The Uncanny X-Men Omnibus

The Uncanny X-Men Omnibus is a huge doorstop of a book, as it has to be to contain 38 issues of the Uncanny X-Men title, beginning with #94, as well as Giant-Size X-Men #1 and X-Men Annual #3. (That’s over 800 pages, the equivalent of the first four Masterworks.) This is the run written by Chris Claremont (with a preliminary assist by Len Wein) and drawn by first Dave Cockrum, then John Byrne that revolutionized superhero comic book storytelling.

The Uncanny X-Men Omnibus cover
The Uncanny X-Men Omnibus
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Claremont’s X-Men quickly became the series everyone wanted to read and creators wanted to emulate, with its soap operatic drama and distinctly drawn, emotional superhero team members. These issues, originally published from 1975-1980, have been surpassed in some ways by today’s comics — the copious thought balloons and overwritten captions may be considered passé, for example — but nothing can change their status as as a cornerstone of the genre.

The X-Men title had been given up on, effectively; until this relaunch, it contained reprints of older stories. Since there were few expectations for the book, the new creators were left alone, with little oversight and the most freedom it’s possible to get from a corporate publishing company. Cockrum was familiar with large teams, having previously made his name on DC’s Legion of Super-Heroes, and there were plenty of characters to feud and make friends with.

The first issue introduces the new generation of mutants assembled by Professor X, each with their own backstory of angst:

  • Nightcrawler, chased by comic opera villagers out of Frankenstein because he resembles a demon
  • Wolverine, a former government agent with a mysterious past
  • Storm, the white-haired African weather goddess raised as a thief
  • Colossus, the Russian man of steel

and the Irish Banshee and the Japanese Sunfire. They’ve been brought together to rescue the original X-Men from a mysterious island. The second and third issues shake up the membership again, with some leaving and one dying.

That sudden death was one of the things that set this series apart. The characters were noticeably more violent than traditional superheroes, both towards their enemies and each other. The reader couldn’t assume that they’d always do the right thing in the right way. Other comics around this time had already upped the violence quota and created non-teams, groups that were kept together for reasons other than a shared thirst for justice, but the new X-Men combined the qualities in a way that worked long-term.

Here can be found classic stories like a Sentinel attack; the transformation of Jean Grey into the Phoenix; the return of Magneto (twice); Lilandra, the Imperial Guard, and the Starjammers; a visit to the Savage Land; and the introduction of Alpha Flight, Kitty Pryde, and the Hellfire Club. Aside from remastered comic pages, this volume also includes yellowed reproductions of the letter pages (spot the names later to become comic professionals!), the reprinted introductions (two by Claremont, two by Stan Lee) from the Masterworks volumes, and samples of promotional art and character designs.

13 Responses to “The Uncanny X-Men Omnibus”

  1. RJM Says:

    It’s interesting to note that that two titles that changed and shook things up, creatively, for mainstream comics during the late 70’s and early 80’s were originally low selling, forgotten books.

    Would Claremont/Cockrum/Byrne on X-Men and Miller on Daredevil had been able to grow and stretch their creative styles and vision if they been working on flagship titles?

  2. Johanna Says:

    Oh heck no! The most creative work is done on books flying under the radar … but these days, the larger publishers don’t necessarily have as much patience with those kinds of titles or as much need for them.

  3. RJM Says:

    Not only do the publishers not have the patience for anything new or creative to find it’s audience, but the same goes for the Comic Shops that order them.

    Same old same old.

  4. Lyle Says:

    Yep, in a nutshell that’s why I’ve largely given up on superhero comics finding the next X-Men.

  5. Shawn Demumbrum Says:

    RJM…..I think that you might be shopping at the wrong comic book shops.

    Shawn Demumbrum
    SpazDog Comics

  6. kevhines Says:

    I can’t wait for the Amazing Spider-Man Omnibus.
    Ditko’s entire Spider-Man run under one cover in color?

  7. Chad Anderson Says:

    Please forgive the anal retentiveness of this question: Did Marvel do a good job of putting these books together so that not a lot of the page is lost in the gutter? I’ve seen that problem with some of Marvel’s hardcovers, and it annoys the heck out of me, to the point that I’ve hesitated to buy these doorstop books, since I’m guessing the problem might only be worse with a larger book.

  8. Johanna Says:

    I don’t think it’s AR to ask about the readability of material, but unfortunately, I don’t recall specifics of this volume. I don’t remember noticing any big problems.

  9. Barry Says:

    From your Amazon link it doesn’t look like it’s still in print. Which kinda sucks.

  10. Ray Cornwall Says:

    This book and the FF Omnibus have minimal gutter loss. Also, the reproduction was cleared up, and the paper is fantastic, so I’d recommend these books over the Masterwork counterparts (I’ve owned both, and prefer the Omnis).

    The two Omnis that have significant gutter problems are the Alias book (not surprising, given that the art would have two-page spreads and lots of Bendis dialogue) and, surprisingly, the Eternals book. They’re still good books, but the gutter loss was annoying.

    Marvel’s moving to stitched binding on Masterworks to prevent gutter loss in the future. I’m hoping they do the same with newer Omnibuses, but it’s not a guarantee.

    Retailers may still have a chance to get these books, and I’ve seen a few copies on eBay at below cover (even with shipping thrown in). The books weren’t designed for the bookstore market, so it’s not surprising to see that Amazon is sold out. Marvel aims the Masterworks and Omniboos at the direct market.

  11. Johanna Says:

    Barry, it’s true, Marvel doesn’t usually have long-term in print plans for its hardcovers.

    Ray, thanks for answering those questions.

  12. Journalista - the news weblog of The Comics Journal » Blog Archive » Feb. 5, 2007: Like the Longines Symphonette, it doesn’t rest Says:

    […] Johanna Draper Carlson looks at The Uncanny X-Men Omnibus covering Chris Claremont, Dave Cockrum and John Byrne’s initial run on the title. […]

  13. Marvel/DC Quick News: Robinson, Omnibuses » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] bringing three out-of-print Omnibuses back: Amazing Spider-Man Omnibus, Fantastic Four Omnibus, and Uncanny X-Men Omnibus. Good news. Books like this should stay in print. […]




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