GRAPHIC NOVEL AND TRADE PAPERBACK (TPB) REVIEWS

by The Masked Bookwyrm

X-Men Reviews - Page 2

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Marvel Masterworks: The X-Men, nos. 22-31 2002 (HC) 224 pages

Written by Roy Thomas. Pencils by Werner Roth, and Jack Sparling. Inks by Dick Ayers, John Tartaglione.
Colours: uncredited. Letters: Art Simek, Sam Rosen. Editor: Stan Lee.

Reprinting: The X-Men (1st Marvel series) #22-31 (1960s)

Rating: * * * (out of 5)

Number of readings: 2

Additional notes: intro by Roy Thomas; covers; brief sketch gallery

Published by Marvel Comics

Western pop culture has evolved quite significantly in the last few decades. When first created, comic books, like their close kin, the pulp magazines, were seen as quick, disposable entertainment. They were printed on cheap paper, sold at cheap prices, and the toilers in the field were paid commensurately low salaries. Comics were seen as nothing more than a passing fancy for kids. It wasn't until, I believe, the 1960s that the pop phenomenon known as "collecting" really took root. Suddenly it wasn't just Ming vases that appreciated in value over time -- nostalgia was a new market force. Initially, that related mainly to select comics, in their original editions. But it established the notion that maybe, just maybe, comics weren't as disposable as people thought.

Eventually this led to trade paperback collections, reprinting comics on sturdy paper and between heavy covers. And today the comics themselves are printed on thicker paper, with more elaborate printing and colouring processess -- clearly, no longer meant to be read once and then tossed out with the week's garbage.

Which then, eventually, led to the rise of the lavish, hardcover collection. Marvel started the ball rolling with their Marvel Masterworks series, and DC quickly followed suit with their Archives Editions. These collect consecutive runs of much older comics between hard covers, on expensive paper, clearly meant to be tomes for the ages -- nothing short of nuclear blast is expected to damage these babies.

Of course, the Marvel Masterworks and Archives series are, frankly, exorbitantly expensive -- moreso than even other hardcover comics collections of more recent comics. Sure, because these reprint older comics, there might be an added expense in tracking down the masters and cleaning them up for the crisp reproductions, and sure, maybe these editions really are just a little sturdier, a little more enduring than other hardcover graphic novels. But one can't shake the feeling that the price is part of the gimmick, to make it seem like -- wow! -- this is precious stuff. After all, these aren't just comics, these are "collectibles", with the original editions even pricier.

And just before you think ye reviewer is made of money, rest assured, I got this at a considerably reduced price (ain't I the bargain hunter?).

So, is it worth it?

Yes and no.

This is the third X-Men collection, compiling early, formative stories from the 1960s. This edition collects X-Men #22-31 (the Marvel Masterworks series is hard to number, since, technically, I think all the Masterworks editions -- including Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, etc. -- are considered a series, meaning the numbers jump around a bit; the first two X-Men books were, I think, technically vol.s #3 and #7 of the Masterworks series -- but such numbering may be irrelevant as the cover only lists this as "Marved Masterworks: The X-Men, nos. 22-31").

Roy Thomas had assumed the writing chores just two issues previous from Stan Lee, the series' original writer, and artist Werner Roth had only been around a few issues before that, taking over from Jack "King" Kirby. Thomas would go on to become a veritable giant in the field, and was Stan Lee's frequent successor at the time (as Lee dropped titles, Thomas would generally take over as scriptwriter) but, here, still a fledgingly talent, Thomas is feeling his way. The issues are admirably busy, with lots of panels, and lots of dialogue crammed into a panel, in a way that would be almost unheard of today. But the action can kind of plod at times, as the megalomanical villains aren't always that interesting, nor their plans very unusual. Thomas is frankly too verbose, cramming dialogue into a panel for every figure Roth drew -- and often not very interesting, and certainly not very subtle, dialogue.

A big fan of continuity, and comic book universes, Thomas probably tosses in more villains borrowed from other comics than Lee who had established a rogues gallery unique to the X-Men. Thomas, instead, tosses in Count Nefaria, The Puppet Master, the Super-Adaptoid and others familiar from other series. There also seems less emphasis on the mutants-as-minority theme in these issues than in the previous Lee scripts.

