
Of course, such anniversary celebrations were implemented on the Marvel 2099 line of comic books. Check out my review of Spider-Man 2099 #25.
Right here we will take a look at the first-ever anniversary celebration issue of the X-Men of the far future with X-Men 2099 #25 written by John Francis Moore and drawn by Ron Lim. This comic book was released in 1995 and Marvel already published multiple series of other franchises of their 2099 line. Prior to X-Men 2099 #25, the team saw its members separated from each other and went through lots of misadventures and unfortunate events before finally getting back together.
X-Men 2099 #25 begins with a research of Xi’an and his band of mutants being presented by the Minister of Humanity (Morphine Somers) to the President in their airship flying above California.
“I see in this current generation of X-Men an untapped potential,” said the President. “Now, tell me you have finally relocated them.”
The story then shifts to the slaughterhouse of the Theater of Pain wherein a restrained Shakti/Cerebra is standing helpless next to Brimstone Love and a masked Xi’an who are about to execute a sinister plan. Shakti speaks out against them and tells Brimstone that they are parasites preying on the pain and vulnerability of innocent people. Brimstone insists that the weak and helpless provide sport for the rich and powerful, and that his group was founded for the select powerful few who crave for and pay a lot for performances. Xi’an, who had a sinister past before getting reformed to revive the X-Men (before reverting back to evil due to Zhao’s invasion of his mind), only emphasized the theater’s importance.
Defiant, Shakti tries to reach deep into Xi’an and turn him around.
Elsewhere, the former Theater of Pain member Luna (who by this time got close with Tim/Skullfire) is chained and is confronted by her sisters in the theater. Skullfire meanwhile is in the waste disposal center where he meets someone who betrayed their team. They both thought about setting aside their differences to do something before time runs out…
In terms of visuals, I can say that Ron Lim’s art is pretty good and, most likely in tandem with the writer, took careful steps to control the pace enough to keep readers entertained without ever making things look disorienting. When there is action, the pace moves fast and the impact of the action done is always visible. As seen throughout the X-Men 2099 series, the look of the southwestern region of America is always striking and I like the fact that the wilderness setting comes with lesser presence of futuristic technology (compare this to what was seen in 2099’s New York) which gives this comic book a more laid-back concept.
When it comes to the storytelling, character development is nicely emphasized in this comic book. If you read enough of the early comic books (let’s say the first ten issues) and paid close attention to the futuristic X-Men, you will be able to relate with their struggles which add a lot of depth to the usual good-versus-evil storytelling here. Without spoiling the story, I should say that this comic book concluded with a believable new direction emphasized which in turn made me want to look to the next issue. It’s that strong of an ending!
I also liked the way this comic book emphasized the connections between the Theater of Pain with the Chosen (another group of villains) and most notably with Zhao (a previous leader of the X-Men before Xi’an’s time).
As for in-universe crossing-over, this comic book nicely ties up with Doom 2099 which, at the time of publishing, was under the creative direction of Warren Ellis who is now one of the best comic book writers.
If there is anything I have an issue with, it’s the cover art. It has a few characters who appeared on the cover, most notably Desdemona, and yet were absent in this comic book’s story. They ended up looking like cover art filler. Not a problem but distracting and meaningless.
Let me make it clear here…I really like this comic book. It definitely has the best and most engaging story of the X-Men of 2099 ever and that’s because this particular monthly series had an extensive build-up on all the characters since issue #1 and issue #25 executed a great payoff.
In retrospect, the X-Men drastically changed since the start of issue #4 and this includes members who went far away or decided to exclude themselves. X-Men 2099 #25 tied up most the loose threads not only by having the team members back together but also emphasized how much they developed over the past few years (in real life, that is). This is also the kind of comic book that will make you want to revisit the very start of its series and rediscover the characters.
If you are seriously collecting comic books, be aware that based on the listings of MileHighComics.com as of this writing, as a near-mint copy of the comic book’s regular edition is $4 while a near-mint-copy of the deluxe edition (with gimmick cover) is at $6. X-Men 2099 #25’s newsstand edition is worth $8 for a near-mint copy.
Overall, X-Men 2099 #25 is highly recommended. The creators outdid themselves and made the best story of titled characters. Truly, this comic book is where the mutants of 2099 really got defined in their respectful place within the Marvel Comics universe of the 1990s.
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