Xavier Institute: You Never Forget With ‘X-Men’ #72

by Tony Thornley

We all have a starting point for our fandoms – a single issue, book, film or episode that hooked us. For me, it was an issue I picked up on a whim one afternoon at a comic shop that’s nothing but a memory now, X-Men #72. It was an issue that would set me in the middle of a fandom I’ve enjoyed all my life.

I’ve talked in the past about the story arc that made me a fan; the Uncanny X-Men run concurrent to this issue. However, this issue, published in February 1998 was the one that got me interested. I was a fourteen year old in a rural town, so having a pull box one town over was nearly impossible, so after this issue I had to take what I could get. Fortunately the local grocery store carried Uncanny X-Men, and the rest was history.

This issue was still dealing with the aftermath of the massive ‘Operation Zero Tolerance’ crossover, but it was the first issue in Joe Kelly and Carlos Pacheco’s new run that was really starting to forge its own path. Almost exactly six years after this volume had started, the series broke away from what Chris Claremont and Jim Lee had done for the series first year, and strayed from the cast of the cartoon. And the first task on that list was to build up the new additions to the cast.

Marrow started her life as a villain, and not just any villain. She was a Morlock, but she was an extremist, the leader of a terrorist group called Gene Nation that had clashed multiple times with the X-Men. So, of course the X-Men had to teach her their ways, and that would involve the school of hard knocks. And who’s a better teacher than Wolverine?

Kelly had a hard task here. Plenty of villains had joined the X-Men in the past, but Marrow was one of the most brutal and violent, nearly on the level of Sabretooth. Not only that, her evil acts were extremely recent to the reader, less than a year before. Kelly successfully puts her on the path to redemption in this fairly simple single issue.

However, it’s not just a story of a villain’s redemption that got me hooked. The issue is very accessible, with a general knowledge of the X-Men and the actual text of the issue serving as enough to get the reader up to speed. The mix of new and existing characters was engaging, and the spotlight on Marrow invested the reader in them. It’s not the best X-Men story out there, but it was a perfect jumping on point for this era.

Pacheco, with Art Thibert on inks and digital colors by Liquid!, has a great eye for character work. His pages are laid out with some extremely eye catching panel work, as well as camera work that’s more at home than on the comics page. It’s no wonder that this run lead to multiple highly regarded runs for Pacheco on A-list series. It’s probably the best run artistically of the franchise through the 90s, which is a high standard considering the amazing artists that preceded him.

This entire run is worth a revisit. It’s an incredibly solid run throughout, though it definitely isn’t perfect, and the later half of it becomes heavily editorially dictated. But here in the first stories immediately after Operation Zero Tolerance we see a great example of what X-Men could be.

You can find single issues of the series physically and digitally from any retailer. The story is also collected in X-Men Gold Volume 0: Homecoming.

X-Men #72, Marvel Comics, 1998. Written by Joe Kelly, line art by Carlos Pacheco & Art Thibert, color art by Liquid!, letters by Comicraft.

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