Sunday, 4 September 2011
GRAPHIC NOVELS: THE UNCANNY X-MEN -A LOOK AT THE PANINI DIGEST REPRINTS
1. The original all-new Uncanny X-Men.
I used to have all the original issues of Uncanny X-Men from around issue 97 to whatever it got up to in 1988 when I got married and had to sell almost my entire comics collection. I did manage to sort of replace them with an illegal multi-disk DVD-ROM I bought a few years back but I now can't get that to play on my pc which encouraged me to pick up (usually for less than cover price) these cheap reprints.
At the time the comics originally came out, there was no question that -starring the new lineup which started in 1975- it was the best super-hero comic around and most definitely my favourite. These early issues, particularly the ones pencilled by John Byrne and emphatically enhanced by the delicate and detailed inking of Terry Austin are classics of the genre and stories improved too when Byrne started co-plotting with writer Chris Claremont. When I wrote my teenage SF novel (The Lies That Bind, Purnell 1989) back in in the 80's, I tuckerised my protagonist calling him John Claremont, though the novel itself is almost an anti-X-men as the one character who actually takes super-heroes seriously is show to be deranged.
By today's standards the stories can be a bit clunky, top-heavy with expository dialogue, overly melodramatic, sometimes twee and naive. But these are the stories which made the X-Men the dominant force at Marvel and, ignoring the flaws highlighted by changing tastes, are still better than most of the stuff Marvel currently publishes.
As I said, these are a cheap way to get hold of the original stories at a reasonable price. An alternate method is the big fat Essential omnibus editions from Marvel but they are in black and white. Panini editions, despite the reduced size are in colour and on decent paper. If you're okay with the size, then these are really good value with none of the collections being less than 169 pages and three being well over 200.
2. The Uncanny X-Men: The Panini Digest Marvel Pocketbook series.
It would help if they were numbered but they aren't and it's difficult, if not impossible to find a list of these books so I'm providing one here.They are listed in chronological order of book publication, the book subtitle, artist (but not author as all of them are written by Chris Claremont except where noted) the issue numbers it contains, page length, book publication date, and a brief guide to content.
Second Genesis, Dave Cockrum, Giant Size X-Men 1, 94-103, 223pps, 2004
And this is where it all begins. The new X-Men lineup was actually created by Len Wein who wrote the Giant Size issue before handing it over to Claremont. Wein also created Wolverine who first appeared in a Hulk story. Includes Sentinels, Phoenix, the Juggernaut, and other less interesting characters, but Claremont was only getting warmed up and things improve considerably with the next volume. NB, this may be out of print.
Magneto Triumphant, Dave Cockrum, John Byrne and Terry Austin, 104-117, 262pps, 2005.
It's all here, interplanetary action, the Starjammers and galactic empires, the first mention of Alpha Flight, Magneto, the Savage Land, and the start of the Byrne-Austin run.
Wanted Wolverine: Dead or Alive, Byrne & Austin, George Perez, 118-124 plus Annual 3, 169pps, 2005.
First appearance of Alpha Flight, Arcade & Murderworld, a young George Perez illustrating the Annual.
Dark Phoenix, Byrne & Austin, 125-137, 257pps, 2006.
Mutant X, Kitty Pryde, the Hellfire Club, Dark Phoenix and the death of Jean Grey. Essential.
Days Of Future Past, Byrne & Austin, John Romita Jr, 138-146 plus Annual 4, 175pps, 2006.
The classic alternate future story, Kitty alone with a demon, unimpressive art by Romita Jr on the annual.
Rogue Storm, Dave Cockrum (with name misspelled on the cover), 144-150, 185pps, 2006.
Storm vs Doc Doom, Magneto, a bit of a disappointment.
God Loves Man Kills, Dave Cockrum, Brent Anderson, 151-153, Annual 5, Marvel Graphic Novel 5, 177pps, 2007.
Storm vs the White Queen, FF team up, plus the 48 page graphic novel of the title which was originally published as an oversize 48 page book and now reprinted here at half the original size.
Night Screams, Dave Cockrum, Bill Sienkiewicz, Brent Anderson, 154-161, 191pps, 2008.
More Starjammers, the new Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, Storm vs Dracula, the demon Belasco and his pet monster S'ym which is a comics in-joke about creator Dave Sim and his creation Cerebus of whom S'ym is a parody.
Beyond The Farthest Star, Dave Cockrum, Paul Smith, 162-168, 191pps, 2009.
The hideous aliens The Brood, the beginning of stylish artist Paul Smith's all too short run. One of the best runs of the series.
Scarlet In Glory, Paul Smith, 169-175, 194pps, 2009.
The Morlocks, X-Men in Japan, the rehabilitation of Rogue, all good stuff.
Blood Feud, John Romita Jr (plus several others), 176-179, Annual 6, New Mutants 13-14, Marvel Team-Up 100, 194pps, 2010.
Drac's back, S'ym's back, more Evil Mutants and Morlocks; bit of a hodge-podge as the sources would indicate.
Legacy Of The Lost, John Romita Jr, Barry Windsor-Smith, 185-191, 193pps, 2011.
Forge heart Storm, the Wraith (cf. Rom the Spaceknight), Kulan-Gath transforms New York, Rachel Summers (daughter of Scott and Jean Grey from an alternate future which for me marked the long slow decline of the title into incomprehensible and unneccessary but profitable complexity) appears.
Next in the series, The Gift, is supposedly coming soon but as Disney/Marvel having been having words with Panini, I'm not holding my breath and Amazon aren't currently listing it.
3. Related tites from Panini.
Wolverine First Class: Rookie, Fred van Lente (writer), various artists, issues 1-8, 193 pps, 2009.
Early adventures of Kitty & Wolverine. Don't know when this was written, not long ago I suspect. This may also be a complete mini-series; again, I don't know, but it's lightweight fun.
X-Men The Hidden Years: The Ghost & the Darkness, John Byrne writer/artist, Tom Palmer inks, 1-7, X-Men 94, no page numbers, 2011.
The first collection of a series (published 1999-2001) which was cancelled, to Byrne's annoyance, with issue 22 so, theoretically, there should be another couple of volumes to come, but I'm not hopeful (see above). The series was designed to fit in the period when Uncanny went to reprint and end with the arrival of the new X-men. Nice artwork, just okay stories.