Sunday, October 11, 2015


Hardcover, 2006. Collects 1975-1980's GIANT SIZE X-MEN #1, UNCANNY X-MEN #94-131, and UNCANNY X-MEN ANNUAL #3.

Well that's pretty straightforward, isn't it? Long before the X-Men became a bloated franchise with a dozen or more titles on sale each and every month, there was simply UNCANNY X-MEN. (Technically back then it was just called X-MEN, but I'll call it UNCANNY throughout all collected edition reviews to avoid confusion with 1991's sister title, X-MEN.)

This is the first printing of the first edition of the UNCANNY X-MEN OMNIBUS. I believe the first edition had a second printing at some point, and there's a more recent second edition which has something like one extra model sheet in the back, but for our purposes I'm covering the original, released in 2006 when Marvel's Omnibus program was in its infancy. The physical descriptions at the end may not be of much help to anyone looking to pick up the current printing of this volume, but my coverage of the contents should be accurate to what you'd get if you went out and grabbed the second edition.

And what of the contents? Well, as I've said before, although the X-Men of the nineties are the X-Men I grew up with, and are technically "my" X-Men... the X-Men of the seventies through the early eighties are the X-Men, as far as I'm concerned -- and what we have here is a handsome collection of their earliest adventures.

Since there's only one series collected here, with one "giant size" issue and one annual, the contents are pretty straightforward: We begin with GIANT-SIZE X-MEN #1, then proceed with UNCANNY X-MEN issues 94 - 124, ANNUAL #3, and finally issues 125 - 131.

There's a bit of weirdness to this structure, though. Like I said, back in 2006, the Omnibus program was just getting started, and Marvel's practice at the time was simply to throw three Marvel Masterworks volumes into a book and call it a day. (Though in the case of the X-Men, since their first two volumes were inordinately thin, this book contains the contents of four Masterworks.) Due to this structure, the book begins with an introduction by Chris Claremont (written in 1993), then after issue 100 we have an introduction by Stan Lee, and after issue 110 there's another intro by Lee -- both from 1993 as well. Finally, between issues 121 and 122, we find another intro by Claremont penned in 2004!

I'd argue that perhaps the '93 Claremont intro should've been placed at the front of the book, with the other three intros included at the end as bonus features so as not to confuse the flow of the book. But really, if you just want to skip them, it's not a big deal.

The larger and more irritating artifact of the "Masterworks to Omnibus" philosophy is that this book ends smack in the middle of the legendary "Dark Phoenix Saga". "Dark Phoenix" ran for nine issues, in three "trilogies" -- the X-Men versus the Hellfire Club phase one, the X-Men versus the Hellfire Club phase two, and the X-Men versus Phoenix. UNCANNY X-MEN OMNIBUS volume 1 concludes right after phase one of the Hellfire Club stories.

Contrast this with UNCANNY X-MEN OMNIBUS volume 2, released last year. If Marvel had simply shoved a trio of Masterworks volumes into that book, it would have ended in the middle of the long "Brood Saga" -- and the enlightened collected editions department of 2014 realized this, cutting the book short just before the Brood arc's start, though that meant leaving a few issues from one Masterworks volume to be saved for the next Omnibus.

But again, it's not a huge problem given that we finally have volume 2 available. For eight years, that wasn't the case, and it was a little annoying to have one-third of "Dark Phoenix" on the bookcase. Now, however, it's fine.

This volume also includes all the letters pages from the era, due its being edited by Cory Sedlmeier, for some reason the only collected editions editor at Marvel who believes the things should be included. But again, as a product of 2006, these pages are all simple yellowed scans. They're legible, but look awfully ugly alongside the beautifully restored artwork. Subsequent Omnibus collections -- and I believe even subsequent printings of this Omnibus -- have the letters pages restored as well, and presented on nice, bright white pages.

Beyond the letter pages, the Omnibus includes a modest twenty-nine pages of bonus materials including house ads, a few pages of original artwork, a "John Byrne portfolio" from 1993 which revisited scenes from his run on the title, the covers of all CLASSIC X-MEN issues which reprinted stories contained in this book (presented at quarter size, four per page), and best of all, Dave Cockrum's design sketches and model sheets for the "new" X-Men. (Again, as noted above, I understand the recent second edition includes an additional design sketch of Wolverine not present in the first printing, but otherwise I believe the bonus contents are identical.)

Despite the few imperfections which make this book's contents slightly inferior to the later edition, I would never "trade up" from the volume I have. Besides the sentimentality of this being the first Omnibus I ever owned, this is also a beautifully produced physical package. It's 838 pages long, making it shorter than volume 2's 912 pages -- but it's also much thicker due to the high quality paper used inside. I've been in love with this book since the day I bought it, and no subsequent Omnibus -- at least of the ones I own -- has ever quite measured up. The paper is ever so slightly yellow -- not enough to detract from the artwork by any means, but enough to make it look... "classy", I guess -- and it has a great texture to it I don't think I've ever felt in another collected edition. Also, and this may sound odd, but -- it smells really nice, too.

