Classic Comics Cavalcade: A War Of Gods In ‘X-Men: Asgardian Wars’
by Tony Thornley
One of the quietest rivalries in the Marvel Universe is between Loki and the Uncanny X-Men. After a series of conflicts between the God of Mischief and the mutants, Loki has a vendetta against them, and it’s chronicled in one of the most enduring stories in Marvel canon, X-Men: Asgardian Wars.
‘Asgardian Wars’ collects four oversized issues, with all of them serving as a shining example of what the X-Men really can be in an era that was always pushing the limits of the characters and concept. But it also started a rivalry that isn’t explored enough in the comics, one that I’d love to see revisited with Loki leaning quite a bit more onto the side of angels. It comes from legendary X-scribe Chris Claremont, pencil masters Paul Smith & Art Adams, inkers Bob Wiacek, Terry Austin, Alan Gordon, & Mike Mignola, color artists Glynis Oliver, Bob Sharen, & Petra Scotese, and letters by Tom Orzechowski, L. Lois Buhalis.
This collection is one of the most interesting artefacts in X-Men history. The first two issues are often forgotten about, a two issue X-Men/Alpha Flight mini, in which the two teams head into the Canadian wilderness to rescue Cyclops, his wife Madelyne and a group they were transporting. It’s an absolutely gorgeous story, with Smith’s art showing why he’s such an iconic X-Men artist. Smith makes these two issues a legend just through his pencil work.
However, this story suffers from a lot of Claremont’s faults. It’s over-wordy to the point that it gets difficult to read (leading to my frequent joke that Marvel must have paid letterer Orzechowski by the word). It also contains some seriously concerning examples of ableism, as magic is used to instantly cure several disabilities. It does however include probably the purest version of the Scott Summers/Madelyne Pryor relationship, as Claremont intended for it to be.
The following two issues, New Mutants Special Edition #1 and Uncanny X-Men #9, are what this story is most well known for. When the New Mutants are transported to Asgard, the team has to deal with their new stations in life. However, when Loki drags Storm into Asgard and gives her an Uru hammer of her own in a complicated revenge plot, things get truly complicated.
This two parter is mostly a blast. The New Mutants issue is a series of vignettes about each character facing a unique part of the nine realms. This was one of the earliest stories I read of the characters in this era and it was a great primer for me to get into this era (despite Claremont’s constant trope of “fat = evil”). X-Men follows up bringing the two mutant teams together to battle Loki.
The biggest highlight is the incredible art. This is Adams at his best, and he gets to go wild in Asgard. Claremont wisely steps back (as much as he can), and gives him a great sandbox to play in.
Even with its warts, this is one story worth checking out. It’s absolutely a highlight of the classic Claremont era.