Volume 1: Paperback, 2014. Collects 1995's X-MEN PRIME, UNCANNY X-MEN #322 - 326, X-MEN #42 - 45, X-MEN ANNUAL '95, and X-MEN UNLIMITED #8.
Volume 2: Paperback, 2014. Collects 1995-96's UNCANNY X-MEN #327 & 328, X-MEN #46 - 49, X-MEN UNLIMITED #9, X-MEN/CLANDESTINE #1 & 2, and SABRETOOTH SPECIAL.
Volume 3: Paperback, 2014. Collects 1996's UNCANNY X-MEN #329 - 332, X-MEN #50 - 52, X-MEN UNLIMITED #10, X-MEN/BROOD #1 & 2, ARCHANGEL #1, WOLVERINE #101, and the XAVIER INSTITUTE ALUMNI YEARBOOK.
In 2014, Marvel enacted an ambitious plan to plug the gap between the AGE OF APOCALYPSE OMNIBUS and the ONSLAUGHT OMNIBUS with a series of three big trade paperbacks collecting every issue of X-MEN, UNCANNY X-MEN, X-MEN UNLIMITED, and other odds and ends which ran between 1995 and 1996. The result is a set of handsome books chock full of stories by various creators.
Volume one wastes no time, kicking right off with X-MEN PRIME, establishing the post-"Age of Apocalypse" X-universe. Then we have UNCANNY X-MEN 322, in which Onslaught's name is first spoken by Juggernaut -- though at that point no one, not even series writer Scott Lobdell, knew who or even what "Onslaught" was. X-MEN 42 through 44 follow, as writer Fabian Nicieza tells a story of Cyclops and Jean Grey and their roles in the fall of Magneto's space station, Avalon. Then it's back to UNCANNY for issues 323 and 324, featuring the debut of the mutant terrorists known as Gene Nation.
Next comes X-MEN ANNUAL '95 starring Jean and Beast and featuring my all-time favorite Mister Sinister story, by J.M. DeMatteis, Terry Dodson, and John Paul Leon. After this, it's a celebration of the twentieth anniversary of the "All-New, All-Different" X-Men in UNCANNY #325 and X-MEN #45, featuring a reunion between Colossus and his former teammates and a connection between Gambit and Mister Sinister, respectively. X-MEN 45 is also the final issue from Nicieza, who had been the series' scripter all the way back to #11.
UNCANNY 326 follows, a tale of Gambit and Sabretooth, with Howard Mackie's X-MEN UNLIMITED #8, your run-of-the-mill "X-Men meet a new mutant who declines attending Xavier's school" closing things out.
Volume two opens with X-MEN/CLANDESTINE, a two-part miniseries written and drawn by Alan Davis and introducing the X-Men to his Clan Destine characters. Next is UNCANNY X-MEN ANNUAL '95, a forgettable story by Terry Kavanagh with wonderful artwork from Bryan Hitch. X-MEN 46 and 47 follow, featuring the return of the X-Babies as Scott Lobdell joins the series in the capacity of temporary fill-in writer until Necieza's replacement arrives.
UNCANNY 327 brings a reborn but amnesiac Magneto into the picture, and X-MEN UNLIMITED 9 is a Wolverine spotlight by the Canucklehead's regular writer, Larry Hama, with art from Val Semeiks. Then it's back to UNCANNY for #328 and a duel between Psylocke and Sabretooth. Sabretooth then headlines his own one-shot by Fabian Nicieza and Gary Frank, with X-MEN 48 and 49, a Bishop-centric two-parter, finishing off this book.
As in volume one, trading cards appear all throughout the volume. Twenty-five pages of bonus material follow, including pinups, a house ad, a WIZARD cover, a couple trade paperback covers, and an article on X-MEN/CLANDESTINE from MARVEL VISION magazine (the successor to MARVEL AGE). There are also a few more pages of trading cards and a small promo piece by Alan Davis.
Volume three has the interesting distinction of being the only book in this series to open with an issue of either the two core X-titles; in this case it's UNCANNY X-MEN 329, followed immediately by 330 -- a two-part adventure of Wolverine and Archangel clearly influenced by artist Joe Madureira's manga-style sensibilities. The ARCHANGEL one-shot comes next, a downright peculiar experiment by the standards of this era's Marvel -- it's a black-and-white, hand-lettered story by Peter Milligan and Leonardo Manco.
