Marvel Masterworks: The Uncanny X-MEN - Volume 3 (Marvel Masterworks (Unnumbered)) Paperback – 12 Jan 2011
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The stories collected here remind me of the period in the Sixties when Jim Steranko and Neal Adams were drawing the pictures to go with the scripts of Roy Thomas; not just because of the artwork but because many of the super villains are the same. Claremont and Byrne not only continue their story with another two issues devoted to Magneto defeating the X-Men but then having to run away when they escape and he is tagged by Wolverine, but they then split up the group. The Beast and Phoenix escape into a blizzard while the rest are plunged into the depths of the Savage Land where they again encounter not only Sauron but Ka-Zar and the transformed human who became Garokk, the petrified man and god to a local tribe. While Charles Xavier takes a walk down memory lane in "Psi-War" (#117), the lost X-Men make it to Japan for another meeting with Star-Fire and then to Canada where Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau sends Alpha Flight to capture Wolverine again.
The battle with Magneto is the high point of "Marvel Masterworks: The Uncanny X-Men, Vol. 3," not only in terms of Byrne's artwork (the close up of Magneto at the end of #112 is nice), inked by Terry Austin, but also in terms of the story that Claremont comes up with. By the end of the saga Claremont and Byrne are co-plotting the comic book that was about to become the hottest on the planet. I had been a fan of the X-Men from early on, preferring them to the Avengers, and while they had their moments right before the comic was given over to reprints for several years, "The All-New, All-Different" version of the X-Men was a big improvement. You still had the star-crossed lovers with Scott Summers and Jean Grey, but now you had the loose-cannon Wolverine and the foreign flavor of Storm, Colossus and Nightcrawler, all played out against the growing social prejudice against mutants. Banshee is a bit of a stick in the mud, but he gives Professor X somebody his old age to talk to, and I certainly like the improved Beast as the group's resident tragic figure.
For fans of the Claremont-Byrne years of "The Uncanny X-Men" be aware that if the Marvel Masterworks series keeps to a dozen issues of the comic reprinted in color in each volume that Volumes 4 and 5 will take you through Byrne's stink as the book's artist. Volume 4 will begin the Hellfire Club saga and introduce both Kitty Pride and Dazzler, while Volume 5 will have both the Dark Phoenix epic and the powerful "Days of Future Passed" issues that are still one of the best time travel stories I have ever read in a comic book.
I have to come out and say that this batch of stories in this volume really was kind of a surprise. It's been so many years since I read these stories, I really didn't think that I would enjoy them this much. Personally, I always found most of these issues to be the least interesting, because I was never interested in this batch of villains and X-Men allies. However, legendary writer Chris Claremont sports his talent and amazes me, by taking uninteresting characters and placing them in an interesting story. I'll be more specific in a little while.
This third volume of the Marvel Masterworks: Uncanny X-Men line reprints issues 111-121. The stories begin with a small spark and then immediately jumps out of first gear. There are a few weaker moments, but the series succeeds due to its action and continued character development.
The first story sets the stage to work in newly resurrected X-Men foe Magneto, whom was returned to adulthood back in X-Men #104 after being transformed into a child in the pages of Defenders. The mutant master of magnetism is hellbent on getting his revenge on Xavier through the X-Men. I read every single issue of X-Men before this point, and many other titles where Magneto crossed over into wreaking havoc such as the Avengers and Defenders titles; but this story features Magneto far more vicious and cruel then he's ever been. The fate he has in store for the X-Men is something that's best left for new readers to learn.
The following stories features the team in the Savage Land facing Sauron, and later in Japan teamed up with Sunfire. This is the portion of the story that amazed me. Now, this is pretty much a matter of taste, but I personally never cared for the Savage Land or any of its characters, and I still don't up to this day; but Claremont was able to take these characters and create a cool action packed story, to include fit in a small amount of social commentary.
The stories are on the simple side and follow a certain formula, with the X-Men taking on one new threat after the other; but the issues are a little bit more than your average action comic, because Claremont finds time to work in character development, such as Wolverine showing traits of being a leader, Colossus self doubt by thinking himself to be a liability to the team, and finally, Storm's free spirited nature as well as experiencing a form of guilt for failing someone. There's also a background story delivered for Professor X in the form of issue #117: Psi-War. The development only continues, as the story focuses a tad bit on Wolverine's personal battles, by introducing the Canadian superhero team Alpha Flight. This came about mainly due to the team's leader Vindicator taking a beating, when he faced some of the X-Men on his own, which took place in X-Men #109.
John Byrne's artwork is fantastic. There are some very good close ups of Magneto, as well as full page battle scenes taking place between Wolverine and Sauron. Many of the battles are really good, but I think the battles against Magneto were the best, and was damn sure a tough act to follow. The sad thing is after that fight, you won't see anything better or close to it for a long time. This also includes the fight with Alpha Flight, although that was good but it was very far from great.
Overall, this was a solid volume but I didn't enjoy it as much as the first two. Although Claremont did a great job writing the stories. There were still several characters and settings I didn't care too much for; but this is still something I could read again, and the lack of a cliffhanger is a plus also. The next volume is a little bit better even though it has a slow start.
Pros: Superb writing and artwork, continued character development, no cliffhanger
Cons: A few uninteresting characters, some weaker battles