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For many people, including myself, Chris Claremont was THE writer for the X-Men, the one that forged their unique identity within the Marvel Universe and was responsible for their huge success. This volume (volume 19 in the eventual complete Epic chronology) contains the end of his decade-and-a-half-long run, making it enormously bittersweet in many ways. It also represents the beginning of possibly the X-Men's pinnacle of comics supremacy, with looks and plotpoints that formed the basis for the enormously successful cartoon of the nineties.
Having said all that, while this is an important X-Men Epic, much of the volume is taken up with issues of X-Factor, the mutant team formed of the original five X-Men. Some may disagree, but the decision to include them here is probably a good one - the stories collected here cover what happens to Cyclops's son Nathan in a confrontation with arch-villain Apocalypse, as well as showing how, when the dust settles after a climactic confrontation with the Shadow King, X-Factor and the X-Men merge into one pool of mutants, setting up the new Blue and Gold team status quo.
Also included are the crossovers from the mutant annuals from 1991, featuring the return of villain Proteus and dramatic developments for the semi-reformed villain team Freedom Force. They're okay, but nothing to write home about. The main meat here is the aforementioned Shadow King storyline and the first three issues of the new (adjectiveless) X-men series, featuring Claremont's last hurrah and art by then-superstar Jim Lee.
Considering how big the event was at the time, and X-Men #1 still holding the position of Biggest Selling Comic Issue Ever, it's amazing how quaint it all looks now. Featuring the new 14-strong X-Men team and their latest confrontation against nemesis and sometime-ally Magneto, it is fine work that really sets up the direction the X-books would take for the first half of the nineties. Although Claremont was almost certainly pushed rather than jumping, he still turns in a fine swansong for the characters he knew so well, and Lee's art is perhaps still the best of the period's distinctive style.
Extras are very pleasingly plentiful - we have lots of features from Marvel Age, and Lee art from Speakeasy, Amazing Heroes, Advance Comics, and Comics Interview, house ads announcing the new book, pinups from the Swimsuit Special, more Lee art from the Mighty Mutant Tour, and cover art from the Wrath of Apocalypse trade, Collectible Classics, the Mutant Genesis trade, relevant Essential X-Men volumes and the 20th anniversary celebration of X-Men #1. It's the kind of comprehensive package we've come to expect from the Epic line, making this volume an indispensable record for one of the X-Men's biggest turning points.
This collection had the potential to really live up to the 'epic' name of the series, featuring pretty much all the greatest X-Men from the 90's as well as a collection of their greatest foes in Apocalypse, The Shadow King and Magneto. But in spite of the great raw material, the book has a hard time escaping from mediocracy in several of it's chapters.
The storyline with Freedom Force was downright embarrassing and painful to read. It served absolutely no purpose other than being there for the sake of completion, and might as well have been excluded. Nothing positive to say here except that it killed off a few weak characters.
The X-Factor stories were better, but could have been much more. The rematch with Protheus, which also involved a heap of other mutant teams, was a disappointment and failed big time to live up to the far better first encounter with Protheus. The battle with Apocalypse for the fate of Cyclops' son was better, didn't live up to it's potential.
The X-Men story with The Shadow King was good, but frankly didn't age all that well. It felt like it had huge parts of the story cut and was quick to jump to the final battle. Claremont's final (at the time) work, a classic X-Men vs. Magneto story, is the highlight of the book - although Claremont uses a too conventient and, even for a comic book, somewhat unbelievable plot point to drive the story forward.
The artwork is a mixed bag. Jim Lee is, as always, exceptional. Portacio is decent as well, but the rest was mediocre at best.
All in all, I give the book 4/5 - mainly due to Claremont and Lee being fantastic, as always.
Chris Claremont's original run on the X-Men spanned seventeen years and saw the book propelled from a newly restarted and low selling title on a bi-monthly schedule to a colossal juggernaut in the comic world capable of supporting a number of spin-off books and a sister title.
This is where the initial ride ends.
I'd like to say it's all gravy and that Chris Claremont went out on the top of his game because... in a lot of ways he DID. His writing was still absolutely solid. His stories engaging. His characters charming. Unfortunately, he wasn't really ALLOWED to go out on top of his game because for most of this book, he only serves as scripter. A PHENOMENAL scripter, yes, but there's only so much you can do when you can't direct the action.
