Sure, the X-Men have suffered a lot in their 50+ years in print, but they’ve always had it pretty good when it comes to who was drawing their adventures. Jack Kirby, John Byrne and Jim Lee are just a few of the comic book legends who have helped bring the constantly mutating X-Men saga to life. In the 1980s, artist Arthur Adams’ work quickly became synonymous with Wolverine and his friends thanks to the illustrator’s incredibly detailed style. So, many years later, it only makes sense for Marvel to put out a collection of Adams’ X-Art, at a time when the House of Ideas’ strangest heroes are eXperiencing a creative renaissance.
So what exactly is Marvel Monograph: The Art of Arthur Adams? At $19.99, this softcover’s light on text and big on art. Slightly larger than your average Marvel trade paperback, the collection’s glossy paper allows readers to truly appreciate just how intricate Adams’ pencils are. And, if you’re like me, the blown-up images reveal things you never noticed before–like Darkseid and Dark Phoenix from the X-Men/New Teen Titans crossover on the cover of X-Men Blue #10. Neat!
(Actually, if you look at the published cover, that specific image is cut off.)
Now, I mentioned this collection was light on text, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty of good insight into Adams’ artistic process and behind-the-scenes stories in here. And best of all, it comes straight from the artist! Short blurbs alongside images reveal Adams’ process behind selecting Longshot’s hairstyle, collaborating with Chris Claremont, the creation of the adorable X-Babies and Jeph Loeb’s original idea for Ultimate X (12-year-old Charles Xavier… WHAT?!).
Something I’ve always appreciated about Adams is how his art is as tight as it was when he exploded onto the comics scene decades ago. Hey, creators are only human. It’s hard for writers, artists and musicians to hold onto that magic that made them household names in their prime. But Adams? Adams’ work is so consistent I thought the all-new, original cover for this collection was an ’80s piece I’d never seen before. Uncanny!
If this collection has a downside, it’s that it only gives you a taste of Adams’ history with the X-Men. You get some covers, you get some pages and you get some original artwork. It’s a nice overview, but with a book like this, I would have liked a lot more unreleased work. And then there are all the amazing covers he’s illustrated over the years, for series such as Classic X-Men and X-Men Blue. Full cover galleries (even just thumbnails) would have been awesome. But I get it. At just over 100 pages, there isn’t a lot of room for everything. It’s still a nice addition to any bookshelf–especially one that belongs to comics fans who truly admire the visual aspect of the medium.
I’ve had the opportunity to interview Adams not once, but twice, and on each occasion, he was down-to-earth, honest and a joy to converse with about his work and process. I’ll leave you with a quote from our first interview (that you won’t find in this collection) that shows just how lucky comics fans are to have this legend still producing covers to this day.
“My job is to make the characters look as good as I can in the context of what they’re asking for. So I always just try to represent the characters to the best of my ability and sell the book. And I’ve been told, occasionally, that a cover of mine has helped sell a book… so thats good.”
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