Sunday, April 24, 2016


Hardcover, 2012. Collects UNCANNY X-MEN #273 - 280, X-FACTOR #63 - 70, X-MEN #1 - 11, and GHOST RIDER #26 & 27.

Following from the X-MEN BY CHRIS CLAREMONT & JIM LEE OMNIBUS volume 1 and the X-TINCTION AGENDA hardcover, both released in 2011, 2012 saw Marvel issue the second book in their Claremont/Lee duology. And where the first volume was extremely light on contributions from Lee, volume 2 more than makes up for it -- of the 27 issues collected herein, more than half are illustrated by Lee.

The book opens with a recap page stretching all the way back to the "All-New, All-Different" era, giving broad strokes of the entire Chris Claremont X-MEN canon -- appropriate, since this book collects the twilight of his long, long run. From there we head into X-FACTOR 63 and 64 by Louise Simonson and Whilce Portacio, pitting the original five X-Men against a group of cyber-ninjas for the life of Iceman's girlfriend. Honestly, I'm not sure exactly why these issues appear here, since they really serve no purpose in the volume's overall narrative; however the issues are notable for being long-time writer Simonson's final X-FACTOR story.

Next are UNCANNY X-MEN 273 through 277 by Chris Claremont and Jim Lee, featuring the X-Men in space against the Shi'ar while Rogue, Magneto, and Nick Fury battle Zaladane in the Savage Land on Earth. After this epic comes the final saga of the original X-Factor in X-FACTOR 65 through 68 by Claremont and Portacio (the former presumably on board to better set up the X-books' impending linewide realignment while the latter turns in the near-final issues of his brief X-FACTOR run before assuming penciling duties on UNCANNY X-MEN).

"The Muir Island Saga" mini-crossover follows, running through UNCANNY 278 (by Claremont and Paul Smith) and 279 (by Claremont, Fabian Nicieza, and Andy Kubert), X-FACTOR 69 (by Nicieza and Portacio), and UNCANNY 280 (by Nicieza, Kubert and Steven Butler), with an epilogue in X-FACTOR 70 by incoming writer Peter David and artist Kirk Jarvinen. In addition to the dubious distinction of the various guest-pencilers drawing Rogue in a different costume in every chapter, "Muir Island" is also notable for being Chris Claremont's final work on UNCANNY X-MEN.

But, though by all accounts he left the franchise in a huff partway through scripting issue 279, Claremont's contributions to the Omnibus aren't finished quite yet, as the book next moves into the big one: X-MEN issues 1 - 3 by Claremont and Lee. This could be considered the start of a new era, and really it is, but it's also quite clearly the end of something much more momentous -- these are the final issues written by Chris Claremont, who guided the X-MEN franchise for over sixteen years -- a run stretching back across nearly two hundred consecutive issues, not to mention countless spin-offs, Annuals, one-shots, and mini-series.

I freely admit I didn't care for a lot of Claremont's run; it's really only the first eighty or so issues which truly resonate with me. But even after UNCANNY 175, there's still a lot of good stuff and Claremont's overall importance to the X-mythos can never be understated. Everything the X-Men were in the nineties, everything they remain to this day, is owed to Chris Claremont, and he deserved a better send-off than he receives in these pages (even if, as he's said, royalties from X-MEN 1 - 3 paid his mortgage).

But the series must go on, and with Claremont gone, his co-plotter/penciler, Jim Lee, becomes the sole plotter of X-MEN for issues 4 through 7, scripted by John Byrne and Scott Lobdell and featuring a trip down memory lane for Wolverine as Omega Red and Maverick are introduced to the X-Men's world while Sabretooth receives a visual makeover. X-MEN 8, GHOST RIDER 26, X-MEN 9, and GHOST RIDER 27 come next, a crossover by Lee and Lobdell in the X-installments, while the Spirit of Vengeance's chapters come from Howard Mackie and Ron Wagner. The tale introduces some elements of Gambit's past such as his association with the Thieves' Guild of New Orleans and his ex-wife, Belladonna (and perhaps Mackie's involvement here gives some insight into how he -- a writer mostly not associated with the X-Men at all -- would wind up writing Gambit's and Rogue's first limited series a few years later, which would build upon elements introduced here).

Lee's X-MEN run then comes to a conclusion, closing out the volume with issues 10 and 11, an inconsequential jaunt to Mojoworld guest-starring Longshot and Dazzler, two leftovers from the Claremont era, and scripted once more by Scott Lobdell. Then Lee jumps ship to co-found Image Comics and the X-Men are passed into different hands.

