Time for another comic review. This time, it’s the
volume that, for many people, defined what the X-Men
are.

General Information

Title: Essential X-Men Volume 2

Credited to: Chris Claremont, John Byrne, Terry
Austin, and Brent Anderson

Original Publication Date: October 2001 reprint
(fourth printing) of
material originally published from 1979-1981.

ISBN: 0-7851-0298-1

Cover Price: $14.95 US, $21.95 Can

Premise

A group of people with genetic anomalies, known as
mutants, fight to
protect mankind.

The Issues

In past reviews of Essential books, I’ve just quoted
the issue numbers
that are reproduced. In retrospect, telling you that
this has issues
120-144 of Uncanny X-Men only helps the
people who are
familiar with the title. This time I’ll list the
stories, too.

Issues 120-121: Alpha Flight’s first appearance as
they try to
retrieve Wolverine.

Issue 122: Storm revisits her old home.

Issues 123-124: Arcade tries to kill the X-Men.

Issues 125-128: The first Muir Island saga and the
introduction of
Proteus.

Issues 129-138: The Dark Phoenix Saga. Nuff said.

Issues 139-140: Wolverine, Nightcrawler, and half of
Alpha Flight face
Wendigo.

Issues 141-142: Days Of Future Past. Nuff said.

Issue 143: Kitty Pride fights an N’Garai.

Issue 144: Cylcops and Man-Thing fight D’Spayre.

The collection ends with character bios and stats for
Professor X,
Cyclops, Wolverine, Colossus, Nightcrawler, Beast, and
Angel.

High Point

Issue 133.

Low Point

This is a close call. One the one hand, issue 138
seemed like a cheap
way to write a story. Yes, it makes sense for that
character to be
retrospective, but does that really mean we need a 14
page summary of
the entire history of the title in a 17 page comic?
On the other
hand, the issue 144 has cameos by a lame superhero
(Man-Thing) and
his lame villain (D’Spayre.)

The Scores

For originality, this is a bit uneven. On
one hand, you have
the Dark Phoenix Saga, which has been quoted as the
pinnacle story of
its type since then (including the season finale of
Buffy: The
Vampire Slayer
which had similar developments for
Willow.) On
the other hand, you have issue 143, which is a pretty
basic knock-off
of Ridley Scott’s Alien, which is even
admitted in the text.
On the gripping hand, you’ve got Days Of Future Past,
which has since
been copied in just about every alternate Universe
story I’ve seen in
sci-fi since then. I give it 4 out of 6.

As for the artwork, it’s very good. John
Byrne has done some
great and consistent stuff. Wolverine looks much
better than he did
under Dave Cockrum. There’s even some nice extra
touches in there.
(If you look at Lilandra’s first Imperial Ball in
issue 125, you can
spot Popeye, the sailor man, and a Pierson’s
Puppetteer from Larry
Niven’s Known Space series.) I give it 5 out of 6.

The story here is as good as the X-Men get.
It includes two
Marvel Milestones: The Dark Phoenix Saga, and Days Of
Future Past.
(Don’t believe me? Check out the Milestones cards in
the third set of
Marvel cards circa 1992. These are the two X-Men
stories that made
it.) The long-term arc of the Dark Phoenix Saga in
particular, (which
truly begins in issue 100 back in Essential
X-Men
Vol. 1
) is some great story-telling. The fact
that they spread it
out over ten issues, one of which was double-sized,
also helps, as it
gave them the room to tell the story properly. Still,
the endless
recapping for new readers, and the truly cheesy
Man-Thing hurt the
overall issue. I give it 5 out of 6.



The characterization this time around is a
bit better than
last time. Unfortunately, most of that development
went into Cyclops
rather than the newer characters. Most readers
already know Cyclops.
I’d prefer to have seen more of Nightcrawler and
Colossus, myself. I
give it 3 out of 6.

This was a re-read for me, so my emotional
response
would be
a bit dampened from what it would be for a new reader.
Still, some of
the stories still got me going. I give it a 4 out of
6, and that’s on
the re-read.

The flow problems are still there. We’ve got
text describing
people moving with unbelievable speed because they
have a fraction of
a second to act, and yet they spout out five or six
seconds of
dialogue while they’re doing it. I always find that
jarring. 3 out
of 6.

Overall, this is an excellent collection.
It’s twenty years
old, and still holds up. I give it 5 out of 6.

In total, Essential X-Men Volume 2 earns 29
out of 42.