We’ve arrived – it’s the finale of my annotated countdown of Marvel Most-Wanted Omnibuses, from the annual Secret Ballot officiated by TigerEyes. I covered #3-4 in the last installment.
As you’ll see in a moment, the top two are a pair of books that hold special interest for me, so this will be a fun one!
Before we get started, I want to thank everyone who has been tuning in daily to read these recaps – especially because you could have easily spoiled the anticipation by Googling to see the ballot results!
Now that you’ve formed a habit of stopping by, I hope you’ll keep it up. I’ll be back to posting comic reviews but I also have a ton of Marvel collections content dreamt up, starting with an absolutely monstrous post tomorrow that acts as an epilogue for this Most-Wanted Omnibus series. To stay up-to-date each week on site content – including new and expanded comic guide pages, you can join my mailing list, “Crushing On Crushing Krisis”:
For more details on all of Marvel’s existing omnibuses, visit my Marvel Omnibus & Oversized Hardcover Guide. It’s the most comprehensive tool on the web for details on every oversize book, including a rundown of contents and if the volume is still readily available for purchase. I’m always working to add more and more-updated information.
Okay. This is it. The final pair of most-wanted omnibuses. Are you ready?
Last Year’s Rank: #4
Probable Contents: Marvel Graphic Novel 4, Uncanny X-Men #167, and New Mutants #1-34 (or higher) and Annual 1.
(Claremont wrote the title until #54. The earliest issue we’ve seen collected in oversize alongside other X-Men issues is #46 in Mutant Massacre. While #54 is out of reach for a single book, reaching #45 wouldn’t be entirely out of the question. I have a lot more to say on this topic towards the bottom of the post.)
What is it? Chris Claremont returns the X-Men to a team of mutants teens for the first time since the 60s with this first ongoing spinoff from the main Uncanny X-Men series, which is like a prototype for Buffy The Vampire Slayer in that it makes the case that being a teenager and being a mutant can be equally confusing, frustrating, and dangerous.
The New Mutants’ time may have finally come.
First, Fox has started casting for a New Mutants movie featuring many of these original team members.
Also, their series is now the oldest X-Men content not to be recollected in oversize format. The New Mutants graphic novel was released on September 7, 1982 – around the same time as Uncanny X-Men #163 – with their ongoing series debuting early in 1983.
Both of the other contemporaneous X-Men tie-ins have been collected in oversize format – the Claremont/Miller Wolverine mini-series (in several books!) and the “God Loves, Man Kills” graphic novel (in Uncanny X-Men, Vol. 3 and the X-Men Adamantium Collection).
How did it all begin? Curiously, not in the pages of Uncanny X-Men. While Professor X expressed concern that his team was dead (after they are captured by the Brood in #161) and decided to train a new class of mutants (in #165), he did not begin assembling the team in the main title.
Instead, that 3rd Genesis was released as an oversized, standalone graphic novel – the fourth in Marvel’s new series in the format.
In that book, Chris Claremont reverently hits most of the same beats as in Len Wein and Dave Cockrum’s landmark 1974 Giant-Size X-Men – collecting a diverse group of characters of varying attitudes together to overcome a single foe.
In this case, the foe is the cyborg Donald Pierce – a mutant-hating member of the Hellfire Club’s inner circle we first met during the Dark Phoenix Saga. Pierce is as tuned-in to the emergence of new mutants around the globe as Xavier is with Cerebro. Moira MacTaggert beats them both by proactively shipping Wolfsbane to the Professor, as does Reed Richards with Karma (after Marvel Team-Up #10o). But, it’s Pierce who gets the upper hand in tracking down Danielle Moonstar, Sunspot, and Cannonball – even convincing the latter to work for him in his mutant-hunting!
(If you need a signal of just how mega-Claremont this material is, all three of the female characters are better developed than their male peers in the earliest issues, and two of the three have mental abilities – a Claremont favorite.)
Pierce is quickly dispatched as a villain, but his compatriot Sebastian Shaw fills the space in the background of the main series as he works with Henry Gyrich on Project: Wideawake. The kids wind up facing off against Sentinels in their second issue! Despite the mortal peril, early issues are mostly filled with fizzy teen drama as the headstrong and hormone-filled cast members bounce off each other in different combinations.
In the earliest issues pencilled by Bob McLeod the team has have a slightly gawky quality beyond what is fitting to their age. (Sunspot is the youngest, at 14.) The tone shifts considerably when veteran Sal Buscema takes over penciling. His work gives the book some added depth while keeping the kids looking young.
