Oh, such mixed feelings. I enjoyed reading the X-Men as a kid, both the older stuff (in the first Marvel Masterworks series) and in the mid-'70s reboot, which has it's own separate reissue series (also reviewed below). It was fun for a while, but eventually it all got too convoluted and pretentious and impossible to follow, packed with layers and layers of alternate realities and repetitive scripts and a bazillion new characters that were impossible to care about, and way too many ooooohhh-Wolverine-is-scary stories and the whole persecuted mutants thing. It got really boring in the '80s and '90s, and plus there was the whole fetishistic artwork thing that took over then, and well, finally I had to drop out. And THEN they made those lousy movies and the X-Men became a big thing with all the kids, and the newly-published comicbooks on the stands got even worse. Oh, well. That being said, the Marvel Masterworks series below take us back to a simpler time, with silly stories that might appeal to younger kids. I have to confess, I found these hard to revisit -- the X-Men really was a B-list book compared to Marvel's better titles, but that's coming from a (semi)grownup's perspective: if you want to indoctrinate your kid into the whole Marvel mutant universe, I personally would have them start here. Best to start at the beginning. I don't plan on reviewing more modern stories, though -- just not my cup of tea.



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"The X-Men: Marvel Masterworks, v.1"
Written by Stan Lee
Illustrated by Jack Kirby, et al
(Marvel Comics, 2011)

Dumb stuff, but fun. These early stories are way better than all the fetishistic crap they've been writing for the last 20-30 years, especially for little kids. Meet the mysterious, telepathic Professor X and his superpowered, teenage students, as well as the malevolent Magneto and his goofy henchmen and delight in some good, old-fashioned superheroics, without all the phony angst and strained melodrama of later years... Fun stuff from a simpler time. (B-)


"The X-Men: Marvel Masterworks, v.2"
Written by Stan Lee
Illustrated by Jack Kirby, et al
(Marvel Comics, 2003)

(B-)


"The X-Men: Marvel Masterworks, v.3"
Written by Stan Lee
Illustrated by Jack Kirby, et al
(Marvel Comics, 2003)

(B-)


"The X-Men: Marvel Masterworks, v.4" (Paperback)
Written by Stan Lee
Illustrated by Jack Kirby, et al
(Marvel Comics, 2011)

(B-)


"The X-Men: Marvel Masterworks, v.5"
Written by Arnold Drake, Roy Thomas, et al
Illustrated by Jim Steranko, et al
(Marvel Comics, 2005)

Historically noteworthy for early artwork by Jim Steranko and Barry Windsor Smith -- two hip young artists in the late '60s/early '70s scene -- but mostly the stories are pretty lame. No harm reading them, but they might be a waste of time. (B-)


"The X-Men: Marvel Masterworks, v.6"
Written by Roy Thomas
Illustrated by Neal Adams, et al
(Marvel Comics, 2006)

This volume collects issues #54-66, the last of the X-Men stories before the title got put into cryogenic storage, and is noteworthy for some early artwork by Neal Adams, who was kind of hot stuff in the early '70s, with his dynamic, freeflowing graphic style. I never really got into these later stories -- nobody really seemed to have their hearts in it anymore -- but they were a brief creative uptick and a shot of life in an otherwise moribund book. Definitely worth checking out, though the material is a bit strained. (B-)


"The X-Men: Marvel Masterworks, v.7"
Written by Stan Lee
Illustrated by Jack Kirby, et al
(Marvel Comics, 2008)

