- Posted by Johanna on February 2, 2007 at 8:08 am
- Category: Superhero Reviews
- CREDITS: written by Chris Claremont; art by Dave Cockrum and John Byrne
- PUBLISHER: Marvel; $99.99 US
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.
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.