With the team’s visual dynamic settled, the group starts getting put into an extraordinary (but expected) amount of dnger given the fact that they’re supposed to be students! An adventure in the Amazon leads the team unwittingly into Nova Roma, where they pick up new team member Magma. Later, Kitty’s apparent defection to Emma Frost’s Massachusetts academy brings the gang into conflict with their peers, The Hellions.
However, all of that early angst pales in comparison with the saga that begins with issue #18 – both in story and in quality.
It’s there that Bill Sienkiewicz joins the title for the beginning of the Demon Bear Saga, which finds the team (now down Karma but also including Illyana “Magik” Rasputin – but still no new boys!) facing off against the evil totemic spirit responsible for the deaths of Moonstar’s parents. That’s followed in quick succession by Warlock’s struggle with his father Magus, the epic introduction of Legion, and the reappearance of Karma – all classics.
It’s impossible to overstate the neutron bomb impact of Sienkewicz’s pencils on the tone of the series. Though his angular art would increasingly take on a surrealist bent, his depictions of the teens faces and personalities are grounded in realism (evidenced with a brief dreamy bubble of a spot-on Michael Jackson).
Over the intervening 30 years, many of of his takes have become definitive. It’s hard to picture Magik or Warlock or Legion and not have your mental image influenced by Sienkewicz’s jagged interpretations, which have been incorporated into many subsequent versions.
A brief return by McLeod isn’t as jarring as you’d think as he draws the rock’n’roller Lila Cheney – he’s eschewed the series’ early gawkiness for more muscular and curvy figures. Later, Steve Leialoha maintains Sienkewicz’s angular vibe with a cleaner line.
We’ve seen this content in color before in New Mutants Classic with solid art restoration work (except on the graphic novel, which uses more painterly colors and can’t be restored as vividly as comics with solid fills). Yet, there’s no denying that it would be a thrill to see the art in an oversize format.
This volume has been in the Top 10 of the survey for all four of its years – it’s cumulatively tied as the second-most-wanted omnibus of all time. It’s basically a best-case scenario for an omnibuses arrival – all signs point to yes. Now we just have to wait on Marvel’s whims on when to print it.
Chances we see this in 2017? While the New Mutants movie is not projected to arrive until 2018, I still think we could see this omnibus in 2017 – especially because the next volume isn’t likely to show up.
Want to read it right now? As you can see in The New Mutants Guide, you’ll need between four and six Classic collections to do the job. Unfortunately, the first few of these have reached outrageous prices. You might need to hold tight for the Omnibus!
Last Year’s Rank: 7
Probable Contents: This volume begins with UXM #176, and it could definitely reach #209 and still have room for Annuals 8-10 and major tie-ins with New Mutants Special Edition and Annual 2. However, the question is how much sideline content will be included – and all three prior omnibuses have added a lot of that. I’ll cover that at great length, below.
Let’s get this out of the way: X-MEN TAKE THE TOP TWO SPOTS!
Whew. I’ve been holding that in for two weeks. ;)
The X-Men topped the original 2013 survey with their absurdly overdue Volume 2 omnibus, which combined the general fervor for all-things X-Men with the fact that it contained the Claremontian holy grail of The Dark Phoenix Saga as well as the original two-issue Days of Future Past storyline. Then for the past two years the X-Men were unseated by Fantastic Four, Vol. 3 (now printed!) and Spider-Man Vol. 3 (now ranked at #3).
The state of X-Men Collections currently has a trio of classic holy grails that have eluded us in color, and for the first time all three are represented on this survey: the gap between Mutant Massacre and Fall of the Mutants, X-Factor #1-8 and Annual 1, and issues from the gap between Uncanny X-Men Omnibus, Vol. 3 (ending on #175) and Mutant Massacre (beginning with #210).
That last bit includes 11 issues that have never appeared in color – Uncanny X-Men #177-185 & 187-188 (we’ve seen #176 and 186 in other collections, #189-198 are in the 2015 Epic Collection “The Gift,” and #199-209 are in a TPB called Ghosts).
While we might finally see that gap covered with Marvel Masterworks Vol. 10 in February, no one knew that when we cast our ballots. It might not have made a difference, since even with a MMW collection this run will represent one of the only oversized gaps in a line of beautiful hardcovers of Claremont’s run.
Despite this being a Volume 4, it has actually ranked on all four years of the survey and is the fifth most-demanded book of all time. That’s because even when we didn’t know if Volumes 2 and 3 would ever become reality this Romita Jr. run was a tidy, contained unit that covers uncollected issues and butts up against X-Men: Mutant Massacre on the other side.
