Not sure if you’ve heard, but Marvel Comics celebrated its 80th anniversary in 2019. And for that reason, there were all sorts of one-shots on sale throughout the year, designed to celebrate the incredible histories of the House of Ideas’ many stars. Including–you guessed it–the X-Men!
Now here’s the fun fact about the Legends of Marvel: X-Men trade paperback: It doesn’t star the X-Men! I mean, sure, there are X-Men in it, but none of the comics collected in this $15.99 collection have “X-Men” in their titles. Instead, you get Wolverine: Exit Wounds, Alpha Flight: True North, New Mutants: War Children and a short story from Domino Annual #1. I actually chose to skip each of these comics when they were first released, so this TPB was ideal for an X-Fan like me.
But were the stories worth the wait?
Let’s put it this way: Do you remember how Marvel annuals or anthology series like X-Men Unlimited would feature stories by lesser-known creators that often didn’t have much impact on continuity? They’re like those–just by some of your favorite writers and artists you don’t see too much of these days. Well, except for the Alpha Flight special, which is more current and features the likes of Marvel regulars Jim Zub, Jed MacKay and Ed Brisson. This one, in particular, should appeal to fans of the Canadian heroes.
Exit Wounds offers a major trip down memory lane as longtime Wolverine writers Larry Hama and Chris Claremont join forces with artists Scot Eaton and Sean Parsons, and Salvador Larroca, respectively. Hama’s script is the usual look back at Logan’s past, which is nothing special, but a nice serving of comfort food for anyone who grew up reading his Wolverine run.
Claremont’s story is more interesting because it’s modern Claremont–and with that, you never quite know what you’re going to get. Here, the writer continues his recent trend of going back to one of his classic stories and expanding on it. In this case, it’s his Kitty Pryde and Wolverine mini-series from the 1980s. And because he just can’t help himself, Claremont adds some new layers to his beloved mutants’ stories that no other writers will use. Yes, I’m talking about Logan’s secret family in Japan.
Speaking of Claremont, he’s back again later in this collection for the New Mutants story, which wouldn’t have been nearly as special if art icon Bill Sienkiewicz didn’t join him for one more adventure. While modern Claremont can be very hit or miss, you have to give credit to the editors he’s been working with on his recent output. They seemed to have figured out how to contain the Claremont ego and get the best work out of him they possibly can. Because… I remember X-Men Forever… and X-Treme X-Men… and X-Men: The End… and, well, you get the idea.
Sienkiewicz, on the other hand, benefits from not being reigned in. Just let him cut loose–readers only benefit! There are some really wild pages in here that show the legendary creator hasn’t lost his touch. And it really doesn’t hurt that characters like Sunspot, Magma, Warlock and Magik are so much fun to draw. Similarly, writer/artist Sam Kieth gets to revisit Wolverine in all his stocky, wild-haired glory in a quick tale featuring a brutal battle with Venom. A new classic? No… but boy does it look awesome!
And I think that last bit there just about sums up this collection. The stories in here aren’t House of X and Powers of X. They aren’t going to spark online discussion. They’re designed to tap into your beloved memories of reading series like Wolverine and New Mutants when you were younger. And that’s OK.