By Chris Claremont, John Byrne, and Terry Austin
My first love among the superhero comics were the X-Men. I started with the Finnish edition, of course, in the middle of Claremont and John Romita Jr.’s run back when there was just one X-Men comic even in US: the Uncanny X-Men. To this day, I like JRJR’s art a lot.
I read the comics in this collection in the Finnish edition in black and white in a publication called Ihmesarja which reprints classic Marvel tales about Spider-Man, X-Men, and Fantastic Four. I also own a (regularly colored) collection of the Dark Phoenix Saga in English.
This hefty tome collects Uncanny X-Men #120-144 and some mighty classic tales.
The collection starts in the middle of a long storyline where Jean and Hank have been separated from the rest of the X-Men and in fact the duo thinks that they are dead. Similarly, the rest of the group thinks that Jean and Hank are dead. The X-Men consists of Cyclops (as the team leader), Storm, Colossus, Wolverine, Nightcrawler, and Banshee who lost his powers in the previous issue. They have made a long journey from the Savage Land to Japan. They are currently trying to get back to US.
However, their plane is forced to land to Canada where the Alpha Flight wants Wolverine back – no matter if he wants to return or not. Of course, the X-Men aren’t going to stand for that. First they try to lose themselves among the people of Calgary but end up fighting the Alpha Flight anyway for a couple of issues.
The next issue is a quieter one. The group has managed to return to the X-Mansion where Colossus trains and angst about his uselessness. Cyclops is dating Colleen Wing and Storm returns to Harlem where she apparently spent her first years. We also get a brief glimpse of Professor Xavier, who is in a far away galaxy with his beloved Lilandra, and Jean in Scotland where she encounters a strange man.
The next couple of issues are action-packed when Spider-Man, the X-Men, and their dates are kidnapped into Arcade’s Murderworld. Colossus is brainwashed into attacking his friends.
The next issue’s again more of a breather and develops upcoming plots. Dr. Moira MacTaggert is testing Jean’s new powers, Magneto is musing about his life, and the X-Men and the Beast are finally reunited, and the X-Men learn that the Beast and Jean are alive. The issue end ominously. Scott phones the Muir Island, Lorna Dane answers but then she screams and the call is cut off.
The next three issues deal with the reality-warping Proteus.
And then the Dark Phoenix Saga gets into high gear. We’re also introduced to Dazzler and Kitty Pryde.
Then it’s the aftermath of the previous story. Scott recaps his life with the X-Men and Jean, and leaves the group.
In the next issue Angel has rejoined X-Men and is throwing off their fighting skills. Kitty is the newest member and and she’s settling into her new life. Wolverine and Nightcrawler visit Canada and try to clear up Wolverine’s status there. Instead, they meet Wendigo.
In the next issue Wolverine, Nightcrawler, Shaman, Snowbird, and the Guardian battle Wendigo.
Then it’s time for another classic tale: Days of Future Past which is a basis for an alternative future where all super beings are either dead or in concentration camps.
Next up is Kitty Pryde vs. a “Demon” where she proves to herself that she can be an X-Man.
The final story seems to center around Cyclops but it wasn’t published in Finland, so I haven’t read it.
I really, really liked this collection. Days of the Future Past and the Dark Phoenix Saga are two of my favorite X-Men comics ever, and the Proteus story is very good, too. The intervening stories aren’t too bad, either.
This collection introduces Kitty Pryde who’s one of my favorite characters (depending on the writer, though). She’s one of the few women geniuses in comics, and IMHO undervalued. Here, she’s younger and more insecure than in later stories which I find adorable. She’s also a good balance to the experienced superheroes who take the Danger Room, aliens, and interstellar travel for granted.
Dazzler is also introduced here and even though she’s much underused later, I like her sound-to-light powers and her artistic character. Too bad that she never had a career as an international pop singer. People might like mutants more, now.
Storm starts her career as the leader of the X-Men which changes her drastically, later. Here she’s still the weather goddess who doesn’t kill but she’s already very protective of Kitty.
The X-Men are a small, close-knit group here and they don’t even actively search for other mutants nor encounter them very often. Beast is the exception, being a member of the Avengers. The contrast to the current day expanding X-Family is huge. When I pick up a new X-Men comic, I feel like I don’t know half of the characters there, which is not a good feeling after I’ve read the comic over two decades.
I have to say that I didn’t really buy the plot that the X-Men thought that Beast and Jean are dead. For a few weeks or months, sure, maybe. But Beast is an active Avenger. Surely he must have been on the news? On the other hand, if he was dead wouldn’t the media start asking where he is? The X-Men traveled for several months. Surely, one of them would have watched news? Also, Colleen knew the whole time that Jean isn’t dead. It was mentioned a couple of time that she and Scott talked a lot. Didn’t they talk about Jean even once? A passing mention? “Jean was looking good when I last saw her. She’s coping well.” “Jean? But she’s dead!”
Otherwise, I loved the collection to bits. Maybe it’s just nostalgia.