So what does this legendary run include? Well, first off, it’s not really all that legendary. Somewhere in the 180s the “OMG this is classic everyone must own it” aspect of UXM wears off. However, a lot of significant things occur as Claremont pushes deeper into the soap opera aspects of X-Men. While the team still battles against marquee villains, those conflicts are just backdrops for the continuing psycho-drama to unfold.
Uncanny X-Men has become a title about the adventures of a large adopted family more than it is about a single superhero team. While we see the mutants assembled against a common threat multiple times in the run, but there’s always at least one member off on a side quest. The run begins with the team splintered into multiple factions. Cyclops is flying off to his honeymoon with Jean Grey lookalike-well-actually-she’s-a-clone Madelyne Pryor when the pair of them crash into the ocean, Wolverine is in Japan with Mariko, and Kitty Pryde is in the Morlock tunnels.
In this period Claremont is busy cross-pollenating his stories with other books. The entire team participates in Secret Wars within the span of a single issue while the second iteration keeps intersecting with them for a year. Kitty Pryde bounces to New Mutants and her mini-series with Wolverine, and multiple plots cross over from New Mutants (the White and Black Queens, Rachel Summers, and Magneto).
The development of the women of X-Men are a bigger focus than the men in this run, with Storm, Rogue, and Kitty acting as the major stars of the book along with a newly-introduced Rachel Summers. K
itty Pryde feels like a real live teenager who is also a mutant more than any of the original five X-Men did, here tangling as much with her romantic feelings as with villains. Rogue continues to adjust to her heroic life despite Mystique leading the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants to try to rescue (or: recapture) her. She later has trouble maintaining the difference between her own personality and the one she stole from Carol Danvers.
Rachel Summers is savage and confused as she realizes she has travelled into an alternate past where her mother – Jean Grey – is dead. Her outsized powers and quick temper pull the team into direct conflict with The Beyonder before she disappears at the end of the run, bound for Excalibur.
However, it’s the newly punk-rock Storm that has really become the centerpiece of the book. After years of development as a fierce but benevolent queen of the elements, her battle with Callisto and escapades in Japan in the prior volume not only yielded her infamous mohawk but a different attitude as a leader – she’s as much Cyclops as she is Wolverine! Claremont pushes this even further with her losing her powers (to a device created by the newly-introduced Forge!) to protect Rogue from capture. This forces Storm to grow even fiercer, but that’s shown through character work rather than fight scenes in her budding relationship to Forge and travel back to Africa.
There are plenty of sideline plots along the way to keep things interesting.A major theme running throughout this era is the government’s increasing attention to and concern about mutants, part of the continued wake of the God Loves, Man Kills graphic novel. Mystique drops hints about her relation to Nightcrawler, but is mostly focused on insinuating herself into Val Cooper’s good graces to be a part of the government’s mutant response agenda. Related, Magneto returns and begins an arc to redemption, though no government in the world could possibly accept that transformation after all of the suffering he has caused.
Meanwhile, the Morlocks are a continued nuisance. They are like the X-Men’s reflection in a shattered mirror representing who they would be without the privilege of Xavier looking after them (a theme that comes to the fore with his eventual departure). The crest of this plot doesn’t hit until the subsequent Mutant Massacre. There is also the emerging competition for students from a particular Massachusetts academy run by the White Queen, though that mostly plays out in New Mutants.
Based on the past two UXM omnis having even more material than the corresponding MMWs, I believe Marvel would absolutely put some of that additional material in the omni – especially if it will be competing with both its own Masterworks editions and the affordable The Gift Epic Collection and Ghosts TPB.
That could include up to 35 possible issues with various likelihood for inclusion, not including points of informal crossover into New Mutants! Here’s a list of all of that material – I’ve interspersed the extra material already assumed to hit this volume in italics for reference:
- X-Men: Beauty & The Beast #1-4 (prior to #184),
- Kitty Pryde & Wolverine #1-6 (begins after UXM #183 and ends prior to UXM #189)
- Marvel Team-Up #150 (after #188)
- Iceman #1-4 (somewhere around #188)
- Marvel Super-Heroes #2 (Rogue inventory story directly before #189)
- UXM Annual 8 (after #192)
- Dazzler #38 (after #192)
- X-Men / Alpha Flight #1-2 (prior to #193)
- Nightcrawler #1-4 (between UXM #194-195)
- New Mutants Special Edition + UXM Annual 9 (prior to #200)
- Marvel Fanfare #33 (Wolverine, immediately after #201)
- Alpha Flight #33-34 (follows the prior issue)
- X-Men: Heroes for Hope (follows the prior issues)
- Firestar #1-4 (flashbacks occur prior to #192, but some parts are simultaneous through #202)
- Longshot #1-6 (sometime before NM Ann 2)
- New Mutants Annual 2 (prior to UXM Ann 10)
- UXM Annual 10 (between UXM #210-211, but not included in the Mutant Massacre book)
All of that material would make a hefty single Omnibus by itself, so there is no way for it to all be included with this voted-on volume unless we eliminate more than 15 issues of extra content. Can we cut it down that far? The essentials are Kitty Pryde & Wolverine, X-Men / Alpha Flight, Marvel Fanfare, and Heroes for Hope – 10 issues, so it could be done! However, it would be disappointing to lose Marvel Team-Up and Nightcrawler, and a lot of fans are rabid over the Art Adams art in Longshot.
