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