Welcome to 2012 – I am still a comic book geek.
Specifically, the X-Men.
Specifically, I own something like 95% of every X-Men comic book ever reprinted.
On New Years’ Eve I said to myself, “You dashingly handsome scoundrel, how can you use your obsession to aid people who like the X-Men a normal, healthy amount – unlike you?”
The answer? I will count down for you the top twelve collected editions reprinting X-Men comics originally released before 2010. There’s a vast world of thousands of X-Men comics that have been released since 1963, and not all of them are readily available to buy in book format. These reprints mean that hard-to-get, or never-before-reprinted issues can be bought in handy collections with better reproduction of the line art than original issues.
(As for new X-Men material from 2011, that will require a whole new post to cover!) Read more…
4. Uncanny X-Men Marvel Masterworks, Vol. 7 HC
Collects Uncanny X-Men #151-159, Annual 5, and Avengers Annual 10.
We’d be kidding ourselves if a new edition of UXM Marvel Masterworks didn’t make the list every year, but it’s for a good reason – these are premium quality, carefully preserved reprints of X-Men material that has rarely ever seen reprint in the past.
This edition sees the return of the amazing Dave Cockrum to art duties, and the return of the vicious Emma Frost to the rogues gallery. Plus, the X-Men return to space for the first time since Dark Phoenix, and Rogue makes her debut in the pages of the Avengers! (Not previously collected in full.)
3. X-Men by Claremont/Lee Omnibus, Vol. 1 HC
Collects Uncanny X-Men #244-269, Annual #13, X-Men Classic #39
Take two parts Chris Claremont, the writer of ever X-Man tale for over a decade. Add one part the savagely beautiful detailed line-art of Marc Silvestri, and one part explosive newcomer Jim Lee settling in for his first lengthy run on an ongoing title. Lee is renowned as the best comic artist of a generation, and here you can see him grow by leaps and bounds with every issue – which seems to also inspire Silvestri to improve his craft.
Many fans have whined that this is really the Anti-X-Men – the book opens with the team dissolving, and it never truly comes back together in this edition. I say, shove it. This disparate group of stories served to lead into the amazing creative crescendo of Claremont/Lee spending an unbroken year churning out classic issues before both of them jumped ship and the X-line got hijacked by constant gimmick events. (Not previously collected in full.)
2. X-Men Omnibus, Vol. 2 HC
Collects X-Men #32-66, Avengers #53, KaZar #2-3, and Marvel Tales #30.
While Stan Lee and Jack Kirby laid the bedrock of what it meant to be a mutant, it is this volume that presaged the amazing scope and drama of the X-Men stories that would be told over the next forty years.
Here the original five start to transform from teens to team, and we get the incomparable creative pairing of Roy Thomas with Neal Adams. While this was the period that lead to the X-Men going on hiatus, on re-read you can hardly fault the adventurous plots that ensue. (Also collected in HC and TPB Marvel Masterworks.)
What could be more classic than Classic X-Men, and more beautiful than early Jim Lee? Well, nothing. But the this next book wins just about every other award there is for X-Collections in 2011 – Most Surprising, Best Complete Saga, Most Shocking, Best Run from a Single Creative Team, Most Mammoth – the list is nearly endless.
…and, my number one collection of the year is…
1. X-Statix Omnibus
Already SOLD OUT at Amazon in just two months – try Cheap Graphic Novels or Tales of Wonder. Collects X-Force#116-129, Brotherhood #9; X-Statix #1-26; Wolverine/Doop #1-2; Dead Girl #1-5; and material from X-Men Unlimited #41, I <3 Marvel, and Nation X #4.
X-Statix is really weird. Do not think of it as an X-Men comic, or even a Marvel superhero comic, as it relies very little on foreknowledge of either. It is an indie comic about a deadly and incredibly popular reality television show that happens to star a team of lethal mutants with short life expectancies. There are no “villains” to speak of, though the team certainly faces ongoing challenges.
Instead, think of it as something like Reality Bites or Chasing Amy – or even Hunger Games – a self-aware piece of fiction that constantly comments on the real world culture it is woven within. It is a comic dissecting the convention of superheroes, much in the tradition of Watchmen. Except, instead of a dystopian 1984 we get a celebrity-as-reality obsessed modern day with absolutely no overarching plot.
With no villains and no major arc, you might wonder: what is this 1000+ page book even about? Sex, sexual identity, racial identity, celebrity, drugs, suicide, ethics of pharmaceuticals – you know, the same things our lives are about. It just so happens that each struggle is framed in terms of what it would mean to be a superhero struggling with that incredibly common human condition.
(Previously collected as a series of HCs and TPBs.)
That’s my countdown! Have I left off any of your major favorite reprints of 2011? Chime in with a comment, and tune back in next week (really!) for 2011’s top 12 collections of new material.