To pack a hypothetical UXM Vol. 4 full of more extras, it is likely that Marvel would cut off the omni at one of the established endpoints of UXM like #188 or 198, depending on how much extra stuff gets included. Yet, that would leave us with a remaining run still orphaned from oversize collection.
To me, that’s a good reason to start incorporating New Mutants and X-Factor into the further gap-filling OHCS to match how the X-titles are collected from Mutant Massacre through the end of Inferno (and how X-Factor is then picked up by X-Tinction & Claremont/Lee). That would make single omnibus of all the highly-regarded early Claremont New Mutants material even more enticing, since we’d never need to wait for a second volume.
How would that work? Witness the completely hypothetical X-Men Complete Oversized Library (which ignore the fact that the slim and not-entirely-chronologically helpful Asgardian Wars already exists, for expediency):
Uncanny X-Men, Vol. 4 Omnibus: 39 projected issues.
UXM #176-198 & Ann 8, Kitty Pryde & Wolverine #1-6, Marvel Team-Up #150, Dazzler #38, X-Men / Alpha Flight #1-2, Nightcrawler #1-4, Marvel Super-Heroes #2 (Rogue story)
New Mutants by Claremont Omnibus. Between 34 and 50 projected issues.
New Mutants #1-34 (maybe a few more issues – as far as #46, if needed) + Ann 1, MGN #4, UXM #167, (and, if range is extended, UXM Ann 9-10, Ann 2 & Special Edition)
(Yes, I’d ditch Beauty & The Beast and Iceman – none of those characters were on the team at the time or anytime soon thereafter)
X-Men: Crossroads OHC. 48 projected issues (or less, depending on NM Omni).
UXM #199-209 + Ann 9-10, NM 32-45 (if not already in the Omnibus) + Ann 2 & Special Edition (those two non-negotiable, as they rely on each other), X-Factor #1-8 + Ann 1, Marvel Fanfare #33, Alpha Flight #33-34, X-Men: Heroes for Hope, Firestar #1-4, Fantastic Four #286, Avengers #263. (Depending on how many New Mutants issues fit there, it could also include Longshot’s mini-series)
Then: The pre-existing X-Men: Mutant Massacre, although there’s a shot this could get lumped into the prior or next volume, since the OHC is ancient at this point.
X-Men: Before the Fall OHC. 41 issues, as detailed earlier in the survey results.
Sadly, the X-Men stories from Marvel Super-Heroes #6-8 are currently orphaned, hopefully to turn up in the Lee/Claremont era Epics, since they fit before #246. The could wind up as a bonus in one of the following…
New Mutants: A Show of Power OHC. 23 projected issues
New Mutants #74-94 & b-stories from Ann 4-5
X-Factor: I have no idea what to call this thing OHC. 22 projected issues.
X-Factor #41-59 & b-stories from Annual 3-4 + X-Factor: Prisoner of Love.
Boom: Fully OHC’d X-Men of every flavor from 1975 through 1991 (and it continues beyond that, although it includes increasing gaps).
Chances we see this in 2017? Probably close to 0% considering the first chunk of issues were just solicited in Uncanny X-Men Marvel Masterworks, Volume 10. But, it’s eventually going to happen – that’s guaranteed.
When will we get it? It comes down to if the Collections Department sees this entire run as “classic” material or not.
If it’s classic, we will get another Uncanny Masterwork in 2018, and we’ll still need a third one before we can approach this omnibus in whatever shape it takes.
Alternately, Marvel might not feel that this is all Masterworks material. Uncanny X-Men is now several years ahead of all the other Masterworks lines and the Romita period is no longer considered to be prohibitively classic. Plus, we did just get that #189-198 Epic – why would they do that if the material was just 2-3 years of MMWs away?
If that’s the case, then we could get the omnibus within a year of MMW 10 – everything else inside of it has already been released in other formats! However, that would surely signal the end of the UXM MMW line.
Want to read it right now? You’ll be out of luck for #177-185 & 187-188 until February 2017, but otherwise The Uncanny X-Men Guide can answer that question!
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