Thomas tries to play up a soap opera-y element -- the sort of thing that would come to dominate the title in later years -- but seems fixated solely on the unrequited love of Jean Grey (Marvel Girl) and Scott Summers (Cyclops), and the love triangle it forms with Warren Worthington III (Angel). Though his infatuation is also unspoken (in one issue Cyclops thinks about their rivalry -- but it's hardly a rivalry if neither of them have ever said anything to Jean!) But Thomas just kind of belabours it, not seeming to have any direction. Ten issues later, Scott and Jean still haven't expressed their true feelings for each other, and continue to just pine away in thought balloons. And there's little attempt to craft sub-plots for the others. Well, there is the introduction of a cryptic threat, a criminal organization called Factor 3, but it never resolves in these issues, and is pretty vaguely developed as is; it seems like the still novice Thomas desperately wants to craft sub-plots, but has yet to come up with any.

Except maybe one.

Thomas takes a villain introduced in Lee's last script -- the Mimic, who can adopt the abilities of others -- and has Professor X recruit him to join the X-Men. The Mimic isn't an out-and-out villain, but neither is he a misunderstood sweetie, and his abrasive arrogance creates tension in the team. Thomas threads this through three or four issues, before resolving it in issue #29 that, overall, is one of this collection's better efforts (mixing low-key human interaction of the heroes going ice skating with a battle with a robot, the Super-Adaptoid). Another strong issue is #28 that introduces the Banshee -- a villain who, later fans will recognize, also subsequently joined the team as a good-guy. This issue is almost strongest for its interplay between the villains, evoking some of the early Lee-Kirby issues where recurring foes, the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, were sometimes actually more interesting, more colourful, and more complex, than the X-Men themselves. The final issue here (#31) is also among the better, with more time spent on the X-Men in their civvies, allowing the plot to unfold and develop. All of which suggests Thomas was finally getting a feel for the gig with some of the better issues toward the end of this collection.

Werner Roth was a restrained artist, more at home drawing low key series like romance comics, lacking the dynamism of X-Men co-creator Kirby. But there's still an appeal to his art, particularly when it can be contrasted with Kirby (such as in the earlier black and white collection, Essential Uncanny X-Men -- which reprints issues #1-24). Though here, generally on his own, the lack of flare is more apparent but, nonetheless, it still has its appeal. Jack Sparling pinch hits an issue and though his technical work can be rough, he's clearly embracing the new stylistic influences that drove Neal Adams and the like, his use of angles and panel composition far edgier and more dramatic than Roth's.

The interesting thing about the addition of Roth to the art chores is that when the X-Men premiered, they did so almost simultaneously with DC Comics' Doom Patrol -- also about misfit heroes and their wheelchair bound mentor. There's long been debate about how much each influenced the other (everyone accepts the Doom Patrol was an attempt by conserative DC to ty a more funky, Marvel-style series), and long time Doom Patrol artist, Bruno Premiani, was also an unusual choice for a super hero series, also more suited to low-key, realist series. In other words, was the selection of Roth as Kirby's successor a coincidence...or was it Marvel trying to follow the lead of The Doom Patrol?

Anyway, as a sample of mid-'60s comics, and of early Roy Thomas writing, this collection is okay, with a decent amount of simplistic, Silver Age entertainment, and at least a couple of better-than-average tales. There are some familiar villains (Count Nefaria and a gang of second string felons) as well as foes that may never have appeared again (the Locus). But, all in all, does it really warrant a prestigious, hardcover, very expensive treatment? Probably not for the casual fan. Fortunately, Marvel also provides its much cheaper, mammoth "Essential" books, where, on cheaper paper and in black and white, it collects early runs of its comics (DC got in on the act with similar volumes called Showcase Presents ...).

Cover price: $49.95 USA / $76.25 CDN.

The Essential Classic X-Men / The Essential Uncanny X-Men  1999 (SC TPB) 528 pages

Written by Stan Lee, Roy Thomas. Pencils by Jack Kirby, Werner Roth (billed as Jay Gavin) with Alex Toth. Inks by Paul Reinman, Chic Stone, Dick Ayers.
Black & WhiteLetters: various

Reprinting: The X-Men (1st series) #1-24 (1963-1966)

Rating: * * * * out of five

Number of readings: 1

Following the Essential X-Men volumes reprinting the so-called "new" X-Men stories from the mid-1970s onward (reviewed elsewhere on this page), there came the Essential Classic X-Men (originally released as Essential Uncanny X-Men -- but the re-labelling it "Classic" makes it a bit clearer what it reprints) which takes us all the way back to the 1960s, reprinting in black and white the earliest adventures of the very first incarnation of the merry mutants in an unbroken, chronology. (I'm also going to review this partly in terms of of the first and second half -- since 1-10 and 11-21 are also available as two Marvel Masterwork editions).

