THE GIFT: Paperback, 2015. Collects 1985-86's UNCANNY X-MEN #189 - 198, UNCANNY X-MEN ANNUAL #8, X-MEN/ALPHA FLIGHT #1 - 2, and NIGHTCRAWLER #1 - 4.
GHOSTS: Paperback, 2013. Collects 1985-86's UNCANNY X-MEN #199 - 209 and UNCANNY X-MEN ANNUAL #10.
As noted last time, I've decided to expand my reviews of X-MEN hardcovers to include trade paperbacks as well. So, before we move chronologically forward from the two X-MEN BY CLAREMONT & LEE books, let's take a look at a couple volumes set earlier in Claremont's run, during the time he had John Romita, Jr. as his regular artist.
X-MEN EPIC COLLECTION: THE GIFT, published more recently than GHOSTS but set earlier, begins with UNCANNY X-MEN 189 through 192 in direct order, featuring the misadventures of Rachel Summers and the New Mutants' Magma, the revenge of Kulan Gath against Spider-Man, and the debut of New Mutant Warlock's father, Magus.
The book then moves out of the ongoing series to present X-MEN ANNUAL #8, a sequel of sorts to the classic UNCANNY 153, "Kitty's Fairy Tale". Next are X-MEN/ALPHA FLIGHT 1 and 2, representing a major chronological jump in publishing time -- these issues were originally published in late '85/early '86, but are set much earlier in the timeline, and they're slotted here to fit where the story dictates they should go.
This seems to be an anomaly for the Epic Collection banner, unless I'm mistaken. It seems to me that, historically, these books have printed one-shots, annuals, etc. when they were published rather than when they took place. But personally, in this case, I prefer it this way. X-MEN/ALPHA FLIGHT was not published that much later than the issues it's slotted between here, so I'm fine with some rejiggering of the publication history to make the reading experience smoother. (Similarly, I also like when collected editions include the original WOLVERINE mini-series where it should take place, rather than where it was published.)
With the annual and mini-series completed, we're back to UNCANNY for a straight run of six issue, 193 through 198. We have Thunderbird and the Hellions menacing the X-Men, Juggernaut and Nimrod duking it out, a guest appearance by Power Pack, a crisis on the campus, the return of Arcade and Doctor Doom, and Storm's second "Lifedeath". The volume closes out with Dave Cockrum's NIGHTCRAWLER mini-series, also presented slightly ahead of its original publication schedule to fit the book's chronology.
Bonus material is strewn throughout the volume, including quarter-size X-MEN CLASSIC reprint covers and original artwork. The proper bonus section occupies the volume's final nine pages and consists of MARVEL AGE articles about NIGHTCRAWLER and X-MEN/ALPHA FLIGHT, as well as a house ad for NIGHTCRAWLER.
GHOSTS is a slightly slimmer, but no less impressive, collection. It runs UNCANNY 199 through 209 in direct order, featuring the capture and trial of Magneto, Cyclops' and Storm's duel for the X-Men's leadership, a clash with the Beyonder, an offbeat Nightcrawler solo adventure, an offbeat Wolverine solo adventure, the return of Freedom Force, a showdown with the Hellfire Club, and the attack of Nimrod. Things close out with UNCANNY ANNUAL #10, introducing Longshot to the team.
Note that X-MEN ANNUAL 9 is absent from both of these volumes. Presumably someday the material contained in GHOSTS will find its way into a proper Epic Collection which will include the missing issue, but for now ANNUAL #9 and NEW MUTANTS SPECIAL EDITION #1 are available in the X-MEN: ASGARDIAN WARS collection (in both out-of-print-but-still-reasonably-priced hardcover and paperback flavors).
The bonus section in GHOSTS is far longer than in THE GIFT, weighing in at 33 pages! We have a couple humor strips and a pair of articles from MARVEL AGE, X-MEN CLASSIC covers by the likes of Brian Stelfreeze, Gary Frank, Jae Lee, and Terry Dodson reprinted at full size (which I wish THE GIFT had done as well), pinups and posters from a variety of sources, character designs by Arthur Adams, original art reprinted at quarter size (which, honestly, seems pointless -- you lose the effect of original artwork by shrinking it even smaller than publication size), and the covers of previous collections featuring parts of this material.
Together, THE GIFT and GHOSTS represent about thirty consecutive issues of the Chris Claremont/John Romita, Jr. X-MEN. The books flow nicely together with the exception of the missing "Asgardian Wars" material, and on top of that, GHOSTS butts right up against MUTANT MASSACRE as well (also available in both out-of-print-and-not-so-reasonably-priced-hardcover and paperback formats).
I've stated before that I'm not a huge fan of the John Romita, Jr. era on UNCANNY X-MEN. Note that I have nothing in the way of story commentary on these books, the reason being that I've rarely ever gone back to them over the years. I love early Claremont for story, status quo, and characterization, and while I'm not a big fan of the status quos or team line-ups of late Claremont, I like the stories for their deep serialization and convoluted continuity. This period, mid-Claremont, seems boring by comparison.
On top of that, Romita's artwork in these issues has never been as appealing to me as his earlier Spider-Man material or much of his later output. I've often blamed that on Dan Green's inking, but I have to admit that the art is beautifully restored in these books and it actually looks better than I remember from the individual issues. Perhaps the fault I've long perceived with the work is more with Marvel's printing processes of the times and not with either of the artists.
So, now that we've delved a few years into the past for these trades of the mid-Claremont period, next month we'll jump past Claremont's final days and into the 1991 X-Men relaunch with a look the BISHOP'S CROSSING hardcover.
Available on Amazon: THE GIFT | GHOSTS