Plus it has sewn binding, which I believe was rarer, even from Marvel, in 2006 than it is these days. Even as incredibly thick as it is, the book opens up and stays open to every page, all the way out to the endpapers. However -- the book is perhaps a bit too thick, as there is significant gutter loss whenever a two-page spread shows up, which is extremely unfortunate given the quality of the artwork to be found in these pages.

The dustjacket is simple, following the trend of most Silver and Bronze Age Omnibus collections, featuring the cover to GIANT-SIZE X-MEN #1 on the front and the covers of all issues contained within on the back. Beneath the jacket, the book's front cover features a foil embossed X-MEN logo.

But the extras, production values, and physical presentation all play a distant second fiddle to the stories in this titanic tome. For my money, these are some of the greatest comic books ever produced. I've said before and I'll say again that the Chris Claremont of the seventies is my favorite version of the writer. Like his contemporaries, he emulates the bombasticism of Stan Lee with a slightly more... jaded, I guess, edge. But unlike a lot of the others, Claremont writes genuinely lovely prose, too. I find a lot of Bronze Age writers are overly verbose and their work is a slog to get through. The verbosity is present in Claremont's work too, but it's just a lot more fun to read than the works of, say Roy Thomas or Steve Englehart.

The artwork from Cockrum and Byrne is terrific as well. Cockrum gives us our first look at the "new" X-Men and defines their visuals and their world, but John Byrne, aided by the beautifully slick and detailed inks of Terry Austin, refines and perfects Cockrum's early efforts. Toss in an annual drawn by George Pérez for good measure, and this book is, cover to cover, probably my favorite Omnibus to thumb through simply for the purpose of ogling the artwork.

The early stuff in here is good -- Count Nefaria, Kierrok the demon, the Sentinels, Juggernaut and Black Tom, Magneto... and through all of that, we get the underlying machinations of Eric the Red, which lead into the new X-Men's first protracted epic. Claremont and Cockrum showed readers the X-Men could be far more than just a civil rights analogy. They kept up the "persecuted minority" angle to an extent, but they gave us sci-fi, swashbuckling adventure, and soap opera angst to go with it.

Then Byrne comes aboard, and there's no looking back. I like "Dark Phoenix" and "Days of Future Past", the defining sagas of their time together, just fine -- but for me, the earlier work is my preferred segment of their run. Mesmero, Magneto, the Savage Land, Sauron, Garokk, Moses Magnum in Japan, Alpha Flight in Canada, Arcade, and Proteus -- this is the stuff that comes to mind first when I think about the Claremont/Byrne run. "Dark Phoenix" is the climax of their story with "DoFP" serving as a coda just before Byrne's departure, but the real meat is all the stuff that comes first.

I've read these stories probably more than any other comics I own, and I suspect I'll read them a few more times over the rest of my life. This is the material that defines the X-Men and it's an integral part, not simply of any X-Men library or any Marvel library, but of any superhero comic book library, period. And there can be no better presentation of the material than this Omnibus.

As noted above, this edition is out of print -- but the current printing is still available on


  1. This seems the best place to mention it to you, considering it's primary an X-men blog, and this is an X-men post. But Not Blog X is currently on unspecified hiatus after 8 years.
    ( Also because you got a shout out )

    As I said on that post, all things must pass and all we can do is re read those comics.
    So i'm going to brave X-men V2 again.
    ...Wish me luck.

    On topic :
    I am mostly familiar with these issues via the black and white essentials reprints.
    And the classics reprints.
    It 's a bit odd to see these comics in color, so used am I to them in black and white.

    1. Thanks, I did see that and I left G. Kendall a comment. Along with Gentlemen of Leisure, Not Blog X is what got me to finally start a blog of my own here.

      I think I've read most everything in color first, with a couple exceptions such as IRON FIST, which I first saw in ESSENTIAL format. But even that looks fine in color to me. The one I read first in black and white which I don't believe looks right in color is TOMB OF DRACULA -- though I only read volume one several years ago. But the gothic vibe and the Gene Colan artwork just feel like they're supposed to be B&W rather than color.

    2. I am considering doing a comic blog myself, mostly covering titles that don't seem to be covered at all for some reason.
      ( Gold Digger, first 199 issues are now free. The Savage Dragon and just because I am a Transformers fan, the IDW Transformers.)
      Not sure yet if I will though.

      Most of my Uncanny X-men issues are in the Essential format and that's how I know them best, so I guess i'm just used to black and white.

      Tomb of Dracula is on my to buy list, been wanting to read that for a while now.

    3. I'd love to read a long-term project about SAVAGE DRAGON. I've only ever read the original miniseries, but I hear good things about it plus I love that Erik Larsen has stuck with it for so long.

      I'm less familiar with GOLD DIGGER, but I'd probably check that out too if you wrote about it. Where are the free 199 issues available?

