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X-Men: The Hidden Years - Vol. 1 Paperback – 2 May 2012
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THE SPOILER ZONE
This series opens with a double-sized issue, and a recap of the climax of X-Men #66, the final issue of the original series, which involves a fight with the Hulk to retrieve a Gamma-ray device to be used to revive the comatose Professor X, who had burned himself out in a previous issue and wades in from there. The Professor needs to be brought up to speed on the X-Men's adventures while he was out of action, which takes a couple of pages, and sets the background of the new series. However, the Professor seems to have `regressed' a bit, and sees the X-Men still as the young trainees they started as; not as the `young adults' who had graduated school, and has become a bit irascible. Iceman is not happy with the new Professor, and storms out. The Professor is not happy that when the team last faced Magneto, in the Savage Land, and he was apparently killed, they did not check for a body to make sure... so he despatches the original team, less Iceman, to the Savage Land to take a look. Their aircraft makes a crash-landing, due to extreme turbulence, and they are captured by a local tribe, who inform the survivors that Jean Grey has died. We also see the `ghost' of Magneto ranting at the arrival of the X-Men, and vowing revenge...
The story continues with adventures in hidden cities inhabited by immortal tribesmen, the return of Magneto and more exploding volcanoes, and an escape by balloon from the Savage Land by some of the X-Men, who then bump into a young Ororo when they land in Africa, just in time to help her take on a local menace who is disrupting world-wide weather patterns; while the Angel goes missing in the storm, and Bobby Drake meets up with a stranger in the Savage Land who we know to be Karl Lykos... while Havok and Polaris arrive in the Savage Land to look for their missing comrades and bump into Ka-Zar. The main party of X-Men eventually arrive home to find the Fantastic Four waiting for a team-up to follow the alien menace, the Z'nox, who Professor X drove away from Earth at the end of the X-Men's original series. Now Reed Richards requires the two teams to make sure that the aliens don't just go and invade another planet. During the course of this adventure, we get a glimpse of a certain cosmic entity that will trouble us more in the future, while on Earth Candy Southern, Warren Worthington's girlfriend visits the Xavier School with some disturbing news about Warren's family. On their return from space, the X-Men are sent off to find the missing Angel, while the Professor and Hank McCoy go off to visit a new mutant detected by Cerebro, only to find a Sentinel has got there first. Fortunately, the little girl who they came to meet has the ability to control machinery, and turns the Sentinel into a pet, while the X-Men discover that the Angel is the prisoner of a new mutant who has formed a community of freakish mutants, and has sold him to the latest grouping of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. Meanwhile in the Savage Land, Magneto and Sauron have come to blows, with Iceman stuck in the middle, and Havok and Polaris as late-arriving guests. Magneto is finally rescued by the Sub-Mariner...
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
First, there's the modern penchant for "decompressed" storytelling, which is sometimes a boon and sometimes a curse. In Byrne's hands here, storylines drag out interminably before any conclusions are reached -- at one point in volume two I think there were 5 different major plots all going on at once. I'm fine with small character moments hinting at the next storyline to come (as with Candy Southern's appearance at the X-Mansion to deliver important news to The Angel), but when the author is juggling major plot action for 4 different groups of characters at once (Havok, Lorna, Iceman & Ka-Zar in the Savage Land; Cyclops, Candy, Angel and Marvel Girl in the hands of The Promise; Xavier and Beast with the Girl Who Controls Sentinels; and then the Fantastic Four vs. Magneto & Namor retelling from FF 102-104), something really has to give. Anyone one of these four storylines, or the ones that preceded, could have been shortened/compressed and still would have had room for character growth and Byrne's all-out fight scenes.
The second problem, which rolls of of the first, is that it seems like this series came along during that time when Editors still felt like they could leave Byrne to his own devices and not lend some constructive criticism. At this point in the X-Men's history, the team had 5 regular members (Cyclops, Angel, Beast, Iceman and Marvel Girl) plus Prof. Xavier and probationary members Havok and Lorna Dane. A small enough roster that should/could have been shown working together as the tight unite they'd become, dealing with the addition of two new members. And yet, in these two volumes representing 22 monthly comics, the team spends far more time apart than they do together, starting in the very first issue. I think a firmer editorial hand would have convinced Byrne to keep the team together, and still tell the stories he tells -- which might have helped make the stories feel less drawn-out and bloated.
There are some great characterization moments, and I'm glad I read the book simply for the early Cyclops-Havok sibling dynamic, for the look at Beast's concerns that he would "go wild," and especially the way Byrne uses Iceman as the youngest member / hothead of the group. I also liked Byrne's appropriation of mutants from early 1960s Marvel comics, linking the company's pre-FF past to its present.
I liked these stories, but felt they could have been so much better.
The X-Men are Marvel's top-selling super team, and the characters are some of the most recognizable comic book characters in the world. However, the X-Men were nearly cancelled. After some low sales figures the X-Men series went into reprints. X-Men #67-93 simply had new covers and old material between them.
John Byrne helmed the Hidden Years series to tell the story of what the X-Men were doing during those lost issues. Byrne wrote some of the most iconic X-Men issues between 1977 and 1981. Byrne & Claremont's writing influenced the direction of the series for decades. Byrne returned to X-Men with the Hidden Years in 1999-2001.
The twelve episodes of the Hidden Years collected in this graphic novel are a superb blend of nostalgia and new. The style of the comics is very modern with asymmetrical panels and much less reliance on inner-dialogue than would have been the case in a true "retro" series. However the original X-team recently "graduated" from school play the protagonists. Of course, epic battles with Magneto abound in these pages.
What I especially enjoy is Byrne's clever use of hindsight. We catch glimpses of Sunfire, Storm and other X-men before they were X-Men. Readers will see Marvel Girl's first shiver of the Pheonix power.
If you've followed the early X-Men episodes in the Marvel Masterworks series, the Hidden Years graphic novel is a great addition. Read the Hidden Years after Marvel Masterworks: The X-Men Vol. 6 (Hardcover). The Hidden Years takes place during Marvel Masterworks: X-Men - Volume 7. If you're a long time x-fan, I believe you will enjoy these nostalgic episodes as much as I did.
I found the story lines weak, mostly a re-hashing of old themes with little originality. The few sub-plots that could have developed in interesting directions were never followed up on, such as the effects of re-animation on the Professor and the development of the characters' personal lives.
Or, perhaps I've simply out-grown the medium...