It's amazing to look back and realize how close to extinction Marvel's mutant heroes were at one time, not because of any diabolical plot by Magneto or the Sentinels, but because of low sales figures. After languishing on Marvel's B-list for years, the original "X-Men" comic suffered a humiliating downfall - throughout the early 1970s, the book was a lowly reprint title, re-running the old episodes that fans hadn't wanted to read the first time around, and even in this stunted form, its schedule was haphazard and its fate uncertain. There were glimmers of life, though - guest appearances, team-ups, and perhaps most significantly, the Beast's short-lived solo series in which he experimented on his own genetic makeup and wound up turning himself into the blue, furry, fanged Beast we know and love today. This book gathers those random, far-flung X-appearances, some of which were forgettable (Havok and Polaris in "The Incredible Hulk") and some of which were pretty fun: Iceman teaming up with Spider-Man (Marvel Team Up #4), and the whole X-crew showing up in civilian clothing in Spidey's Gil Kane days (Amazing Spider-Man #92) two issues that I read into tatters when I was a kid... In part it was the fan reaction to these "missing years" adventures that led to the restoration of the actual X-Men series, in an epic reboot that made pop culture history... Nice of Marvel to collect these stories together -- incredible to remember how close they came to abandoning a group that later became a bazillion dollar franchise. Excelsior, indeed! (B-)


"The X-Men: Marvel Masterworks, v.8"
Written by Stan Lee
Illustrated by Jack Kirby, et al
(Marvel Comics, 2010)

This is the second book gathering those random, far-flung X-adventures from the X-Men's "lost years." The first volume has superior stories, although this collection one is notable for the first, earth-shattering appearance of a feisty little Canadian firebrand named Wolverine, who memorably fought the Hulk to a standstill and quickly became a fan favorite. (Duh.) Also included are X-flavored episodes of the Avengers, the Defenders, Captain America and the Fantastic Four, as well as a couple more "Marvel Team-Up" issues with Spidey... To be honest, looking back, these were mostly pretty crappy stories, but if you really, really want to study up on your X-arcana, this does fill in some gaps. (B-)


"The Uncanny X-Men: Marvel Masterworks, v.1" (Paperback)
Written by Stan Lee
Illustrated by Jack Kirby, et al
(Marvel Comics, 2011)

REBOOT! When Len Wein, Chris Claremont, Dave Cockrum and, later, the iconic John Byrne took the old X-Men concept out of the trash basket and gave it a good makeover, they brought new life into the comicbook industry itself. The new X-Men looked and felt different -- vigorous and forward-reaching, and not just a rote retread of the same kinds of storytelling that had come before. At least that's how it felt at the time... Admittedly, the first few episodes, starting with the fabled 1975 Giant-Size issue and then #94 onwards (all gathered in this first volume...) weren't all that great, but once the ball really got rolling, the series became really fun and fresh. It's hard to put your finger on exactly when the series started to drag -- I dunno... after issue 150 or so? -- but budding X-fans will definitely want to check this early stuff out. (B+)


"The Uncanny X-Men: Marvel Masterworks, v.2" (Paperback)
(Marvel Comics, 2011)

More of the same. This volume, which covers issues #101-110, when things really started to get good... (B+)


"The Uncanny X-Men: Marvel Masterworks, v.3" (Paperback)
Written by Stan Lee
Illustrated by Jack Kirby, et al
(Marvel Comics, 2004)

...and this one (issues #111-121) is when it really started to sizzle! The new X-Men at their peak, with hot new artist John Byrne also coming into his own. When I was a kid, I particularly loved all the stuff in the dinosaur-rific Savage Land; also a pretty gnarly take on good, old Magneto. (A)


"The Uncanny X-Men: Marvel Masterworks, v.4"
(Marvel Comics, 2012)

Reprints issues # 122-131, plus Annual #3... Jean Grey is back, and she's a little bit scary... (A)


"The Uncanny X-Men: Marvel Masterworks, v.5"
(Marvel Comics, 2011)

Pssst!! Hey, kid: this is the book that has all the Dark Phoenix stuff in it! Ooooh! Cosmic! Reprints issues # 132-140, Annual #4 and a bunch of other Dark Phoenix-related stuff... (B+)


"The Uncanny X-Men: Marvel Masterworks, v.6"
(Marvel Comics, 2008)

Reprints issues # 141-150... (B)


"The Uncanny X-Men: Marvel Masterworks, v.7"
(Marvel Comics, 2008)

Reprints issues # 151-159 and some Annuals... (B)


"The Uncanny X-Men: Marvel Masterworks, v.8"
(Marvel Comics, 2011)

Reprints issues # 160-167 and a bunch of other stuff... (B)



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