These early issues introduce the "most unusual teen-agers of all time": Cyclops, Marvel Girl, The Beast, Angel, Iceman, and their mentor, Professor Xavier. It establishes many of the concepts and themes that continue with the series to this day, from training sessions in the Danger Room, to arch foe Magneto (lacking the dimension he would later develop). There're first appearances of villains the Blob, Unus, the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, the Juggernaut, the Sentinels (the latter two debuting in the second half) and more, plus, as the stories progress, some of the angst that would come to define the "Marvel Age" of comics. All this and the Silver Age debut of Ka-Zar and the Savage Land, plus guest appearances by the Sub-Mariner, Avengers and the Human Torch.

Having grown up with the "new" team, particularly the Claremont-Byrne-Austin issues, the original X-Men used to strike me as second stringers, particularly as I'd read reprints of the first few issues which, though not bad, were kind of bland (of course, I've long since become a bigger fan of the group, thanks to various revivals and retro tales over the years). And what I never realized was that Lee and Kirby just needed to build some momentum.

Once they get going, there's stuff to enjoy, from the crammed-to-the-point-of-bursting plots (single issue stories that, nowadays, a writer would spread out over three or four isses...and still show half as much imagination), the gradually evolving characterization and development of our heroes. I think the third issue is the first indication that Cyclops can't voluntarily control his powers, and the weight of that weighs upon him. And then there's the escalating emphasis on mutants-as-metaphor for a persecuted minority.

Regarding that (and later fans debating whether Lee & Kirby can truly claim credit for what became the series' signature theme): it's admittedly unclear if Lee and Kirby intended that from the get-go; the very earliest issues use the mutant angle as just a gimmick -- mutant superheroes battling mutant menaces -- with Professor X even having a contact in the F.B.I. Indeed, in a world of super beings, the distinction between mutants and other super people (and the public's reaction) has often seemed a bit arbitrary.

But the bigotry metaphor does start to creep in and the series develops more voice, more edge. Though the very fact that references can almost come out of nowhere at first makes it curious to wonder what the creators were thinking behind-the-scenes. In issue #4 arch-foe, Magneto, blithely justifies his war on humans by saying: "They would kill us if they could! We only fight in self-defense!" It's perhaps the first explicit hint of something more going on than simple costumed heroes and villains. While a scene in the very next issue with the X-Men getting dirty looks from subway commuters is unsettling precisely because it's so understated: no screaming mobs, none of the hysterical Senate committees that marks the comics now, just dirty looks (at a time when racial and Civil Rights issues were high profile in America) and Cyclops' remark "We paid our fare just like anyone else." Pretty frank stuff for a medium regarded as kids' stuff.

But it's not till the second half of this collection, and the first Sentinels story (the series' first ever three issue story) that the bigotry metaphor is fully, inarguably established that would define the series ever after.

Magneto is introduced in the first issue and, with his Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, for a while seems like a co-star, they appear in so many issues. It threatens to get monotonous...but it also lends the series its own voice different from The Fantastic Four or The Avengers, chronicling the on-going skirmishes between the two opposing groups. At times the Brotherhood threatens to be more interesting than the heroes thanks to its colourful membership, both visually and personality-wise, from the sycophantic Toad, almost poignant in his worship of the callous Magneto, the craven Mastermind, and soon-to-be heroes Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch who add an extra drama to the group because, right from the beginning, it's obvious these two are on the wrong side and they know it. Even here, Lee avoids the easy route, 'cause Quicksilver is just as obnoxious as ever -- he's a good guy with a bad attitude. When the Brotherhood eventually falls apart in issue #11...you actually miss 'em. But it's such a clear disassembling of the group, you wonder if Lee & Kirby realized it had become a narrative crutch they were leaning on too much (it also shows a slight nod toward continuity threads, as it's clearly meant to bring an end to that group, and not simply sidelining them "until next time!")