It's also funny that this X-Men Epic Collection features a large chunk of non-X-Men books. There was a lot of tidying up to do before Uncanny and Adjectiveless X-Men could be soft rebooted into the Blue and Gold rosters we know and love and that meant situating the X-Factor team into a proper jumping off point so that the team could be reintegrated into the main X-Men books. Mostly, this means getting rid of Cyclops' son and the team's sentient headquarters while facing their greatest foe, Apocalypse, one last time. Don't worry folks. Apocalypse will be back but he won't be an X-Factor villain ever again. But X-Factor won't ever be the same X-Factor ever again, either.
Beyond that, we see the second iteration of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants (which was calling itself Freedom Force at the time) reach the end of it's road in the early chapters of this book. We see a premature conclusion to Claremont's long running Shadow King storyline towards the end (which was really a mercy killing because that story wasn't... awesome). We see Xavier resuming his place as leader of the X-Men (even though someone decided that the only way people would recognize him again was in a wheelchair).
Claremont ducks out of Uncanny X-Men before the halfway point of the Muir Isle Saga, leaving everyone else, including Jim Lee, to scramble to the finish line of that story. It doesn't turn out badly but you can definitely tell when Claremont's "voice" has left the building. He co-writes and scripts the first three issues of the brand new X-Men series, detailing the beginning of the new era of the X-Men and putting a bow on his Magneto storyline in the process. This is probably the best part of the book because he and Jim Lee collaborating is just a treat to read. There are still a few hiccups where the script and the art don't exactly match up (the two "Delgado" characters is the worst offender, here) but things run much more smoothly than they did in the X-Factor pages.
Overall, this would be an excellent jumping off point for a lot of X-Men readers and I REALLY hope that that isn't Marvel's plan because I'd love the Epic Collection to continue after this. But at the same time, the deck is sufficiently clear. Most of the dangling plot threads of the previous few years are resolved. With Chris Claremont's departure, Jim Lee and Whilce Portacio would attempt to tell their own stories with the X-Men for almost another year before they, too, would leave the books (and Marvel!).
This was all before my time, though. I didn't actually start reading X-Men until just prior to Fatal Attractions two years after this book. I quickly raided back issue bins to fill myself in on just what had happened before I jumped on, only learning of the incredible contributions to the title that Chris Claremont made after he had well and truly left. He would eventually return to the book but by then, the characters had gone in directions he wouldn't have taken them and become people he didn't recognize. And it wasn't the same because it couldn't be the same.
But you can always go and read his earlier run. And you won't even have to raid back issue bins to do it! This collection is by far the best option to enjoying the last of Chris Claremont's initial X-run. The colors hold up very well and look better than they ever did in the original comics. The paper quality is solid. The extras include Jim Lee character sketches and magazine interviews as well and covers to earlier collected versions of this material. It's a great trip down memory lane with a lot of history to be had.
This is a huge understanding of several stories regarding Muir Island, Legion, the Shadow King, and the return of Magneto. Unfortunately, both the writing and the art are wildly inconsistent: this is worth it for nostalgia and culminates in the changing of the guard from Chris Claremont to Jim Lee, from the New Mutants to Liefeld's X-force, from the Claremont X-factor to the even more sitcom-feeling Peter David X-factor. In short, it is the beginning of the early 90s X-men, which the X-men cartoon largely immortalized and was further cemented by the cinematic franchise of the early aughts. However, it is one of the most wildly inconsistent periods: one can tell that Claremore is getting side-lined, the plot lines are increasingly convoluted, but not so convoluted that one can't follow it at all: Fabien Nicenza's dialogue moves from largely trying to match Claremont to its own.
The art is, with the exception of Jim Lee's work which is still like this but of higher quality and figure consistency, mixed and the "90s-iest 90s thing to ever 90s." All women are modeled on nudes and men are pained, muscled out and grimacing constantly. I loved this when I was eleven and twelve years old, but it is embarrassing now.
Given that there 50 characters to keep up with, multiple convoluted plots, and the changing of the guard: this is a nostalgia read or a completist read. It hasn't aged as well as one would have hoped.
This collections has the final days of the original X-factor and most importantly jean grey regaining her telepathic power as well as cyclops son infected with the virus that makes them send him to the future. We also what will be the forming of the new x-factor we have professor X loosing his ability to walk and we have the start of the blue and the go.d teams. We have what will be pivotal points in the X-men history. Well worth the read.
Love the epic collection line. I love this books especially cause it has the mutant genesis story line. That was the revamp by Jim Lee that made everybody go crazy. I recommend this if you're an x men fan!
The book arrived in excellent condition, and fast delivery; very satisfied with the company and its service. I've been a fan of the x-Men for decades , I have the first edition copies sealed and stored, getting the omnibus and epic collections allows me to reread the issue without disturbing the original copy.