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Uncanny X-Men Masterworks Vol. 2
Regular Edition Cover

Vol. 12: Uncanny X-Men
Variant Edition Cover

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Original 27

  • First print: 8/90
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  • First print: 1/7/04
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    Barnes & Noble Softcover

  • First print: 4/04

  • Same trade dress as 2003-4 Silver/Black design

    Marvel Masterworks: Uncanny X-Men Volume 2

    Reprints: Uncanny X-Men #101-110

    (Vol. 12 in the Marvel Masterworks Library)

    Most Recent Print Edition: Second Edition, First Print
    Original Release Date: January 7, 2004


    UPCOMING PRINT EDITION: Second Edition, Second Print
    Release Date: February 20, 2008

    REGULAR EDITION ISBN: 978-0-7851-3139-7 • List Price: $54.99
    VARIANT EDITION ISBN: 978-0-7851-3140-3 • List Price: $54.99

    192 Pages

    Scripted by Chris Claremont with Bill Mantlo

    Penciled by John Byrne, Dave Cockrum, Bob Brown and Tony DeZuniga

    Foreword by Stan Lee


    Why is Uncanny X-Men the first Bronze Age Masterworks?

    This is why.

    The first stretch of X-Men stories, reprinted in the first Masterworks volume, searched for its tone and its place in the Marvel Universe, striving simply to make a new team book work in the midst of dozens of other titles Marvel had going in the same time period. But from the very first issue in this volume, the reader can easily see what made Claremont's Uncanny X-Men stand out.

    In X-Men #101, Jean Grey dies and is reborn as the Phoenix, marking the point where the series would begin its countdown to sky-rocketing new heights. As the Silver Age X-Men's Marvel Girl, Jean Grey little more than a teenage Invisible Girl. She used her powers when directed by the men and wondered longingly why the shy leader never declared his love for her. Not to discount any of the writers who penned her stories back then, but Marvel Girl hardly broke new ground. When the "All-New, All-Different" series began she was relegated to the background with the rest of the original lineup of X-Men. In fact, she equivocated constantly about even being a member of the X-Men, all but quitting in one of the early issues. But as Cyclops’ long-standing love interest, she couldn’t disappear completely, and remained in view from a distance long enough to know that Chris Claremont had some big plans for Ms. Grey. Boy...did he!

    The big plans? To remake her in the image of these "new mutants." Make her stronger, bolder, more colorful. Phoenix is one of Dave Cockrum’s best costume designs and her opening tale in #101 sets the stage for arguably the greatest superhero story ever written, influencing everyone from Grant Morrison to Bryan Singer, the Dark Phoenix Saga (Uncanny Masterworks Vol. 5, anyone?)

    But I’m getting ahead of myself. Chris Claremont’s name is synonymous with the X-Men but he’s always been a writer who always plays to an artist’s strengths. That’s why there’s such a shift in tone when Dave Cockrum leaves and John Byrne joins the team in issue #108.Dave Cockrum is the undisputed king of the space opera. And that's why, in his run of issues reprinted here (#101-107,) we get the creation of the Shi’Ar Empire, the Imperial Guard (rumored to be a parody of DC’s “Legion of Super-Heroes”,) the Starjammers and the M’Krann Crystal. (Not to mention Phoenix who ranks among the Silver Surfer for pure cosmic power.) We also see Galactus' herald Firelord make a protracted appearance to menace the X-Men.

    John Byrne on the other hand is old-school super-hero (which is why at this point in his career he’s drawn just about everybody!) Byrne is an avowed Jack Kirby fan and couldn’t wait to drive the mutants deep into Jack’s vault of ideas, and create new ones that fit comfortably in Jack’s universe. Only two issues of the Byrne era are represented here (#108 and 109,) and they are quite revelatory. The first one brings an epic Cockrum-drawn storyline with a cumbersome cast of thousands to a screeching halt, and the second one is a more humble and streamlined battle comic, showing off the first appearance of Byrne's Canada fetish- the Weapon Alpha of Alpha Flight. The latter comic's tone would hold sway for a couple dozen issues past it, but not to worry, Byrne would revisit the Cockrum space-epic era (and that cast of thousands) with the Dark Phoenix Saga towards the end of his run.

    The best example of the artist changing the book’s direction is in Wolverine. Story has it that Claremont and Cockrum never cared much for the Hulk character and we can see the result. In the first two volumes he’s played as a two-dimensional troublemaker that won’t work with the rest of the team and costs them a few battles. By the time John Byrne came on board, Wolverine was on his way out. Byrne, a Canadian himself, flatly refused to get rid of the only Canuck superhero and responded by giving him depths never before imagined. It’s obvious by his second issue. Once he wraps up Cockrum’s story, he immediately throws the spotlight on Wolverine (who we don't even know as Logan yet!) and introduces Weapon Alpha, Byrne’s Canadian answer to Captain America (although his costume owes more to Captain Britain.) As varied as the two artists styles may be, we quickly learn the middle ground is no happy medium. The two fill-ins in this volume just plain hurt. The tepid threats of Warhawk (who looks suspiciously like Colossus in a sweatshirt) and some fake original X-men led by a beast I can only describe as "Dark Xavier" (revisiting a scenario similar to one which we already saw in issue #100) really don’t live up to the rest of the book. X-Men #106 and #110 are mere speed-bumps in the road of an otherwise revelatory book (though #110 gets bonus points for including the famous X-Men softball game!) Uncanny X-Men Masterworks Vol. 3 is where the sweat really starts pumping through the X-Men franchise, but Vol. 2 is worth more than its price tag for sure. It's full of significant events in the lives of the characters on the printed page, as well as the creators endowed with giving them life to begin with.

    -- by Jonathan Clarke, aka doesitmatter, and Gormuu

    Issues Reprinted
    Uncanny X-Men #101-110


    UXM #101

    UXM #102

    UXM #103

    UXM #104

    UXM #105

    UXM #106

    UXM #107

    UXM #108

    UXM #109

    UXM #110


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