X-MEN/BROOD 1 and 2, by John Ostrander and Bryan Hitch, come next, picking up a thread laid by Chris Claremont about eight years earlier (covered in the X-MEN: INFERNO PROLOGUE hardcover collection). X-MEN UNLIMITED #10 facilitates Dark Beast's kidnapping and replacement of Beast and features the X-debut of Mark Waid, who would assume scripting duties on X-MEN within a couple months.
But first Scott Lobdell wraps up his fill-in run in X-MEN #50, introducing Post, the first herald of Onslaught. UNCANNY X-MEN 331, an Iceman spotlight, follows, and then it's UNCANNY 332, a follow-up to events depicted in WOLVERINE #100. A mini-recap details the events of that issue, but the issue itself and prior installments running up to it can currently be found in the WOLVERINE EPIC COLLECTION: THE DYING GAME. The events of UNCANNY 332 continue directly into WOLVERINE 101, which is reprinted here (handy since THE DYING GAME ends with WOLVERINE 100).
Mark Waid comes aboard X-MEN just in time to close out this third ROAD TO ONSLAUGHT installment, with issues 51 and 52, spotlighting Bishop and the villainy of Mister Sinister. From there it's on to the XAVIER INSTITUTE ALUMNI YEARBOOK -- a one-shot billed as one of the book's reprinted issues, but which seems to me like more of a bonus feature.
As with both of the other ROAD TO ONSLAUGHT volumes, this book features a number of trading cards between issues throughout. The bonus section is the shortest of the three books, coming in at only fifteen pages if we don't count the ALUMNI YEARBOOK. We have a few articles from various issues of MARVEL VISION including a Q & A with Joe Madureira, then it's the X-MEN VS. BROOD trade paperback introduction by John Ostrander plus cover by Roger Cruz. A couple WIZARD covers, a poster, and some original artwork shrunk down to microscopic size round things out.
The books are nice, thick trade paperbacks, each one being roughly the size of a Marvel Epic Collection -- and remember, all together this covers less than a year's worth of continuity, and only among the core X-titles and their annuals and related one-shots and mini-series! The reproduction is great throughout as far as I can tell -- this is pretty much a perfect match for my memories of these issues.
If I have one complaint about these volumes, it's that they don't include one mini-series which ran during this era: WOLVERINE/GAMBIT: VICTIMS by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale. I'm not sure why it was omitted; it seems to fit the books' mission statement as far as contents. But in any case, I already own it as a stand-alone hardcover, so I'm not terribly broken up over its exclusion.
Ordinarily this is where I'd spend a few more paragraphs gushing about how much I love this particular run of issues, but the truth is, I already did that a couple years ago -- so I'll let those words speak for themselves in a post appropriately titled THE ROAD TO ONSLAUGHT. But, to make a long story short, this is one of my all-time favorite eras for the X-Men. As I've said over the past few posts, my X-fandom blossomed in the early nineties, circa X-CUTIONER'S SONG and FATAL ATTRACTIONS. It ramped up around the time of THE WEDDING OF CYCLOPS AND PHOENIX. Circa PHALANX COVENANT, it had reached its zenith -- and that peak continued for the next couple years, running throughout these issues and the subsequent "Onslaught" event, plus a bit beyond.
So while I know the "AoA" to "Onslaught" era didn't necessarily pan out into anything especially worthwhile, for me the ride was a lot of fun. These three books take me back, perhaps more than any of the others I've looked at so far, to a period in my life where I eagerly awaited every installment of the X-Men's adventures, practically counting the days between trips to the comic shop. From my perspective as a seventeen-ish year-old, in terms of both story and artwork, the X-Men were firing on all cylinders at this point and they were my number one most anticipated read each and every month.
Obviously, the "Onslaught" crossover proper would come next in story order, and I covered that last year in Marvel's X-MEN/AVENGERS: ONSLAUGHT OMNIBUS. So since that's already in the bag, next month we'll jump past "Onslaught" (and past a chunk of uncollected issues which I'll mention then) to take a look at the recently released X-MEN: THE TRIAL OF GAMBIT trade paperback.
Available on Amazon: Volume 1 | Volume 2 | Volume 3