    4. Larsen is the only Image founder that still writes and draws his original series.
      He just loves comics and it shows.
      The Savage Dragon series is never static. It has huge status quo shake ups every so often. ( That police officer routine of Dragon's only lasts about 38 issues )
      Currently its Dragon's son Malcom that's the focus, not Dragon himself.
      Long term is a bit of a misnomer I "only" have 107 issues
      The 3 issue mini, a 3 issue mini named Blood and Guts, and 101 issues of the main series.
      But that's enough to be getting on with I suppose.

      You can find the Gold Digger library here
      It's on the inside of every Gold Digger comic since issue 200.
      So it's as legit as it can get.
      All you need is a PDF reader.
      Adobe's reader is a bit so so for comics, I recommended comic rack with ghostscript
      It wont read PDf files with out ghostscript.

      I also have a title in mind, Focused Totality. ( I caught that on Gentlemen Of Leisure. and the original hasn't been updated since 2007. )

      If I do tackle this idea, I will have to revise my review method though.
      Normally when I review things, I tend to follow the plot meticulously and comment on everything.
      Kinda like these on spiderfan

      But if I am going to review roughly 500 comics, I need a better review method then that, otherwise it will take me decades.
      And all 3 series I still have in mind are still running.

    5. Thanks! I agree, some of those Spider-Fan reviews are a bit lengthy. I try to keep everything I do here to no more than two pages in a Word document before copying and pasting to the blog. It seems just about the right length.

    6. Hopefully you like Gold Digger.
      And I decided to bite the bullet, and start my own blog.
      Here it is:
      There isn't much to it as of yet. ( only 2 posts )
      I plan to fiddle with the layout a bit more, it's a bit plain at the moment.

    7. I was on vacation last week, so I finally had a chance to look at Focused Totality just now. Looks good so far! I'll definitely check it out regularly.

  2. Hope you had an enjoyable vacation.

    I'm currently working ahead on reviews, so Focused Totality will never be short of content.
    Currently I have enough reviews lined up for a week of daily updates.
    But i am not sure yet about an update schedule, maybe I'll go for a weekend one or a 2 day update schedule, not sure yet.

    But I want to work far in advance, so I will always have reviews at hand to upload.

    1. I understand. I try to work pretty far ahead too, though lately my cushion has been slipping. I need to get back on it.

    2. I have decided to go for a 2 day update schedule, this allows me to work ahead.
      And with my current cushion, I have two weeks of content.

      And I will never have any big gaps in uploads and this wont become a 5 year project, "just" 2 years.

      In the mean time, I'm trying to spruce up Focused Totality's lay out. Make it less bland and I'm trying to Figure out how to make those table of contents pages\links.
      Uhm, any advice how to do that ? Thanks.

    3. For my links and table of contents, I used Blogger's "HTML/Javascript" gadget. I took an HTML class in college, and even though that was fifteen years ago, the basics I learned are still the same today. You can find how to create HTML links pretty easily with some quick Googling.

      For the table of contents, I have several pages (not posts, pages) on the blog, and I just link to those using the same process as for linking to someone else's web page.

      I would try to demonstrate it here, but if I cut and paste my HTML, I think it'll just duplicate the table of contents without showing you the actual code.

    4. I managed to figure it out with pages.
      Thanks !
      I now have a table of contents, and that will make reading and finding the coming umpteen reviews a lot easier.

      I'm going to tweak the layout a bit and spruce things up. It's very spartan at the moment, but most of the things I want are in place.

    5. Great! I look forward to seeing the revised layout.

    6. I'm going to need a header, a good one.
      Currently the most trouble I have when writing a review is not the review, it self but the recap of the comic.

      I have to keep it brief, but still touch on the storyline
      and I find it difficult to do because I usually skip the recap in a review because I know the comics that are getting reviewed anyway.

      In the mean time, I uploaded more new reviews.

    7. I plan to drop by in another day or two to catch up on what you've added. I look forward to seeing what header you come up with, and I completely understand the difficulty in writing a summary that's concise but gets all the information across!!

  3. This volume also includes all the letters pages from the era, due its being edited by Cory Sedlmeier, for some reason the only collected editions editor at Marvel who believes the things should be included.

    Ah, so that explains why some include the letters pages and others don't. I really wish they all did, so keep up the good fight, Cory Sedlmeier!

    Also, and this may sound odd, but -- it smells really nice, too.

    Nah, I know exactly what you mean. :)

    1. It's weird; letters pages seem like such a natural inclusion for Omnibus and Epic Collections. But I guess if you put in a letters page for every issue in the book, that equates to space which could've gone to another issue or something.

      Anyway, as far as I know Sedlmeier is the only editor who does this. He's the guy who edits all the Marvel Masterworks volumes, which don't have letters pages, but then when his Masterworks are reprinted in Omnibuses, he adds those pages in. So mostly it's all Silver Age stuff which gets letter pages in Omnibus format, but there's also the occasional Bronze or later oddity, such as this book, since X-MEN is so far ahead of other titles in Omnibus format, or the SPIDER-MAN BY ROGER STERN book, which just happened to be edited by Sedlmeier too.