Sunday, February 28, 2016


Hardcover, 2011. Collects 1989-90's UNCANNY X-MEN #244 - 269, X-MEN ANNUAL #13, and material from CLASSIC X-MEN #39.

As I understand it from a handful of "insider" posts at the Marvel Masterworks Message Board a few years back, Marvel brass originally wanted to publish a simple X-MEN BY JIM LEE OMNIBUS, collecting only Lee's work on the merry mutants. Fortunately, cooler heads in the collected editions department got wind of this and realized that, since Lee started out as a fill-in artist and worked in tandem with other pencilers even after he became the series' regular artist, such a collection would be an incredibly disjointed reading experience -- basically nothing more than a glorified art book.

It was proposed instead that all Lee's issues be released in sequential order with non-Lee issues, under the banner of X-MEN BY CHRIS CLAREMONT & JIM LEE. This would result in a comprehensive two-book collection of Claremont's final couple years on the X-Men, and would make these volumes a direct continuation of the X-MEN: INFERNO hardcover which had been released a few years earlier.

So this book is officially called X-MEN BY CHRIS CLAREMONT & JIM LEE. That's what it says in the indicia, at least. But the cover and spine simply call it X-MEN and list the primary authors as Claremont, Lee, and Marc Silvestri, as the latter was the series' regular penciler when Lee began doing fill-ins.

The book is relatively straightforwardly organized, beginning with a recap page explaining the events of the "Fall of the Mutants" and "Inferno" crossovers. It then picks up immediately after "Inferno" with UNCANNY X-MEN #244 by Claremont and Silvestri, then issue 245 by Claremont and fill-in artist Rob Liefeld. Following this is X-MEN ANNUAL #13, the X-Men's contribution to 1989's "Atlantis Attacks" crossover, written by Terry Austin and illustrated by Mike Vosburg. This particular issue had already been collected by Marvel earlier in 2011 as part of the ATLANTIS ATTACKS OMNIBUS, but its printing here, as part of a dedicated X-Men collection, is logical -- and in this volume the annual's X-pertinent backup story is included as well, where it was omitted from the previous Omnibus.

Next come issues 246 and 247, in which Claremont and Silvestri pit the X-Men against the Master Mold and Nimrod, the future Sentinel. After that, on page 147 of the Omnibus, we reach the book's ostensible raison d'etre -- Jim Lee's first X-MEN issue, #248. Silvestri returns for issues 249 - 251, sending the X-Men to the Savage Land and pitting them against the Reavers. 252 features work from then-regular fill-in artist, Rick Leonardi, to aid with deadlines due to the series' going bi-weekly over the summer of 1989. Silvestri is on hand once more for issues 253 - 255, introducing the "Muir Island X-Men".

Then, page 333 brings Lee back the book. Remember, this volume was conceived a vehicle for Lee's artwork. Out of the first 332 pages, he drew one issue -- but this is the point where he becomes more of a fixture, if not quite yet the regular artist. He's already provided a few covers over Silvestri's interiors, and now he's back for three issues in a row to illustrate the X-Men's contribution to 1990's line-wide "Acts of Vengeance" crossover -- an adventure of Wolverine which reinvents the character of Psylocke. Once again, this run of issues presents material Marvel had released in Omnibus format not that much earlier -- in this case, the ACTS OF VENGEANCE OMNIBUS which also came out earlier in 2011. (I don't point this out as an objection, by the way -- I appreciate the comprehensiveness in both books; rather, I find it funny that Marvel double-dipped on so much of this content all in one year.)

Silvestri is back for issues 259 - 261, his swan song on the title as he draws three separate adventures of various X-Men scattered around the world during what has become known as the "non-team" era. That period continues into #262 - 264, a tale of Forge and Banshee drawn by Kieron Dwyer, Bill Jaaska, and Mike Collins, respectively. Jaaska and Collins also contribute art to 265 and 266, starring Storm -- devolved to childhood and wandering around Cairo, Illinois, where she meets future X-Man Gambit in his first appearance.

