Friday, November 12, 2010

Marvel Masterworks: The Uncanny X-Men

By Chris Claremont and Len Wein
Art by Dave Cockrum

Today the X-Men are one of Marvel Comics most recognizable superheroes, thanks to three movies and a few animated TV shows, but back in 1975 the X-Men were something of a failure, and existed only in reprinted comic books. That all changed when writer Len Wein and artist Dave Cockrum created the "All New X-Men!" and introduced them in Giant Sized X-Men #1. For the first time readers met Nightcrawler, Storm and Colossus, and for many, Wolverine since he had only appeared previously in one issue of The Hulk. Needless to say, in good condition, this comic goes for hundreds of dollars. However, you can still read an affordable reprint of it, and the first seven issues of X-Men (#94-100), in Marvel Masterworks: The Uncanny X-Men.

Marvel Masterworks is the name of a line of books that reprint classic Marvel comics and make them accessible to new readers. And these issues of the X-Men should definitely be accessed, as not only do they relate the history of the X-Men, but they still rank amongst the most entertaining comics made. Yes, some of the writing is a little clunky for modern tastes, but it still sweeps up the reader with great characterization and an engaging plot. The art is less cinematic with no digital embellishments, but it is vibrant, beautifully designed, and some of the best of its era. Dave Cockrum's Storm is still one of my all time favorite portrayals.

Chris Claremont was brought on the second issue (X-Men #94) to handle the scripting, and two issues later was writing the book without Wein. He immediately put his stamp on the book. Cheesy villains, like Krakoa the Living Island, were replaced by threats of a more realistic nature, like Sentinels -- government sanctioned mutant hunting machines. The plots became more interlaced, with new elements introduced every issue that would play out in future issues. The characters were given more depth as they struggled to get along with each other, and team members, as well as readers,
learned bits of and pieces of their history. The settings for the story moved out of New York, and became international and even interstellar! And readers were treated to the everyday life of superheroes -- going on fishing trips and dates and celebrating the holidays. These stories were great reading when I was a kid, and reading them as an adult I was happy to discover they still have that exciting sense of wonder. I highly recommend this book.

Reserve your copy of Marvel Masterworks: The Uncanny X-Men here.

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