X-Men: The End – Dreamers and Demons #1–6, X-Men: The End – Heroes and Martyrs #1–6, X-Men: The End – Men and X-Men #1–6 by Chris Claremont and Sean Chen
If there is a perfect example of my inexplicable control to read an X-Men comic written by Chris Claremont, then it is the fact that I read these three trade paperbacks. There is no other reason to read this book unless you grew up reading the Claremont Uncanny X-Men run, and know all the continuity and plots he created during that time, because you won’t have a clue as to what is going on in these 18 issues otherwise.
Marvel’s ‘The End’ stories are only supposed to be possible final tales for their franchise characters and teams. This means that the author can write whatever imaginary story, because it doesn’t really matter. Claremont took this to heart: he wrote a story that involves practically all the mutant characters that have existed due to his 17-year run, as well as the very specific villains he created for his idiosyncratic storylines.
What this means is that EVERYONE turns up in some form or other and lots of people die, mostly gratuitously. Claremont doesn’t really show much discrimination: if you’re interested, you should read the death toll at the Wikipedia entry, but know that people are bumped off left and right with very few getting a decent death scene or a reason for it. We get the Brood, the Shi’ar, Cassandra Nova, Starjammers, Sinister, New Mutants, X-Force, children of various couplings of different X-Men, Jean Grey and the bloody Phoenix (again, and the centre of the whole storyline). I would go into the actual plot, but it’s really not worth it – this is more of a sci-fi epic than an actual X-Men story, no matter how Claremont frames the ending, with its ’20 years into the future’ after the actual events of the book. The story is very silly, there are lots of silly reveals (such as Sinister being Gambit’s father), and lots of Claremontisms (‘Sugah’, ‘Too late, meat’) and excessive dialogue. Even for someone like me who is used to it, and used to like it when he read the issues again and again, it’s really tough going with no reward.
The other person to feel sorry for is Sean Chen, who draws all 18 issues, having spent around two years on this book. He is a very good artist, although he starts out rather stiff and a little unsure in the likenesses, and his work on the first six issues is not as good as his usual standard. However, he has found his footing by the second book of the trilogy and he’s on top form by the final book, his art up there with his best stuff.
Even if you are a die-hard Claremont fan, you would need a morbid curiosity to read this book (a bit like me) and a strong determination to see it through to the final pages of the final issue, where the mumbo jumbo reaches cosmic levels of nonsense. It would seem that you can never go back …