But that's not all, folks. Nearly a hundred pages of bonus features follow Lee's final issue. The first Claremont/Lee Omnibus contained only about fifty pages of back matter, and all of it was from the late eighties to fit thematically with that book's contents. But 1990-91 is when Jim Lee really went nuts with the X-Men and, for fans of that period, this section is a treasure trove -- and, unlike the contents of volume 1, it's not all devoted solely to Lee. The bonus features lead-off, in fact, with some X-FACTOR pinups by Whilce Portacio, a MARVEL VISION magazine article from some years later looking back on the originally planned X-FACTOR 66 (which was to feature the wedding of Cyclops and Jean Grey), and a "Mutant Report" column from MARVEL AGE spotlighting Portacio as well.

Then it's a lengthy feature on Jim Lee from MARVEL AGE, a Fred Hembeck comic strip lampooning the X-Men relaunch, and a number of rarely seen Lee pieces from the covers of various fanzines of the era. Lee character design sketches come next, as well as pieces he drew for a WIZARD X-Men special circa 2000. Cover sketches, house ads, pinups, and lithographs follow, then it's a few MARVEL SWIMSUIT SPECIAL pieces and some second printing covers from various X-MEN issues of the era.

Trading cards are up next, and in addition to Lee's and Portacio's handful of contributions to the Marvel Super Heroes series 2 and 3 sets, we also have the entire set (front and back of every card) from the X-Men series 1 cards which were all drawn by Lee. The cards look to be printed slightly smaller than their original size, but they're still a treat to look at, and it's pretty impressive Marvel decided to include every last one.

Next is Lee's afterword to the MUTANT GENESIS trade paperback from 1993 and his introduction to his 2002 X-MEN VISIONARIES volume, as well as covers, by Lee and other artists, to various collected editions which included some of the material reprinted in this volume. Then, rounding the book out are a pair of four-panel gatefold pages -- one reprinting the cover to X-MEN #1 and the other featuring Lee's poster from 1991 which featured members of all the then-current X-teams. Both these gatefolds feature the originally colored art on one side with modern colored versions on the reverse.

Storywise, this is probably the lesser of the two Claremont/Lee collections. There's some good stuff in here, but thanks to the dramatic reshuffling behind the scenes, it's an uneven experience in terms of quality. But artistically, this has to be the stronger of the two books, featuring almost entirely Lee and Portacio artwork all the way through, with a ton of bonus material related to the X-MEN #1 launch. But from an archival/completionist's perspective, I can't really declare one book stronger than the other. Both together, along with the X-TINCTION AGENDA volume in between, represent a crazy, tumultuous time for Marvel's mutants, both on and off the page.

The book is, as usual, meticulously laid out and assembled, and things such as the gatefold pages clearly represent a determined effort on Marvel's part to get it all right. Lee's issues have been reprinted many times over the years (Portacio's not so much), and to my eye, in the oversize hardcover format, the stuff has never looked better. Along with its sister volume, this truly represents the definitive version of Jim Lee's X-MEN run, as well as a fantastic archive of Chris Claremont's final couples years writing the series.

"But wait," you say, "didn't Marvel also relaunch UNCANNY X-MEN at the same time X-MEN #1 hit shelves?" They did indeed, with plots from Lee and Portacio, art from Portacio, and scripts from John Byrne. But that material -- along with a Maverick backup story from X-MEN 10 and 11 -- was skipped for this volume in favor of receiving its own collection several months later. And I intend to cover that book, X-MEN: BISHOP'S CROSSING, in June -- a slight bump in the schedule because I've decided to expand this review series to cover trade paperbacks as well. So next month we'll take a look at the X-MEN EPIC COLLECTION: THE GIFT and X-MEN: GHOSTS paperbacks in one fell swoop, before jumping back into the hardcover arena for BISHOP'S CROSSING a few weeks later.

This collection is out of print, but aftermarket copies are available at Amazon.


  1. Absolutely love that they included all the trading cards. That's fantastic.

    I'm not sure it'd be worth the price of admission alone, but the sound of all that backmatter is really enticing.


  2. That does sound amazingly thorough — but it’s a shame DC having absorbed WildStorm likely ruled out Marvel including the Lee-drawn middle installment of the WildCATs / X-Men trilogy (just from a completist point of view; personally, no skin off my back).

    1. Hmm, I never even thought of that issue. You're right in any case; it's not included. Too bad; it would've made a nice bonus feature!