If you love the X-Men, Marvel Made Paragon Collection: Chris Claremont Premiere Bundle is a no-brainer. The full list of features and details about this project also makes this a great purchase for collectors. As Marvel Made’s second project, it’s a collection that hopefully is the first of many prestige format books highlighting important eras in Marvel Comics history.
The Kickstarter-style project had only 2,180 made and featured a new prestige format faux-leather hardcover collection featuring Chris Claremont’s most important X-Men work. Each book is hand-numbered with 448 gilded pages, commentary from Claremont himself on iconic issues in the collection, and extra goodies outside of the hardcover. Running fans $199 plus tax, the collection may seem steep, but at the end of the day, it’s well worth the price and then some.
Instead of reviewing the stories themselves, here are five takeaways after reading and taking in the entire package.
#1: Incredible packaging and materials
This bundle is very high quality. Everything comes in an oversized box that gives the entire package a study container to keep everything organized. Inside this box, the suede-like material adds to the quality and it’s sturdy enough to hold up for a long time. Inside you’ll find a collection certificate of authenticity signed by Marvel Editor in Chief C.B. Cebulski and Chris Claremont. It’s not actually signed, but printed, although it is numbered.
The hardcover collection itself has a cushiony feel thanks to the faux-leather, and the gilded pages add a level of prestige that’s unparalleled. Added to the hardcover is a yellow ribbon page marker which adds a nice touch too. This isn’t just any comic or any comic reading experience, but one that’s up there with some of the best literature around. This packaging shows.
Rounding out the experience are a number of lithographs that are 7″ x 10.5″, but are presented as if printed on actual comics drawing paper which is much larger. It’s a style choice that gives it a higher-value feel. Joe Quesada, Philip Tan, Phil Noto, and Salvador Larocca are a few of the artists that contributed. These lithographs have a handy thin cardboard container to keep them safe.
Then finally, there are exclusive variant cover comics including X-Men #13 by John Tyler Christopher and Wolverine #6 by Olivier Coipel which are bagged with a thinner style board inside.
#2: A great and brand-new Wolverine 20-page story
Gear up for an action-packed 20-page story by Claremont and Tom Reilly with colors by Chris O’Halloran and letters by Clayton Cowles. This story opens with Sabretooth ripping Wolverine to shreds somewhere in Japan. Reilly’s art is excellent in this mostly fight-centric comic, keeping you on the edge of your seat with every slash and jab from these two characters. Soon though, the X-Men rush in to save Wolverine, and nearly every character Claremont is known for writing well shows up. In fact, Claremont gives each character a moment to shine in this tale and it’s a satisfying 20-page book. The tone of the story is darker for sure, much of it is cast in shadows at night, but O’Halloran makes the story really sing thanks to key usage of yellow, orange, and firelight to bring out the characters.
Aside from the great action, the biggest takeaway is Claremont’s focus on Kate Pryde eventually breaking bad. There’s a strong focus on the eventuality of her turning evil thanks to Sabretooth seeing the darkness within her. Given the fact he sees this even though she’s still just an innocent teenager gives the issue a haunting quality.
#3: Presentation is well done
The design of the hardcover is quite nice, with a yellow and black theme running through it. On the first page of the book, Claremont signs his name with a cute message — in mine, it says “Xavier is a jerk” — along with the number of the edition. Once past the table of contents, the book reprints all of the stories with only the cover breaking up each issue. The final story is brand-new to this edition “Prelude to a Future Past” written by Claremont with art by Salvador Larroca.
Wrapping up the book is the original script reprinted for the first time in 40 years for Uncanny X-Men #141. It’s presented with four pages per page, which makes it a touch hard to read since the print is so small, but it’s still very legible. Finally, the book ends with commentary by Chris Claremont which devotes a single page to specific issues in the run.
#4: Interesting Chris Claremont commentary
The Chris Claremont commentary that ends the book runs four pages long and features his thoughts on X-Men #94, X-Men #129-137, X-Men #141-142, Wolverine #1-4, Uncanny X-Men #268, X-Men #1, and Uncanny X-Men #140.5. The commentary is very casual, likely because it’s plucked from a conversation he had with Jess Harrold which gives it a candid, but never too thought out feel. For such a high-quality product as this bundle is it’s a bit of a letdown at how casual the commentary is though there are nuggets to mine.
A few include the time he pitched the Wolverine story collected here to Frank Miller when they were driving back from San Diego Comic-Con to Los Angeles, or in another case, he speaks candidly about how in his canon Sabretooth is Wolverine’s dad a fallen angel named Seraph is his mother. This commentary eventually leads to Claremont pitching the idea of an MCU Wolverine movie with Captain America with Scarlett Johansson playing Black Widow’s mom. In another anecdote about the Dark Phoenix Saga, Claremont points Jim Shooter, the Editor in the Chief at the time, did not want Jean Grey to die. In fact, John Byrne didn’t either, according to Claremont, but editor Louise Simonson thought it was brilliant.
#5: Uncanny X-Men #140.5 “Prelude to a Future Past” adds new layers to the story
Wrapping up the hardcover is one of the biggest draws to this collection: Uncanny X-Men #140.5. Created and printed in this collection for the first time ever, Claremont and artist Salvador Larroca detail the events that occurred right before the Days of Future Past event started. It opens with Roderick Campbell aka Ahab discovering Rachel Summers, his lead Hound, who has been taken offline. Soon, we discover Bloody Bess and Nightcrawler — who are now an item — Bishop, Sage, and Iron Man were able to knock out and then analyze Rachel. It’s a story that involves nanites and the recovery of Rachel, which Claremont goes into a bit in the final commentary in the book.
Colored by Guru-eFX with letters by Clayton Cowles, the book looks sharp and very modern. Larroca manages to display a journey through nanites and super technology well enough, as if the shrunken-down characters are colorful programs zipping about. Twisting skyscrapers and an epic double-page splash of a very important X-Men character highlight the story. There’s plenty of dialogue and lots of character developments that make it read like Claremont hasn’t stopped writing the characters. It’s a story that probably didn’t need to be created, but it finds a place within the canon in interesting ways.
Running $199, I had high expectations for the Marvel Made Paragon Collection: Chris Claremont Premiere Bundle, and this book surpassed them with ease. I’d argue the packaging and quality, mixed with the cool extras, make this book well worth $300 dollars or more. As someone who didn’t previously own these X-Men comics, it’s a great presentation all around to highlight the era on any bookshelf, and for those who have read these tales, it’s a fantastic way to revisit them.
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