In the mid-to-late 1980s and early 1990s, X-Men scribe Chris Claremont wrote the stories that would forever define the origins of the characters for me (no matter how many reboots, clones, and mind-wipes that followed), and Jim Lee dynamically illustrated them. Many of my favorite X-men comics from that era now reside in a basement in Minnesota (sorry, Mom and Dad--they'll be worth something someday!), making my memories of these issues admittedly ruby-quartz-tinted recollections. But I can't be the only fan(boy) who yearns to relive these stories as Marvel has quite the late 80s/early 90s X-Men publishing plan in the works. What follows are the titles that have me the most X-cited (forgive me).
X-Men: X-Tinction Agenda: The oversized hardcover collection released this month, and it has been a blast to revisit. The island of Genosha is filled with a populace that both hates and fears the X-Men, yet it uses the powers of enslaved mutants (or "gene-jokes") to make the living conditions nearly utopian. In other words, it's Chris Claremont's entire run on Uncanny X-men distilled into a single metaphor.Several key moments stand out for me: Gambit allowing the evil Cameron Hodge to shoot a spike into his thigh, only to later pluck that same spike from his leg (with his teeth!) and use it to pick the locks that hold him hostage; Wolverine versus Archangel; Gambit (again) quickly planting a kiss on the lips of his captor before escaping ("Pity there's no time to do this proper."); and the return of Havok. The hardcover also collects a few choice issues earlier in Uncanny X-Men where Wolverine and Rogue first visit Genosha and barely escape. Marc Silvestri, Rick Leonardi, and others also contribute artwork.
X-Force/X-Statix Omnibus: By the early 1990s, X-Force had already become self-parody with over-the-top muscles, plotlines, and artwork. Enter Peter Milligan and Mike Allred, who turned the series on its head by making the team a group of photo-op hungry heroes who cared more about their cult of celebrity than saving lives. Allred's pop art leanings coupled with Milligan's dark and sardonic wit make for an original X-concept. This promises to be quite the package, as it also includes the Dead Girl/Doctor Strange team-up issues, the Wolverine/Doop mini and an issue I'd never heard of: I [Heart] Marvel: My Mutant Heart. Releasing in November, this will be the sleeper comic gift of the season--sure to surprise longtime fans lamenting the series unavailability and new readers who never knew mutants could be this weird.
X-Men: X-Cutioner's Song: More fun with "X" puns in the title! As the character Cable gained in popularity, so too did the complexity of his backstory. Was he a clone, Cyclops' son, maybe a time-traveler? This event tries to make sense of it all along with the origins of the ridiculously named villain, Stryfe. Just in case things weren't too complicated, there's also a subplot involving longtime baddies Mr. Sinister and Apocalypse. Maybe Stryfe isn't such a bad name after all. Things are fairly stereotypical of early 1990s X-men comics: big guns, a mess of continuity, and more family tree problems than a soap opera. Yet, it also features great X-Factor issues written by Peter David. This new hardcover collection releases in October.
After the success and fan adoration of artist/writer Walter Simonson's Mighty Thor Omnibus, it didn't take long for Marvel to announce two omnibuses that highlight artist/witer Jim Lee's work on the X-titles. Volume 1 (October) focuses on his Uncanny issues with Chris Claremont, including the introduction of Gambit, the "death" of Storm, the first appearance (for better or worse) of Jubilee, and more. The issues in this volume (Uncanny X-Men #244-269, X-Men Annual #13 and Classic X-men #39) are more of a hodge-podge of artists rather than solely Lee, which is why the second volume (January 2012) is where things really pick up. Compiling Uncanny X-men 273-280; X-Factor 63-70; X-Men 1-9, parts of 10-11; Ghost Rider 26-27, this is where Jim Lee illustrates and writes comics after Claremont departs the adjective-less X-Men book. My favorite issues are Uncanny 273-277, where the X-Men don the classic costumes and take to the stars to battle Skrulls. Later on, Lee sends the team to the Mojoverse where Longshot, my favorite X-Man, reaches his story's end and battles the ratings-obsessed overlord Mojo.
Once these books publish, are there any other X-stories you think Marvel should collect? I'm just happy I no longer have to shell out the postage to ship those longboxes full of comics from Minnesota to Seattle. (Sorry again, Mom and Dad.)