By then the X-Men have emerged as vaguely interesting people in their own right, and there are some especially nice stories, like the team's two-part tussle with the Juggernaut which actually manages to create surprising tension, or the epic battle with the robotic Sentinels (though as was sometimes the case with Lee's multi-issue stories, it suffers from a certain logical inconsistency, as if Lee -- who was writing multiple titles a month -- was having trouble remembering the plot from issue to issue: in one issue Prof X can't use his mind powers on robots, in the next he can, in one the Sentinels are described as lumbering, in the next super fast).

The characterization is something worth focusing on. They do a decent job of creating a sense of a group of characters, each with their own personality -- perhaps more than you might expect for similiar team comics at the time (excepting the FF). Or, at least, other teams might have characters that fall into more obvious archetypes. With that said, a weakness with the group is that the characters are likeable, but aren't really that interesting. While you might read the FF for the characters, the X-Men don't quite make the same leap. Part of that may be because of a lack of attention paid to their private lives (it's many issues in before we first start seeing them hanging out in civilian guise, and we meet Hank and Bobby's girl friends -- and even then, that's only for a panel or two here and there). And the action scenes can seem a bit like just a group of characters flying into battle, as opposed to really giving each character a place and purpose in the dynamic.

Jack Kirby illustrates the first half, with his raw, craggy, kinetic style, inked often by Chic Stone. Ironically, I was ambivalent towards Stone's inks over Kirby's pencils in Essential Fantastic Four 2, but here they mesh quite nicely particularly in contrast to the rougher finishes of Paul Reinman on the first few issues. Then the reins are handed over to Werner Roth half way through these issues (originally billed as Jay Gavin, presumably 'cause he was working for a rival company at the same time, or something). Roth's style is cleaner, more realistic, and actually takes to the black and white presentation better. Roth also maybe allows the series to move away from simply being a substitute Fantastic Four, giving it its own visual presence in the Marvel canon. The appeal here is that both artists bring something good to the stories, but different things. Funnily, given the obvious similarities between The X-Men and DC's The Doom Patrol, the selection of Roth to follow Kirby -- Roth an artist who, with his unsplashy, realist style, was not often assigned to super hero comics -- could be seen as an attempt to further emulate The Doom Patrol and its signature artist, Bruno Premiani.

The final few issues see Lee hand over the writing to Roy Thomas, his chief successor in those days, and Thomas cranks up the character angst and delivers some clever plots, though his pacing isn't quite as good as Lee's -- that's not a criticism of Thomas in general, merely a feeling he might've been getting his sea legs (this being Thomas' first monthly gig writing a super hero comic). Thomas also starts relying, unfotunately, more on pre-existing stories: there're more footnotes refering to other comics in his issues than all of Lee's combined! Which kind of defines Thomas' entire career -- the age of the comicbook "universe" has truly begun. Though his decision to have the team confront and defeat the previously unexplained Lucifer in #20-21 (a villain introduced in issue #9) is one of the advantages to these massive collections -- allowing continuity to play itself out.

Arguably more serious than Lee and Kirby were doing on the Fantastic Four at the time (though still with plenty of wisecracks), rooted in the time and place of Greenwich Village coffee shops and the New York milieu (inbetween the globe hopping and visits to asteroids), and reflecting a more blatant narrative maturing than other Essential books by virtue of the fact that, for a time, it was bi-monthly, meaning these issues cover a greater period of time. These stories are surprisingly enjoyable. Surprising 'cause of my "new" X-Men snobbery. But after reading this, and the TPB X-Men Visionaries: The Neal Adams Collection (featuring other stories of the original team) I've developed a lot of affection for these characters.

As well, with DC's original The Doom Patrol available in both expensive hardcover and the economical Essential-like Showcase collections, the staggeringly similar series that started a couple of months before the X-Men, fandom can re-start the debate over who ripped off what from whom.

Cover price: $21.95 CDN. / $14.95 USA.


The Essential X-Men, vol. 1 1996 (SC TPB) 530 pgs.

Essential X-Men Volume 1 - 1st editionWtitten by Chris Claremont, with Len Wein, Bill Mantlo. Pencils by Dave Cockrum, John Byrne, with Tony DeZuniga, Bob Brown, Werner Roth. Inks by various.
Black and White. Letters: various. Editors: various.