Page 590 sees Lee return for issue 267, a "jam" production co-penciled with Whilce Portacio -- and then, as of #268, Lee is on board as the series regular penciler for a classic flashback story featuring Captain America and Wolverine in World War II. Issue 269 comes next, spotlighting Rogue, and that's where the book leaves off -- with Jim Lee having drawn seven out of 27 issues collected. Again, I don't say this to be snarky -- I'm extremely pleased that Marvel went the whole hog on this project rather than collecting only the Lee issues -- I simply find it odd that the book is called the X-MEN BY CHRIS CLAREMONT & JIM LEE OMNIBUS when Lee's artwork constitutes less than a third of the story content.

The bonus features, however, are another matter, with 53 pages devoted pretty much entirely to Lee's work of the era. First we have a backup story from CLASSIC X-MEN #39, featuring a flashback adventure of Storm from the "All-New, All-Different" era. There are also a couple of short pieces from Marvel's WHAT THE--?! humor series. After that it's covers from MARVEL AGE magazine and issues of PUNISHER WAR JOURNAL and ALPHA FLIGHT which guest-starred the X-Men, and a few WOLVERINE covers as well.

Then it's on to character designs for Gambit, Psylocke, and more, a poster which doubles as one of this volume's two covers, four Marvel Super Heroes series 1 trading cards, a Jim Lee interview from Marvel Age #90, and covers of previous collections which contained portions of the material in this book.

It's a very nice collection, altogether -- just about the right length for an Omnibus in my opinion. I appreciate the gigantic ones for their comprehensiveness, but this really is the perfect size for comfortable reading. The reproduction is excellent as always, and the energetic artwork of Lee and Silvestri, two of Image's eventual co-founders, really pops in the oversized format. The book came with two cover options, both in the form of promotional artwork Lee drew around the time he was gearing up for X-MEN volume 2, and both featuring teams -- and in a couple cases, costumes -- which never ultimately came to pass in the series itself.

I've noted before -- probably too many times -- that I don't care much for the middle portion of Chris Claremont's run on the X-Men. Around the time he writes out Cyclops, it just doesn't appeal to me all that much. But this is the point where he begins to win me back. As the X-Men leave their short-lived Outback base and become a non-team, various members moving around the world like pieces being positioned for some major endgame, my interest in the series tics up considerably. This book contains pretty much the entirety of that status quo, and I appreciate having the entire "non-team" era in one single volume. By the time we reach book 2, the X-Men will be reunited and we'll be well on the way to the "Blue" and "Gold" era of the nineties.

But first there's a crossover to get out of the way, so we'll meet back here next time to cover 2011's X-MEN: X-TINCTION AGENDA hardcover, which includes three Lee-drawn issues that don't appear in either of these Omnibuses.

This collection is out of print, but aftermarket copies (and a Kindle version) are available at Amazon


  1. Since the main story in annual #13 isn't by Claremont, nor Lee, and doesn't tie into any storyline, it probably should've been omitted. In its place, I would've reprinted the Punisher/Wolverine two parter from PUNISHER WAR JOURNAL #6-7. That's the first time Jim Lee really drew Wolverine, and it was something of a mini-event at the time.

    Still, I'm glad this exists. Never thought I'd see the non-team era reprinted one book.

    1. I agree, Annual 13 is unneeded here, but I understand Marvel wanted an archival experience, so I don't really mind its inclusion.

      What bugs me is that the "Days of Future Present" crossover, including Annual 14, doesn't show up in any of these collections. This book ends with Storm and Gambit off on their own. Chronologically, a reader should next pick up the X-TINCTION AGENDA book, which features them back among the X-Men with no explanation, because the reunion occurred in Annual 14.

      In 2014, Marvel published a DAYS OF FUTURE PAST hardcover to tie in with the movie, collecting the original storyline, "Days of Future Present", and I think the Alan Davis and Warren Ellis sequels from EXCALIBUR, as well as Ben Raab's WOLVERINE: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST from the nineties. I either already own or don't want to own most of that stuff; I just want the "Present" crossover on its own, so I didn't pick up the book and there's a small story hole in my collection. It's kind of annoying.

  2. Which trading cards did they reprint in the backmatter? I don't remember Lee contributing to series 1.

    ...and now I realize they might be Silvestri cards.

    1. In this book, it's only the three Wolverines and Storm from Marvel Universe series 1, which were the only X-related cards drawn by Lee. Though Silvestri's name is on the spine and cover of this one, the bonus features are all Lee-centric.

      Continuing the trend, Omnibus 2, which I'll get to in May, has the entire set of Lee's X-Men series 1 cards!