on 26 June 2014
Going back to something that you loved from your childhood can be a daunting experience. If you've ever tried to re-watch an old episode of 'Thundercats' or 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' (and you're not deluding yourself into thinking that they're still good), then you'll know where I'm coming from. As such, it was with some hesitance that I approached this Marvel Omnibus. Chris Claremont's legendary 20 year run on 'Uncanny X-Men' is considered the most influential period in the franchise's history but, at the same time, Claremont is a writer whose notoriously verbose style is pretty much synonymous with the word “dated”. The black & white reprints of his early stories, from Marvel's “Essential” line, were some of the most defining reads of my teenage years, so perhaps I'd be best of leaving the cherished memories, instead of risking another “Thundercats”. However, against my better judgement, I read this book and, frankly... I had nothing to worry about.
Let me get the glaring problem out of the way first. Yes, Claremont's writing has undeniably dated. There are many instances where, for example, a character will go into a big monologue to explain something that a modern writer would never explain when the art expressed it perfectly. Also, the story-lines aren't quite as “epic” and “deep” as I remember them being as a teenager. As such, I would never recommend this collection to a new adult comic book reader. However, these are, nonetheless, some pretty excellent superhero comics, and they definitely represent the X-Men at their most quintessential. Of course, I don't expect (or want) the X-Men to remain like this 40 years later, but when I read this I really did feel pangs of nostalgia for when the characterisation was just so spot on, when Storm was an amazing character, and Wolverine was still mysterious (and small and ugly!). The only character I didn't really care for was the clichéd Russian strongman, Colossus, the only X-Man in here that I think it took later writers to flesh out. Similarly, Magneto was a pretty bland super villain within these pages, and it would be a few more years before Claremont himself would turn him into the three dimensional character he is now.
Another problem is that, with Claremont being a newcomer just taking over the reins of the series, it takes a little while for the book to really hit its stride. The first issue, 'Giant-Size X-Men' #1 by Wein and Mantlo, while of great historical value to the X-Men and pop culture in general for introducing the “all new, all different” X-Men to the world, is a pretty average 1970s superhero comic. The quality improves when Claremont joins as co-writer in 'X-Men' #94, and then shoots up again when he's free to do whatever he likes as sole writer from #96. However, it isn't until John Byrne joins Claremont as regular artist and co-plotter at #108 that the series really begins to shine. Without wanting to detract from Claremont's unbelievable contributions to this franchise, it's not really fair to look at his entire 20 year run as a homogeneous entity that single-handedly redefined comics. In reality, the truly stand-out moments of that run were from the Claremont/Byrne partnership, of which the cream of the cream doesn't happen until vol. 2 of this Omnibus series (which re-prints most of “The Dark Pheonix Saga”, which begins in this volume, and all of “Days of Future Past”).
The way I'm glowing over this book probably makes me sound like I'm reviewing a dated 'Watchmen'. No. The level of sophistication in here is nowhere near that, nor is it even close to the likes of Grant Morrison's 'New X-Men' run, or Joss Whedon's 'Astonishing X-Men'. However, what this book reprints, in a beautiful and worthy hardcover, are some absolutely solid 1970s and '80s superhero comics. If you're into the X-Men, and you can look past its many flaws to appreciate it for what it is, then you can't do much worse. But, if you're new to the series, perhaps after watching the movies, I'd recommend starting off with something a bit more modern (like the Whedon run), and then maybe working your way back.
on 18 July 2010
Could form a suitable alternate title for this volume.
Documenting the (then)new team's early days, the reader can trace the origins of the book from its admittedly humble beginnings and witness the fertile ground that was laid to produce the mega multi genre franchise that it remains to this day.
The early issues sparkle with ideas and visual flair ( largely due to the late Dave Cockrum's masterful character and costume design).
The early Claremont (and Len Wein )/ Cockrum stories climax nicely in the "Starjammers" saga when - shock- the artist changes mid story. John Byrne and Terry Austin took on the artistic chores and the book soared to heights surely never envisaged at the time?
From that point the reader can enjoy some of the slickest, most enjoyable comics ever produced. An almost perfect meshing of talents. Each creator has done great things since leaving the title but none have ever been better than during this period together.
Excellent storylines take the X-Men around the globe mixing character with fast moving action. Looking back each issues contains an almost impossible amount of story, certainly compared to todays much slower paced comic books.
The volume is beautifully produced, archive quality with beautifully restored colours. A thoughtful addition is the inclusion of the original letters pages allowing the reader to track fans opinion through the saga.
Despite the other reviewers comments, the volume does NOT contain the "Dark Phoenix" saga which you will have to purchase separately in either softback or "Marvel Masterworks" Vol 5 format ( follows on directly from the omnibus in numbering) and is well worth your time and money
All in all well worth tracking down as an essential purchase
on 8 October 2013
As mentioned above, this is a review of the new printing of the omnibus that I received just last week. I haven't read it yet so will only be able to comment on the book itself, not its contents.
As always, Marvel have done very well with this omnibus. It looks and feels like a premium product. My one observation is that I suspect the paper stock for this reprint is a bit thinner than that used originally. Obviously (as I don't buy multiple copies of these things), this is speculation on my part but, when compared with my Amazing Spiderman omnibus which I think came out at roughly the same time as the original printing, the paper is noticeably thinner and less rigid. Although this may draw criticsim from some due to a less "high end" quality of paper, it does make the book much more easy to read. By way of comparison, the reprint could be read in a similar way to a relatively standard size hardback (albeit with bigger pages), whereas the Amazing Spiderman omnibus is so thick and heavy it almost has to be read at a table (which isn't all that covenient unless you live in a library).
The (presumed) shrinking in thickness does, however, highlight one of this collection's more confusing and frustrating aspects. Whereeas other omnibus collections have had a natural end point, this one ends mid-way through the Dark Phoenix Saga. As a result, the reader is either best advised to stop reading before the end (to avoid the sudden cliffhanger) or go buy another book collecting that story to see how it ends (I fortunately already own just such a book, so bully for me). I see that volume 2 of this omnibus set is due sometime in April 2014 and so should finish the story (so, if you can bear to wait a bit, do so, while feeling empathy for those that have been waiting since the original printing for the conclusion to this tale), but it just seems odd that they would either not put the whole thing here or leave it for that future edition.
On the whole then, another cracking Marvel omnibus. I have sadly become a bit addicted to these and appear to be buying them at a rate quicker than I can read them. Giiven the notable discount that a pre-order attracts and the ridiculous mark-up on these things once out of print, I don't see that trend stopping anytime soon. They really are the best (and most cost-effective) way to build and keep a collection of some of the most significant comics and stories from the early days of the medium and I for one applaud Marvel for their efforts. DC/Warner are still lagging a bit but at least are starting to move in the right direction now. Truth be told, though, I've always tended to make mine Marvel so I'm much more likely to be getting these than those from the Distinguished Competition.
In summary - a great reprint of some of the most iconic comics from the 70s and a must-have for any fan of the X-Men.'Nuff said.
on 19 March 2013
This enormous tome is coming out as a new edition on 4 September 2013!!!!
Hold on tight.
Written by Chris Claremont with Len Wein and Bill Mantlo, pencilled by John Byrne and Dave Cockrum With Bob Brown, Tony Dezuniga and George Perez, featuring cover artwork by Gil Kane; collecting Giant-Size X-Men #1, X-Men issues #94 to 131 and also Annual #3.