Reprinting: Giant-Size X-Men #1, Uncanny X-Men #94-119 (1975-1978)

Rating: * * * out of five

Number of readings: 1 (some issues more)

I first discovered the X-Men, many, many years ago, as a wee lad, when the issues were numbering in the 120s (original series) and the Claremont-Byrne-Austin team was in full swing. In fact, I started reading the X-Men just in time for the classic Dark Phoenix saga...and, shortly after that, came the departure of Byrne and Austin. For a long time I had wanted to read the early issues of the "new" X-Men, the stories that established the new characters, the new relationships, the stories that were often referenced in annotations and footnotes in the comics I did have, the stories that set the ground work for the Dark Phoenix saga and more.

I had wanted to get a hold of this -- Essential X-Men Vol. 1 -- for a while, but had to content myself with Vol 2 initially. Vol 2 reprinted most of the comics I had (but filled in a few gaps), and was still well worth the price.

Finally, at long, long last I got a hold of Essential X-Men Vol. 1 -- and, I'll admit, I was disappointed.

This reprints the new X-Men stories from the beginning, when they were introduced by Len Wein and Dave Cockrum in Giant-Size X-Men #1. I had read this story before (ironically, also in a black and white reprint format) but it's still a reasonably good tale, with Prof. X forced to recruit new heroes to help rescue the original team. There's an edginess to Wein's handling of characters that Claremont doesn't always have, and though the story is mainly an action piece, Wein manages to throw in a nice twist part way through. Giant-Size X-Men #1 also reprinted a few, brief back up features detailing some of the original characters' powers (drawn by Werner Roth), that are included here as well -- yeah, reprints of reprints.

later printings - cover by CockrumClaremont immediately takes over the writing (still with Cockrum as artist) and immediately prunes the group, having most of the original team quit, save Cyclops.

And it gets kind of bumpy from then on. For every issue -- or batch of issues -- I (moderately) ennjoyed, there were others that were just kind of blah. Still, there are plenty of key X-Men elements: Magneto, Sentinels, old and new team, Ka-Zar and the Savage Land and more. We first meet the new X-Men here, and bits and pieces of their background are worked in. Moira McTaggert is introduced, as is Vindicator/Guardian of Alpha Flight (here identified as Weapon Alpha, and a very different personality than he would later have -- brasher and more of a bad guy).

But this is clearly a Chris Claremont who is evolving as a writer. By the time of the stories published in Essential X-Men Vol. 2, Claremont will have a pretty good grasp on his whole character/angst thing, and will produce some memorably plotted tales. But here, too often the plots run to just kind of blah, extended fight scenes, and the characterization is uneven, even inconsistent. Cyclops' brother, Alex, who quit the team, shows up, clearly brainwashed by a villain, attacks them, then disappears for many issues, with no one knowing where he is or why. And though Cyclops is somewhat perturbed, he doesn't really seem all that worked up about it. I mean, this is his brother for crying out loud!

The whole soap opera-y aspect of the X-Men, the thing that made the series fun (and, its detractors might argue, self-indulgent) isn't as pronounced, with Claremont just throwing in sudden character developments (Banshee meeting Moira McTaggert, and instantly falling in love, or Wolverine being in love with Jean Grey) that don't really seem to have been built up to, and other such sub-plots that, just as quickly, are dropped unceremoniously.

Perhaps more frustrating is that I read this figuring I'd finally learn the background to the Dark Phoenix saga. All those flashbacks and footnotes about how Jean Grey went from Marvel Girl to Phoneix, would finally make sense. Except, I'll admit, they didn't entirely, with the stuff often seeming kind of abrupt, or undeveloped, or just plain too metaphysical for me to quite get my brain around.

Too much of the time, Claremont seems to be rushing through things -- character and story -- as if he's in a hurry to get somewhere else; except the somewhere else doesn't always prove that interesting, and it would've been better to develop what he had.

Also, the art by Dave Cockrum just didn't send me. I'm not a huge fan of Cockrum, but I've liked his stuff from time to time. But here, like Claremont's prose, his art can seem a bit rushed, with little beauty or care applied to the panels. It doesn't help that many of his issues are inked by Sam Grainger -- no slight against Grainger, but the combination of the two is often coarse. John Byrne and Terry Austin eventually arrive on the scene, and though I appreciated the change, they're still not yet at peak form.

