Welcome to Best Comic I Read, a column where I talk about the best comic I’ve read each week. It doesn’t have to have actually come out this week. It doesn’t have to be in any particular format. The comic just has to be good. “Best” is subjective to be sure, but this is why I love what I’m reading.
In 1982 Marvel and DC realized the potential success of their best-selling titles, Uncanny X-Men and The New Teen Titans. X-Men was in the middle of what would end up as a sixteen year run by writer Chris Claremont (Chronicles of the Shadow War, Marvel Team-Up) that redefined both the characters, but also the superhero genre. Teen Titans was shooting to the top of DC’s charts under Marv Wolfman and George Perez’s collaboration. This is the by-product of that.
Marvel and DC Present: The Uncanny X-Men and the New Teen Titans is a massive story spanning not just those two franchises, but also the New Gods of Jack Kirby’s Fourth World. Darkseid, DC’s God of Darkness, wants to penetrate the Source Wall. The Source Wall is what separates the physical realm from consciousness itself. Metron, the great learner of the New Gods has helped Darkseid make a small breach, in exchange for the knowledge inside. Darkseid figures that he’ll need a vast cosmic power, greater than his own to breach it more than the little sliver open now.
He taps into the memories of the X-Men to bring back the Dark Phoenix, once a member of their team before she was corrupted. The Titans learn about the resurrection and attempt to preemptively stop it. Both teams are outmatched and captured by Deathstroke, a mercenary and one of the Titan’s enemies.
The Phoenix Storyline
The Phoenix is resurrected under Darkseid’s control and the two teams band together to stop them. The problem is, however, Darkseid wants utter control and the Phoenix wants to be free. She wants to experience life and for her that means causing death and destruction. She starts to dissipate not being able to sustain her corporeal form, so Cyclops offers himself as a host to save the woman he once loved.
He absorbs the Phoenix, reminding her that once she was something of love and lets loose the power as an optic blast, trapping Darkseid in the Source Wall. The Phoenix is dead once more.
Besides the characters that he led to new heights of greatness, Claremont seems right at home in the DCU. The Titans have really fun interplay with the X-Men. They don’t get too much of their own interactions, just enough to set up who they are. It makes sense with the limited space and Claremont clearly wanting to focus on his heroes.
The inclusion of Deathstroke as a lackey for Darkseid is a weird move. Slade was a noble opponent in the Titans stuff (at least until the Judas Contract) and working for a God who wants to literally enslave all other life seems kinda out of character. Deathstroke will work for a paycheck, but he values his own life too much to work for that end. It was really just a way to have him fight the X-Men, which is awesome, so it gets a pass.
Walt Simonson’s Art
Walter Simonson (Thor, Ragnarok) does the art on this crossover. It’s glorious. Simonson is one of my favorite superhero artists ever. Every image evokes power. Dark Phoenix seems to sear the page itself with her power, every kick hits you as well, every laser blast coming off the page.
Simonson is just a monster. He’s everything you want out of a major crossover like this. Full of bombast and emotion. Nothing happens in a Simonson comic, everything is an experience.
The writing and art work together really well and mesh seamlessly. Both Claremont and Simonson seem to be in agreement about what the story is. Utilizing elements from Jack Kirby’s Fourth World seems like an odd choice for the story, but it ties in the cosmic scale of the Dark Phoenix. Coming from a creator’s perspective, if you don’t to play in the DC sandbox very often, why not go for the coolest toys? It serves as a kind of fun prelude to Simonson’s later Orion series.
The Uncanny X-Men and the New Teen Titans is an Absolute Blast
Fans of both franchises are sure to find something they like. Due to the nature of the comic, it hasn’t been reprinted since 2001. If you can find a copy, I highly recommend you grab it.