Film Strips: X-Men - The Movie Special

Film Strips: X-Men - The Movie Special
Following the X-Men movie adaptation we looked at a little while ago, Marvel's first big movie/comic cross-promotion ever also produced a number of tie-ins and specials set in the X-Men movieverse. Today, we're looking at one particular oddity: a full-length one-shot comic called "X-Men: The Movie Special" which was made available with the starter pack for the short-lived (and I mean REALLY short-lived) X-Men Collectable Card Game, produced by Wizards of the Coast.

Technically, the comic is a sequel to the movie, though like many extended-universe adaptations it's written out of continuity by subsequent canon releases. The story sees the X-Men - Wolverine, Rogue, Storm, Cyclops and Jean Grey - being sent to fight the resurgent members of Magneto's brotherhood: Sabretooth, Mystique and Toad.

Hey kids! It's the X-Men! If you squint a bit!

Naturally, the X-Men make short work of the evil mutants - not least because they outnumber them. However, it's revealed that the reason the Brotherhood members were causing a scene was to allow Magneto (who has apparently escaped incarceration since the end of the film, though it's never mentioned) to intercept and recruit a new mutant, a young boy named Malcolm. Luckily, Xavier has also tracked him down and the two converge on his position.

Although they each attempts to convince Malcolm to join their side, the situation degenerates quickly. It is only a single-issue story, after all. Magneto reveals some new recruits to his brotherhood: movieverse versions of Frenzy, Senyaka and Fabian Cortez.

All your favourite villains. Well, SOME villains, at any rate.

Xavier immediately counters by revealing his own new recurits: movieverse versions of Psylocke, Colossus and Angel. The two groups fight and Magneto's side is defeated. Xavier ends the issue preaching his message of tolerance to Malcolm and inviting him - when he's ready - to join the X-Men. This seems like a particularly optimistic offer, given that we don't know Malcolm's powers, and that he doesn't say more than two lines in the entire story. For all we know, he IS a mutant supremacist like Magneto.

Not pictured: Malcolm.

Of course, the more interesting point here isn't what good Malcolm would be in a fight, but why this comic sees fit to introduce several new characters to the movieverse for no reason. And it's because this story didn't really begin life as a story, it began life as an attempt to shoehorn some of the CCG's characters into an extended action sequence. As a joint venture between Marvel, WOTC and Fox, it was mandated that the movie designs be used, and that meant the creation of new movieverse characters.

While it's true that it's not very good, it's also not completely without merit. Just mostly without merit. Jay Faerber, then-writer of a very average Generation X, turns in a truly generic effort. It's better than the movie adaptation in that it meets basic standards of competence, but he was clearly just picking up his cheque for this one (and I say that without prejudice). Anthony Williams (artist of the movie adaptation) puts in a considerably better showing than the last time we saw him, but it's still only ever passable.

The one good thing about this comic. (click to embiggen)

On the other hand, the cover is a good-looking wraparound by Art Adams, featuing the movieverse principals (less Xavier) and the middle few pages include production material on the CCG, including a page of movieverse-style concept designs for characters like Marrow, Gambit, Beast, Nightcrawler and, most interestingly, a Sentinel that looks nothing like anything you'd recognise as a Sentinel.

Finally! A movieverse version of Marrow! (also click to embiggen)

Clearly, this isn't even close to being canon, but it does hint at the idea of an expanded movieverse. As a kid, I thought it was awesome that they'd introduced Psylocke to the movie team, but even I was old enough to know that it wouldn't be taken into account by future movies. Not only do the three new X-Men never appear again in any form, they're ultimately made impossible by future movies doing different versions of the characters.

In fairness, this wasn't a comic that was ever designed to be read by the general public outside its context as a card-game tie-in, so it's not completely surprising that it's not up to much in concept or execution. To my mind, though, it demonstrates the biggest problem with any cross-media comics adaptation and tie-in, which is that they can skirt around the source material all they want, but they'll never be able to expand it no matter how hard they try.