Chris Claremont’s historic 16 year run on Uncanny X-Men has seen renewed interest as of late. Consider, for example, the great content you can find on Twitter alone, including academic analysis from the must-read @ClaremontRun to interesting commentary from @ConorReadsXMen.
Or just try and find back issues of the Claremont run online. But be ready to spend some cash. Even older collected editions normally go for at least the original cover price and often for more. Omnibuses and Marvel Masterworks volumes are the most prestigious route, but also the most expensive.
Luckily, for those on a tighter budget, Marvel still produces their Epic Collections, with the newest in the X-Men series, I, Magneto, coming out on November 17th. You can get as much content as one and a half Marvel Masterworks or half an Omnibus at less than a third of the price. Of course, it’s not the esteemed, oversized hardcover format, but just a regular trade paperback. Nonetheless, for the cost, it’s more than an adequate, affordable alternative. And besides, you can actually hold it without getting sore muscles.
Comprising Uncanny X-Men #144-153 and X-Men Annual #5, the collection picks up right after John Byrne’s acrimonious breakup with Claremont. It even starts up right where the Days of Future Past TPB leaves off.
Taking Byrne’s place is Dave Cockrum, coming on for his second stint of the Claremont era. That’s not a bad thing; he created many of the starring characters and continually shows his great skills on pencils. Brent Anderson (the artist of God Loves, Man Kills) does a good job filling in on issue #144. He also does the art for Annual #5. Unfortunately, James Sherman horribly oversexualizes the still very young Kitty Pryde in his fill-in role on issue #151.
Story-wise, to be quite honest, this doesn’t feel like the most essential period of the Claremont run. While generally a fun read with plenty of the X-Men continuity that Claremont is famous for, you won’t find any really famous arcs in this collection. Still, there are some great bits of X-Men trivia to be found, including Storm’s famous dinner with Doctor Doom, as well as Cyclops’s first girlfriend after Jean’s death. By far the standout issue is the standalone #153, Kitty’s Fairy Tale.
That said, this collection does include some important developments for the larger Claremont narrative. Kitty Pryde’s status as the reader’s viewpoint character solidifies itself in these stories. Furthermore, Andrew Deman, comic book scholar and the man behind Twitter’s @ClaremontRun, wrote to me, “I think, for me, that era is about initiating the face turn of Magneto more than anything, which sounds sort of isolated, but I find that it signals a much broader change in X-Men about the nature of evil, putting the mutants into a more modern political context in which right and wrong are far more complicated.” He added, “I also love Storm’s emerging leadership in that era.”
Maybe the most essential and most famous issue included in this collection is found in the bonus material, Avengers Annual #10, the first appearance of Rogue and the issue which reveals how she absorbed Ms. Marvel’s (Carol Danver’s) powers and psyche. Andrew Deman calls this issue “some of [Claremont’s] best work, plus it also connects to the cultivation of moral gray areas – something Rogue will bring to the team quite directly.”
Also included in the bonus material are Bizarre Adventures #27 and the X-Men related story from Marvel Fanfare #1-4. Bizarre Adventures #27 involves three stories billed as “the secret lives of the X-Men.” The most interesting is the Claremont-written Jean Grey flashback adventure as told by her mourning sister, with art by John Buscema. Following an uninteresting Iceman story by Mary Jo Duffy and George Pérez is a weird, sexually-charged Nightcrawler story by Bob Layton, Mary Jo Duffy and Dave Cockrum.
The story from Marvel Fanfare #1-4 – also written by Claremont, with art by Michael Golden (#1 & #2), Dave Cockrum (#3), and Paul Smith (#4) – features Angel, but actually focuses on the villain Sauron. I suppose it’s a must have story for die-hard fans of Sauron, if there are any.
All in all, many fans will probably not find this collection of X-Men stories essential. But, for those trying to affordably collect the entirety of the Claremont run in print form, X-Men Epic Collection: I, Magneto is an early Christmas present. The inclusion of Avengers Annual #10 and Kitty’s Fairy Tale only make this gift all the sweeter.
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