Comic Review – Essential Uncanny X-Men Vol. 1

Essential Uncanny X-Men Vol. 1 has finally been reprinted and shipped on Wednesday. Care to read about, or discuss, how the X-Men started out? Well, of course you do! That’s why Dave put those links on the bottom of every article.

General Information

Title: Essential Uncanny X-Men Vol. 1
Credited to: Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, and friends
Original Publication Date: These issues were originally published from
1963-1966. This is the second printing of this collection, and it
shipped to comic stores on September 5, 2002.
ISBN: 0-7851-0991-9
Cover Price: $14.95US, $23.95Can
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Charles Xavier recruits five mutant teenagers to help him protect
humanity from evil mutants.

Issues Collected

This collects the first 24 issues of The Uncanny X-Men. (The
collection called Essential X-Men Vol. 1 starts after Chris
Claremont restarted the team in Giant Sized X-Men 1, resuming the
monthly title with The Uncanny X-Men 94. The stories
contained are as follows:
Issue 1: Marvel Girl joins the team in time to face Magneto for the
first time.
Issue 2: The Vanisher starts robbing banks.
Issue 3: The Blob is found working in a carnival.
Issues 4-7: The Brotherhood of Evil Mutants recruits some new members
to fight the X-Men.
Issue 8: Unus The Untouchable comes onto the scene.
Issue 9: The X-Men encounter the Avengers while hunting Lucifer.
Issue 10: The X-Men find the Savage Land and meet Ka-Zar.
Issue 11: The X-Men and Magneto’s Brotherhood race to recruit The
Issues 12 – 13: The Juggernaut first appears.
Issues 14 – 16: The Sentinels first appear.
Issues 17 – 18: An old foe returns and takes over X-Mansion.
Issue 19: A villain that can mimic the powers of the X-Men decides he
should use his power to destroy them.
Issues 20-21: The Blob, Unus the Untouchable, and Lucifer come back
for a rematch.
Issues 22-23: Count Nefaria collects an assortment of villains from
other titles to hold Washington D.C. for ransom.
Issue 24: The Locust creates a small army of super-sized insects.

High Point

There were some repeated off-duty comments that I found very amusing.
Between Hank and Bobby at the Beatnik poetry sessions, and every male
X-Man (including Professor X!) mentally declaring his love for Jean
Grey, there was enough to keep me entertained when they weren’t in battle.

Low Point

The complete lack of motivations on the parts of most villains. Take
the Blob, for example. He’s been living as a carnival freak for his
entire life. The X-Men show up, explain to him that he’s a mutant,
help him discover his powers, and offer him a different life. Rather
than just say no and leave, he decides to fight and defeat them before
starting a crime spree. Where’s the logic?

The good news is that the last villain in the bunch, the Locust,
actually had a unique and somewhat plausible motivation. I’ll choose
to believe that’s a trend that continued in later issues until it’s
proven otherwise.

The Scores

The powers for some of the X-Men may be original, but the
premise seemed to me like some managers decided that the Fantastic
Four team book sold well, and that the Spider-Man books about a teen
hero sold well, so they should combine the two and release a comic
about a team of teen heroes. Iceman seems very much like a character
quickly designed to be the “opposite” of the Human Torch, which didn’t
really work. (The first few issues even had “In the spectacular
Fantastic Four style” written on the covers.) Still, Lee and Kirby
deserve credit for the mutant angle, as it provides a nice way to set
up persecution metaphors while simultaneously giving them an easy
explanation for the monthly villain’s abilities. I give it 4 out of

The artwork was the same quality we’ve gotten used to in
these Essential books collecting stories from the mid-1960s. (I
should mention that the cover art was produced for this volume, and
it’s much worse than the artwork inside. I wouldn’t have used that
cover, myself.) The artwork is crisp, and clear (with the exception
of reproduction problems in two or three of the later issues.) I give
it 4 out of 6.

The stories told here are often repetitive and derivative.
Issues 4-7 were all independant stories where the same villains show
up, recruit a new member, and fight the X-Men, lose, and forget about
the new member. After that first rough year (six issues,) there were
improvements. The next introduction of the Brotherhood of Evil
Mutants split the team up, and new villains started to come through.
I give it 4 out of 6 because of the significant improvements toward
the end.

The characterization is excellent. The different characters,
heroes and villains alike, can be distinguished by conversation
alone. The heroes are believable and well developed, although some of
the villains are very one-dimensional. (Quiksilver and the Scarlet
Witch are the major exceptions to that.) I give it 5 out of 6.

The emotional response generated here was strongest in cases
that seemed to be contradicted by later issues. For a few examples,
Magneto seems to have some telepathic powers, Jean doesn’t have
telepathic abilities, Toad doesn’t spray any of that fluid from his
mouth that he can use in later issues, and the Angel is mobbed by
adoring female fans. There was little tension in the situations here,
but that’s mainly because I know these characters live on (with the
occassional detour) for a few hundred more issues, at least. I give
it 3 out of 6.

The flow was often hampered by wordy battles. Hank McCoy,
although verily deficient in the pulchritude department, can be
unerringly depended upon to deliver astoundingly verbose, if rarely
rebarbative, preponderance of verbiage. (Yeah, I had help with some of
that vocabulary, but I think you get the point.) This is often a
problem with Stan Lee’s stuff, and the Roy Thomas issues tend to be
worse. I give it 2 out of 6.

Overall, this is a worthwhile collection for fans of the
X-Men. It’s nice to see all the origins and back story for the heroes
and villains that are still around today. If you’re not already
familiar with the X-Men, though, I’d say that you might want to look
at the volumes collecting Claremont’s work instead. Two of the best
known X-Men storylines (“the Dark Phoenix Saga,” referenced heavily in
last season’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and “Days of Future
Past,” which first introduced the daughter of Scott Summers and Jean
Grey) are in Essential X-Men Vol. 2 for example. This volume
is only worth 3 out of 6 overall.

In total, Essential Uncanny X-Men Vol. 1 receives 25 out of 42.

Additional Notes And Comments

The next comic review should be Essential Spider-Man Vol. 4,
which collects issues 69-89, as well as annuals 4 and 5.