O.K., so once again I've gone on about what's wrong. But this collection isn't without its strengths. For one, the whole appeal to these Essential books is that, because they collect a vast, unbroken stream of issues, you can better appreciate sub-plots, or multi-part stories because it all unfolds before you. And that's kind of important here, because there's a lot of issues bleeding into one another, and sub-plots that don't bear fruit for many issues (though, as noted, some of those sub-plots aren't developed especially carefully). There are some reasonably memorable multi-part tales, like a good fight with a revived Sentinels, or a tussle with the Juggernaut and Black Tom at an Irish Castle that isn't especially deep, but is a fun, action-adventure. There's a kind eerie tale involving a strange carnival, though it sort of peters out as it segues into another storyline.

Ultimately, this may have been a disappointment in part because of my eager expectations. More than once I've given a harsh review to something which I've, then, softened after a subsequent reading. Not because my initial assessment was wrong, but more because I might have over-emphasized the bad. The whole glass half full/half empty scenario. Not as strong as Vol. 2, nonetheless this book has its moments and certainly provides a look at a lot of key and seminal X-stories.

Cover price: $21.95 CDN./ $14.95 USA.


Essential X-Men Volume 2 - 1st edition - cover by John ByrneThe Essential X-Men, vol. 2 1997 (SC TPB), 504 pgs.

Written by Chris Claremont. Illustrated by John Byrne/Terry Austin.
Black & White. Letters: Tom Orzechowski

Reprints: Uncanny X-Men #120-144 (1979-1981)

Rating: * * * * * out of five

Number of readings: many times over the years

While DC (and Marvel) generally package collections and graphic novels as expensive items, designed to milk the reader of as much moola as possible, Marvel, at least, also offers the opposite end of the spectrum with their "Essential" books. These massive trade paperback's reprint the seminal issues of various popular Marvel titles, in chronological sequence, with the only down-side being that they're reprinted in black & white. That's too bad, but when you realize that the cost (around 20 bucks Canadian) comes out to less than a dollar per issue, at a time when most new comics cost almost 3 bucks (Canadian) and "classic" back issues like these might run you 20 or 30 bucks per issue, I think it's well worth it.

They're hyped as being in "glorious" black & white, which I just took as Marvel's usual tongue-in-cheek hyperbole. But, curiously, reading this I found there is something appealing about the crisp, hard, black on white images. I still miss Glynis Oliver Wein's colour, but for the sake of frugality, I'm willing to give it a miss.

The Essential X-Men volumes, since they focus on the beginning of the "new" team, are also the only one of the "Essential" books to feature more contemporary story and art styles. Essential X-Men Volume 2 reprints Uncanny X-Men #120-144, complete with covers, (though no annuals, I'm afraid), giving you no less than two Alpha Flight stories (including their inaugural appearance), the first appearances of Dazzler, Kitty Pryde, and Rachel Summers; the classic Dark Phoenix saga; and other goodies, like the excellent four part Proteus storyline and the haunting "Days of Future Past/Mind Out of Time" story. The Man-Thing also crops up for an issue.

cover for later printingsI already had many of these issues, but got this to fill in gaps in my collection (figuring it would be cheaper than back issues)...and I still think I got my money's worth.

All these issues had been reprinted in the on-going Classic X-Men series, but that comic stuck in new scenes and dialogue, essentially ruining the point of reading the formative issues of something. That'd be like re-releasing Star Wars with new scenes and special f/x, thereby distorting the historical and artistic significance of the original -- say, wait a minute.

A couple of the early stories are underwhelming: the first Alpha Flight story starts out great and moody, then degenerates into a lengthy brawl, while the Arcade story is all action with very little story. But overall, these are some great issues featuring the legendary art team of John Bryne and Terry Austin, with both men (I think) at their peak. Brent Anderson also supplies an issue.

There are a couple of weaknesses: the final page/epilogue to "Days of Future Past/Mind Out of Time" is missing (ironically, giving the story a more upbeat ending) -- click here to see the "lost" epilogue. Some of the stories are obviously reproduced from the Classic X-Men comic (you can tell because the footnotes refer back to Classic X-Men issue numbers, not Uncanny X-Men ones) but the material seems to be exclusively from the original issues (I checked the stories against the issues I have), so at least there are no anachronistic "new" scenes. And, sloppily, some character profiles at the end, included as an added bonus, end in mid-sentence (????).

In the end, Essential X-Men is definitely a must for those who don't figure they'll ever have the time, or money, to collect the originals...or just as an economic way for collectors who keep their originals in a box, but want to be able to read the issues again.

Some of these stories are available in their own TPBs.

Original over price: $18.20 CDN./ $12.99 USA


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